In the Chair of the Forum’s opening statement, EIGE Director Carlien Scheele galvanised participants from all walks of life into a solution-focused Gender Equality Forum in Brussels and online.

...Now that is the kind of spirit to get us in the right mood on a Monday morning!

 Many thanks to the talented dancers for that wonderful performance.

And on that bright note, a very good morning to you all and welcome to the European Institute for Gender Equality’s first-ever Gender Equality Forum here in Brussels and online. I’m so pleased to see you all here today. Being able to be here is a reward of our resilience and a testament to our collective efforts to get back on track again.

And with the help of that energising kick start to the Forum, I hope it will galvanise our discussions over the next two days as well as provide some necessary light relief.  It might not seem like there is a lot to dance for right now but art – indeed any form of art – helps us to connect and process what is going on around us. Art teaches us about the power of unity, solidarity and working together to take steps forward.

But of course, we cannot be out of sync with reality.

Because out there, there is a war, still raging on in Ukraine, which every day, sees more and more suffering.

At the same time, people are facing the perils of energy poverty and the hardships of the rising cost of living.

So, you may be wondering by now, why is Gender Equality important now?

This is where we need a mindset shift. Gender equality is part of the solution in a crisis – it doesn’t swell the problem. Because our research shows that gender equality benefits societies and economies in equal measure. That’s what we are striving towards right now – getting our societies and economies back in shape. Right now there are people facing inequalities who are being further exposed to vulnerable situations – we have to address this. We are also under threat by a growing number of movements that aim for set backs on our achievements in gender equality. Indeed. actors who are trying to reverse all the gains we have fought for. We can’t let them intercept our determination.

Gender Equality is a tool for resolution. But it’s only as effective as our individual and joint commitment.

I have to say, throughout my career at every event I have attended, I have been asked time and time again – what is the state of gender equality and how can we improve it? When the pandemic hit, this question was asked with amplified anticipation – because before the pandemic, progress was already quite slow. And then when the first data on gender equality in the context of the pandemic was revealed in our Index, it showed we are in dangerous waters and could be going 3 steps back.

But after so many years of building our knowledge base and developing good practices in the area of gender equality, why would we let that go to waste? The evidence of gender equality’s positive impact in the world is our pillar of strength. If we join forces with partners from all walks of life, I truly believe we can take #3StepsForward.

Now, in our 2-day Gender Equality Forum, taking centre stage first and foremost, is the reveal of this year’s Gender Equality Index. Over the last 12 years, since the first Index was launched, it has earned EIGE its position as the knowledge centre on Gender Equality in the European Union. It is time to build on its success and look at the broader areas of work EIGE’s portfolio, addressing our key stakeholders’ needs. 

When we come together in cross-entity synergy and expertise, crisis resilience becomes greater than the sum of its parts. But it requires the mobilisation of everyone and thus I am so happy to see here in the room and online representatives of the EU institutions, Member States as well as EU candidate countries. I welcome those in the forefront promoting gender equality: activists, equality bodies, trade unions as well as those from the business community, researchers to name a few. And we have a strong youth focus at this Forum in view of 2022 being the European year of Youth. This isn’t the time to face the status quo alone. Everyone in this room matters.  

At this Forum, we get a preview of how impactful it is to unite in our shared knowledge and make a significant difference.

Collaboration means there’s greater added value to important strategies like gender mainstreaming. Coordinating our efforts on crisis response and preparedness means we have a greater chance at ending violence against women and girls. Fostering close ties with journalists and other communicators means the people in Europe are given the information and the stories they need to know. Learning and leading from each other means we allow the benefits of a powerful tool like gender responsive public procurement to come to life. This is just a snapshot of the sessions we can look forward to during the Forum.

This Gender Equality Forum is a space for new conversations within our gender equality communities, and at the same time embedding these conversations within the wider equality and human rights movement to action concrete commitments. Let’s join up and wise up.

I trust in 36 hours we will come back together to discuss how we can take #3StepsForward towards a gender equal Europe. I must add - we don't need to all take the same steps. We can take different steps – but let’s identify them and take them.

Thank you.