Women in Foreign Policy: Why Closing the Gender Gap Matters’ Article_ENG

Women in Foreign Policy: Why Closing the Gender Gap Matters

Cyprus Youth DiplomaCY (DCY), a non-governmental organization specializing in matters of foreign policy, hosted on March 6th a celebration of Women’s day 2020 with the theme Women in Foreign Policy: Why Closing the Gender Gap Matters, in co-operation with the European Commission’s Representation in Cyprus. An open event that took place at the EU House in Nicosia, with special guests representatives of the three embassies of European countries that have a story of a continuous effort in diminishing the gender gap in foreign policy.

Sweden, The Netherlands and Ireland joined the panel to highlight what female representatives in the Diplomatic Corps can bring to the table and to suggest how to make everyone realize the importance of pursuing the goal of equal participation in foreign policy. Josie Christodoulou, Advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Cyprus on gender mainstreaming in foreign policy, moderated the discussion in which Ambassador of Ireland in Cyprus Ms. Deirdre Ní Fhallúin, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Cyprus Ms.Nathalie Jaarsma and Deputy Head of Mission of the Kingdom of Sweden in Cyprus Mr. Peter Kvist shared personal and national inspiration and engaged with the concerns of the audience in a lively Q&A session.

As an expert in gender mainstreaming matters, Ms Josie Christodoulou did not miss the opportunity to ask concrete and insightful questions to the panelists on how Cyprus can improve its gender-related policies, and they gladly shared their countries’ good practices in the development of more equal societies. Ambassador Ní Fhallúin highlighted the importance of having clear gender mainstreaming structures in place, a position endorsed by Ms.Nathalie Jaarsma. The latter shared with the audience how having a mother who was a bus driver and a father who took time off work to nurse her as a child shaped her view of the world as a place of equality between men and women, a view that opened a way to her pursuing the career path that she desired. Lastly, Mr Peter Kvist bravely shared his awakening experience in realizing the very existence of the gender gap, which is often not even visible to stakeholders and citizens likewise. ‘Once you put on the gender glasses is impossible to take them off’ he remarked, and invited everyone to take a look through those glasses and see the value that all minds carry, whether male, female or otherwise.

As the president of DCY, Ioanna Demosthenous, prompted in her introduction speech at the event ‘International women’s day, is not about the flowers. It’s not about having extra discounts for make-up products and parfums. That’s not the point. It’s about equality. It’s about equal rights and it’s about equal opportunities. So, on 8th march this year, instead of flowers, give your attention to the women in your life. Ask them about their dreams, about the career they aspire, their fears and what holds them back’.

It is through this lens that we need to look at the world and only when we change our perspective we will be able to see the value proposition of having women in foreign policy, which is much more than just filling quota positions and being on top of trends. It’s about pursuing change towards a more equal, considerate and peaceful society. It’s about respecting everyone’s rights to the same extend, not only with negative actions that refrain from violating them, but with positive actions that create the circumstances under which these rights can be realized. Women are already innately powerful, what is needed is a combined effort to make everyone see it, for the benefit of everyone.

Konstantina Katsantoni
Events’ Officer
Cyprus Youth DiplomaCY

Photo credits: European Commission Representation in Cyprus

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