Gender Action Plan III: towards a gender-equal world


No country in the world is on track to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, despite significant progress in advancing women’s and girls’ rights over the years. Moreover, the health and socio-economic consequences of the COVID-19 crisis are disproportionately affecting women and girls. To address this, the EU put forward an ambitious Gender Action Plan to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment through all external action of the European Union.

The EU’s new Action Plan on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in External Relations 2020–2025 (GAP III) aims to accelerate progress on empowering women and girls, and safeguard gains made on gender equality during the 25 years since the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and its Platform for Action.

“Ensuring the same rights to all empowers our societies. It makes them richer and more secure. It is a fact that goes beyond principles or moral duties. The participation and leadership of women and girls is essential for democracy, justice, peace, security, prosperity and a greener planet. With this new Gender Action Plan, we are pushing for more and faster progress towards gender equality,” High Representative/Vice-President, Josep Borrell said upon adoption of the plan.

“Stronger engagement on gender equality is key to a sustainable global recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and building fairer, more inclusive, more prosperous societies. Women and girls are in the frontline of the pandemic and must be put in the driving seat of the recovery. As a gender-sensitive and responsive geopolitical Commission, we want to work more closely with our Member States, as well as all partners, in building a truly gender-equal world,” the Commissioner for International Partnerships, Jutta Urpilainen, added.



The Gender Action Plan III provides the EU with five pillars of action:

  1. 85% of all new actions throughout external relations will contribute to gender equality and women’s empowerment by 2025;
  2. Shared strategic vision and close cooperation with Member States and partners at multilateral, regional and country level;
  3. GAP III calls for accelerating progress, focusing on the key thematic areas of engagement;
  4. Leading by example;
  5. Measuring results.


GAP III will:

  • promote a transformative approach and will mainstream a gender perspective in all policies and actions.
  • encourage change in social attitudes, including by actively engaging men and boys and by putting a focus on young people as drivers of change.
  • address all intersecting dimensions of discrimination, for example paying specific attention to the most disadvantaged women, like indigenous peoples and persons belonging to racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, forcibly displaced, migrant, economically and socially deprived women, those living in rural and coastal areas, as they face multiple discrimination. Women with disabilities are particularly disadvantaged and the rights of women with disabilities should be at the core of the future strategy on the rights of persons with disabilities for the coming years (2021-2030). In the same spirit, advancing the rights of LGBTIQ. All intersecting dimensions are equally relevant.
  • set the ground for a more active role of women in peace and security. The EU has been in the front-line helping women’s participation in the political and decision-making processes of countries in conflict, like in Syria, Libya, Colombia, Afghanistan or Yemen.


The EU has already done a lot in recent years, also in difficult environments. Testimony to this are the stories of real women and their personal experiences. And the new Gender Action Plan aims to trigger more of these real examples: more transformation, more good results, more role models, as depicted in the stories these women and girls are about to tell.


Choosing school over marriage - Tenin and Awa's stories

15-year-old Tenin recalls the day she raised her hand in class and said: “Go see my father: they intend to give me in marriage.” In Mali where nearly half the girls are married before their eighteenth birthday, this was a courageous act of self-defence. Tenin had heard that the principal of the school did not support child marriage and took a chance. In fact that evening, he went with Tenin to her family home. Tenin was scared, but her bravery paid off. The principal explained the harms of early marriage and Tenin's parents changed their minds.

In a classroom nearby, a girl named Awa followed suit. Awa's dad did not change his mind, so the principal went to the village EU-UNICEF-supported Committee for the Prevention of Early Marriage. They explained how later marriage can mean better health for women and their children. Awa's father finally agreed and the marriage was cancelled. Read the full story of Tenin and Awa


Education for vulnerable children during COVID-19 lockdown

For the world’s most vulnerable children, the closure of schools due to COVID-19 is more than a temporary evil – it could mean the end of their education. Teachers in the EU-funded Education for Life programme like Jennifer have been trying to maintain contact with students during the crisis to keep the learners’ education going on. Every day, they walk around the settlement knocking on the learners’ doors to offer home schooling and support, especially for girls like Okello who was forced to drop out of school because she became pregnant. Read the full story of Jennifer and Okello


Girls speak out

Six-year-old Aylín holds up a poster and reads it aloud. “I have the right to a loving family,” she says. “All girls deserve to have a loving and caring family.” Lady Carmona, 8, reads her own poster. It’s about the right to control her own body. She says that if someone touches her inappropriately, the first thing to do is to inform an adult she trusts. "There are laws that protect girls so that this doesn’t happen," she says. The EU-UN Spotlight Initiative is partnering with local governments and grassroots organisations across El Salvador to end violence against women and girls in Latin America. Read the full story of Aylin and Lady Carmona


From survivor to advocate

In pursuit of a better life, Abegail Compuesto decided to leave her home in the Philippines with her sister, hoping to find a job in Malaysia to help her and her family financially. But things didn't turn out quite as planned. "At immigration, my sister and another young girl were then taken aside by someone who appeared to be an NGO worker, who suspected that they were being trafficked. Then two police officers came and took them away. But I had already passed through immigration and was forced onto a boat with the other women who had gone through. Abegail is a member of Batis AWARE Women’s Organisation, supported by the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative, that helped her recover from this trauma. Read Abegail's full story


Cleaner neighbourhoods with DIY composting

Khushi Kumari first learned about composting through a book that belonged to her daughter. “Before, my family had no option but to dispose our household waste near our house in the open and wait for the waste collectors’ vehicle to come. Sometimes the collector wouldn’t show up for days. So the waste piled up and the foul smell grew unbearable.” Khushi started composting with the technical assistance from the EU-supported Aga Khan Foundation. Composting has made Khushi a Cleanliness Champion in her community. Now other women like Khushi are playing a vital role in spreading a community-led model for healthier living. Read Khushi’s full story


Breaking Tuk Tuk Stereotypes

The Auto-rickshaw service sector in India is male-dominated. The Namma Auto Project funded by the European Union tried to break this stereotype by enabling women to drive electric autos, by training them and facilitating easy financing options. Chaaya is one of the electric auto drivers in Bangalore who not only broke the age-old norms of this profession, but also adopted a new technology while doing it. Watch Chaaya’s story.

Remote video URL


IT is my freedom

In the summer of 2018, 27-year-old Aizat, together with 25 other young people with disabilities, entered the IT Academy as part of the 'Programming without Barriers' project, implemented by the Kyrgyz Association of Software and Services Developers with the support of the EU. "Before that, I was very reserved, I did not go anywhere. I always thought why everyone looks at me, I had complexes. After the training, my environment has changed..." Read Aizat’s full story


Microgrid girl power amid war and COVID-19

The EU supports Yemeni women empowerment. A community near Abs is benefitting from an EU-funded project employing women to work on solar panels, providing the community with cheaper and renewable energy, while training women and giving them a stable income. “The project has built our self-reliance, confidence in participating in society and broken the red line in dealing with men,” says Iman, director of the station. “And we are now contributing to the family monthly budget to cover food and other necessities.” Read the Microgrid girls’ full story


Schools at parents’ fingertips

When a society loses all its bearing due to an unprecedented global pandemic, the best solution remains to resort to individuals’ inventiveness and determination. Tufaha, Aziza and Amine, a group of young Libyan female entrepreneurs, have responded to this challenge, by creating an innovative educational app ‘Panda’, an EU-funded initiative bridging the gap between Benghazi’s schools and parents. “We want to make sure that, thanks to Panda, all students will be able to complete their academic year from the safety of their homes.” Read Tufaha, Aziza and Amine's full story


Once a childhood hobby, now a career

Eslam is a 25-year-old Jordanian girl with a bachelor’s in Criminal and Delinquency studies who couldn’t find a job in her field so she turned to her childhood hobby of 'drawing on computers'. Eslam enrolled in a graphics design course with the support of the EU via the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies which help more than 1.3 million vulnerable beneficiaries in Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Turkey by improving their overall wellbeing. “I am very proud of myself for studying graphic design. […] My friends have started seeing me as someone who has a good job. […] They don’t look down on me because I’m working… to the contrary, they look up to me!” says a fulfilled Eslam. Read Eslam’s full story


EUPOL COPPS empowers Palestinian female lawyers

Lina Zettergren is a Judge Referee at the Supreme Court in her native country, Sweden. She joined EUPOL COPPS as a Senior Criminal Justice Expert in October 2019. In her role in Ramallah, she supports changes in the Palestinian criminal justice system, including issues related to fair trials, witness protection, anti-corruption and access to justice. But if you ask her to name a project especially close to her heart, she will immediately talk about mentoring and empowering female lawyers. Read Lina's full story


The fight for an equal society for both women and men is not over!

Shocked by the stories she heard when she was volunteering at a women’s shelter in Montenegro, and inspired by the courage of her two grandmothers, Maja Raičević realised what was going to be her fight. Today, she fights violence against women and works for a more equal society. Watch Maja’s full story.

Remote video URL


Science was our salvation, it opened our horizon to something bigger

Twin sisters Detina and Argita Zalli emigrated from Albania to the UK at the age of thirteen. Today, they are internationally renowned scientists, lecturing at Harvard, Oxford and Imperial College. Through their “We Speak Science” project, they connect students and scientists from all over the world. Watch these twins’ full story.

Remote video URL


These stories are already encouraging, and the new Gender Action Plan calls for more: a gender-equal world, for more and more women and girls to fully enjoy their human rights, and to build fairer and more prosperous societies, where everyone has space to thrive and no one is left behind.

See also