On 13 April, CONCORD Sweden launched the report The Game Changer in the European Parliament in Brussels. For a feminist foreign policy to lead to change, it needs broad political support, be inclusive and support local women’s movements. These were some of the conclusions of the conversations in Brussels.

From the left: Evin Incir, MEP (Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats), Alice Bah Kuhnke, MEP (Group of the Greens), Philipp Wendel, Deputy Ambassador for Political and Security Committee, Germany Permanent Representation to the EU, Joanna Maycock, moderator, Madeleine Winqvist, CONCORD Sweden, Malin Björk, MEP (the Left group), Chiara Adamo, DG INTPA/European Commission, Jessica Poh Janrell, Kvinna till Kvinna, Sara Österlund, RFSU.

16 organisations from CONCORD Sweden’s gender equality working group have developed The Game Changer – a report on how a feminist foreign policy could transform societies. When it was launched in Brussels on 13 April, the Swedish MEPs Alice Bah Kuhnke (Group of the Greens), Evin Incir (Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats) and Malin Björk (The Left group) were the hosts. The question posed by the conversation at the launch was: How do we make the EU a true global leader and positive force for gender equality and women’s and girls’ rights? Time for a feminist foreign policy?

Almost a hundred people listened to the conversation between the MEP Evin Incir, Philipp Wendel from the Germany Representation to the EU, Chiara Adamo from the European Commission and Jessica Poh-Janrell from Kvinna till Kvinna. Perspectives from local partners – Arrow Malaysia and WILPF Cameroon – were conveyed through video messages.

“It’s a make it or break it issue, it’s a game changer


The seminar was opened by Alice Bah Kuhnke, MEP, group of the Greens, where she quoted Sweden’s former foreign minister Margot Wallström who described feminist foreign policy as a “make it or break it” issue.

— Feminist foreign policy is about girls’ and women’s rights, but also about changing priorities for society, said Alice Bah Kuhnke.

The fact that we are right in time to stress the importance of a feminist foreign policy was noticeable in the discussions at the seminar.

— The current resistance to gender equality is different from what we saw 10 years ago. We see increasing extreme nationalist and populist movements and we also see more funding for certain parts of the world that threatens global gender equality. It’s not just about working with strong networks and allies. It is equally important that the EU states and the EU have a dialogue with a wide range of actors such as progressive religious movements and faith-based leaders, but also opponents, explained Sara Österlund, policy advisor at RFSU.


The importance of the EU as a global leader and positive force for gender equality and girls’ and women’s rights in the world was discussed in the panel discussion, particularly in relation to the need of a common voice among its member states.

— We Member States need to learn and cooperate with each other. There are countries that still need to be convinced. It remains difficult to put gender in documents and talk about feminism in policy dialogues. We need to decide whether we can maintain a high level of ambition or find the lowest common denominator among all 27 member states, and this is an issue we are now discussing together with other like-minded countries, said Philipp Wendel, Deputy Ambassador at Germany’s Permanent Representation to the EU.

Germany has recently adopted a feminist foreign policy and Philipp Wendel believes that it will now be noticeable that it is a priority:

— It is a foreign policy guided by values and interests that puts humans at the centre and not other personal or economic interests. An important part of our foreign- and development policy is budgeting. We want to strengthen efforts for gender transformative and gender sensitive budgeting, which will be a priority in our foreign- and development policy work in the years to come, Mr. Wendel explained.


The discussions highlighted the importance of the EU investing more in promoting gender equality at all levels, both within the EU Member States and in local communities. To make this possible, the EU needs to develop better support for women’s and feminists’ movements around the world, including political support.

— There’s a need for the EU to increase training opportunities for African women’s movements on women’s rights, women’s participation in politics and in peace processes, said Uppaultine Kenfac from WILPH Cameroon.

Despite their importance in defending the democratic space and the rights of women, girls and LGBTQI people, local feminist organisations are highly underfunded.

— We still give less than 1 percent of the ODA to women’s rights organisations, even through we know that strong women’s movements is the most important factor for the progress of gender equality in a society, said Jessica Poh-Janrell, Kvinna till Kvinna.

A feminist foreign policy can serve as a tool in societies to increase funding and support of women’s and feminist groups. We can see where there is an onslaught to women who are on the frontlines agitating for change, said Sivananthi Thanenthiran, Arrow, Malaysia.

“They have the knowledge, the most qualitative gender analyses, and they have the solutions”

Several speakers stressed the need to listen and involve local women’s rights organisations and feminist movements and to take advantage of the expertise available at regional and local level.

— They have the knowledge, the most qualitative gender analyses and they have the solutions, said Chiara Adamo, Head of Unit Gender, Human Rights and Democratic Governance at the European Commission.

Evin Incir, MEP, Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, reminded us that there is support within the European Parliament for a feminist foreign and development policy.

— But we cannot take this for granted and we need to consider that we have a new European Parliament election coming up next year, said Evin Incir.

Philipp Wendel, Evin Incir, Joanna Maycock, Chiara Adamo

Malin Björk, MEP in the Left group, held a closing speech for a feminist foreign policy:

— It changes lives of women and girls, it changes societies, it changes the future. Feminist foreign policy is part of the solution, it is part of the hope, said Malin Björk.


We asked questions to one of the audience members after the seminar:

What do you take away from the seminar?

— We still need to keep on the momentum, to build consensus. We need to ensure political will to feminist foreign policies, because, most often they are not institutionalised. It is a risk of losing it as well – that is a call to action, said Julieta Gonzalez, CARE International.

Julietta Gonzalez, Senior EU Advocacy Advisor, CARE International

What are your thoughts on the ambition of the EU as a global actor and positive force for gender equality and women’s and girls’ rights in the world?

— Many of us agree that EU should be more workable than vocal. It is important that the EU keeps working on being the global leader for gender equality and we think it can make a difference, said Julietta Gonzalez.

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