– French new government: a worrying signal one year ahead of the Generation Equality Forum

manifestation féministes nous toutes

– French new government: a worrying signal one year ahead of the Generation Equality Forum

France’s new government announced on July 6 and now complete with the appointment of the Secretaries of State on Sunday is still strongly criticized by a wide variety of associations, movements and citizens, both in France and abroad. Equipop is adding its voice to these reactions and underlying the international scope of the bad signal sent by the French government. Building the Generation Equality Forum, organized next year in Paris, must start by listening to and recognizing feminist movements.

The appointments of Gérald Darmanin to the Ministry of the Interior and Éric Dupond-Moretti to the Ministry of Justice have drawn the outrage of all feminist associations and very diverse personalities. Numerous speeches were made in the media and online (Caroline De Haas, Anne Hidalgo, Rachida Dati), highlighting the ethical, political and social issues raised by these appointments.

When it comes to ending violence against women, the analysis is unanimous: first and foremost, it is necessary to create the conditions that enable women to freely express themselves and be heard. Policy makers must drive the dynamics that will boost these changes. The appointment of these two ministers legitimizes positions that go radically against the expected changes, and constitutes a step backwards in the fight for equality, to such extent that feminists believe that the “Great Cause of Macron’s term” has been buried.

Reactions to this event are not limited to French political analysts. On July 15, in the French newspaper Le Monde, a collective of 91 feminist intellectuals and activists from 35 countries, including Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and Svetlana Alexievitch, Nobel Prize winner for literature, denounced “an anti-feminist political shift, whose scope goes far beyond the borders of France. It reinforces the backlash against women, of which we are victims on all continents, in violation of our fundamental rights”.

Equipop’s action is framed within feminist dynamics, both in West Africa, France and internationally. We have been following French foreign policy for more than 25 years and we have always included our work in a perspective of co-construction to promote the issue of gender equality on the diplomatic agenda. Many steps have been taken over the years, and France has gradually demonstrated its willingness to lead in gender equality on the international stage. In July 2020, the Generation Equality Forum, co-organized by France, Mexico and UN Women, was to be held in Paris to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the 4th World Conference on Women’s Rights in Beijing. Due to the health situation, the Forum will not take place until 2021, but it still aims to be the largest global gathering on gender equality in many years.

All parties agree that the Forum must bring about systemic change and generate dialogue between States and civil societies to be successful. This objective cannot be achieved if France, the host of this event, is not exemplary, and even more so if the national political strategy is anti-feminist. Plus, the Forum will be useless or even counterproductive if the reactions of feminists are not heard – and that goes beyond the issues of French domestic policy.

Since we know that the Forum will take place in France, we have been stressing out the major challenge of ensuring the participation of feminists in all their diversity. The announcement of the new ministers could not only deepen the gap with feminist associations, but it could actually lead to their large mobilization against the Forum, as the 91 signatories of Le Monde’s paper express: “it calls for a union of our voices and our efforts. We will not tolerate any retreat or marginalization of our struggles. Our anger will not weaken because our rights and dignity are non-negotiable. While we are facing backlash, international solidarity must be intensified around the world. We are dedicated to this”.

It is therefore urgent to change the course of action. The Generation Equality Forum is a great opportunity to bring about important changes and we must not miss it.