How does the future of Women’s Rights EU funding look like after Covid19?

Despite significant achievements have been made in terms of women’s rights policies and funding, CSOs should not refrain from advocating towards EU and national institutions for more and better.

On the last 15th of January, ActionAid International Italia Onlus held a webinar with the participation of two excellent speakers namely Chiara Cosentino, Head of Policy & Advocacy at End FGM European Network, and Jessica Nguyen, Junior Policy and Campaigns Officer at European Women’s Lobby. The topics discussed covered the 2021-2027 Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF) and particularly the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme, the impacts of Covid19 on women’s rights and funding and the role of civil society organizations (CSOs) in terms of lobby and advocacy at the EU level.

Regarding the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme, negotiations started back in 2018 and have seen many steps forwards and backwards. According to Chiara Cosentino, civil society organizations (CSOs) backed up by the European Parliament have played a significant role in ensuring the funds for this programme were topped up and reached the current amount of 1.5 billion, closer to what CSOs were advocating for: 

Once again, we as CSOs are in a fighting mood because we are not being consulted at this point of the programming phase by the European Commission. On the contrary, the EU is conducting consultations with civil society organizations externally. 

The EU has made significant progress towards greater parity democracy starting with the election of Ursula von der Leyen as the European commission’s first female president, the entering into force of the EU Work-life Balance Directive up to the key actions and the commitments made in the Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025. However, according to the latest Gender Equality Index from the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), the road towards achieving gender equality is a 60 year-long walk if we proceed at this pace.

But, can we really blame Covid19 for further delaying us? The impact of the pandemic has of course been evident on the enjoyment of women’s socio-economic rights the former being highly represented in work sectors highly affected by the pandemic such as health care, restaurants, cafés, and shops; on the sharp increase of gender-based violence and in particular domestic violence as well as on the shrinking space for women’s rights. Unfortunately, the issues that were affecting women’s rights unfortunately are not new rather persisting issues – said Jessica Nguyen – What we have seen as a result of the Covid19 is women’s rights falling off the political agenda in many States as a response of trying to respond to the pandemic. 

In conclusion, to react to backlashes on women’s rights, CSOs should take necessary actions both at the national and EU level to ensure that adequate accountability mechanisms are in place and that the promotion of rights and equality becomes a prerequisite to access EU funds. It is crucial to ensure that a two-pronged approach is adopted: targeted actions for gender equality and mainstreaming gender across all policy areas.  

This webinar has been an important opportunity for sharing thoughts and ideas with like-minded organizations. If you are interested in understanding the work ActionAid is doing on women’s rights through projects, advocacy and lobby activities, please visit our website or get in touch with us at for discussing joint actions.