On October 11, 2021, the Covington Brussels office hosted a Webcast: “Fighting Inequality: Empowering Women and Girls” in honor of International Day of the Girl Child. London Partner Louise Nash moderated the impressive panel of women, comprising of Waris Dirie, founder of Desert Flower Foundation, and Kiera Chaplin, the President of Desert Flower Foundation France. Waris and Kiera were joined by Eva Gerhards, Deputy Head of Cabinet to European Commissioner for Equality Helena Dalli, and Beatrice Vos, Deputy General Counsel of Elanco.
The Desert Flower Foundation has been fighting against female genital mutilation (FGM) around the world since its creation in 2002. Its primary focus is on empowering women and girls by offering them an education. The Desert Flower Foundation is a pro bono client of the firm, and Covington is proud to assist them on EU Public Policy matters pro bono since 2019.
The panelists engaged in a frank and sobering discussion on the social and policy changes needed to assure equality for women and girls. They shared their own experiences of facing discrimination against women in work and in life. Waris and Kiera acknowledged the significant decrease in FGM since Desert Flower Foundation launched its efforts twenty years ago, demonstrating the power of education to promote gender equality. Beatrice shared her personal story of how inflexible working environments hinder primarily women in their professional growth. Eva gave an overview of her Commissioner’s efforts to mainstream equality into European Commission policymaking. These include the EU Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025, work to address the persistent gender pay gap and pension gap, and a proposed EU Directive on violence against women to set minimum standards for the protection and support of victims of gender-based and domestic violence. The panel agreed that women should not have to ask for equal treatment, opportunities and pay, but should expect these as of right.