The Official Launching of the Black European Women’s Council (BEWC) took place on Tuesday 9th September at the premisses of the European Economic and Social Committee, Rue Van Maerlant 2, 1040 Brussels. It was organised by AFRA – International Center Black Women’s Perspectives, Wien, Austria (in the framework of the European Year of Equal Opportunities for ALL,Vienna, September 2007) and Tiye International (Holland) under the leadership of Beatrice Achakele (AFRA) and Hellen Felter (TIYE) and facilitated by Brenda King, President of the Section for Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC).www.blackwoncenter.org, www.bewnet.eu
For the first time in EU history black women, the majority coming from ACP countries and living all over Europe (Austria, Sweden, Ireland, Greece, Holland, Belgium, Italy, the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland) united and launched the black European Women's Council in Brussels to become visible and take on the responsability to be active as European citizens in politic, economic and social life.
The stories were similar: about discrimination, racism, unequality, invisibility, struggle to survive and to be recognized. In some countries it is even worse than in others, like in Greece where black people can not be appointed in public jobs; in Switzerland where there is structural violence against women and courts refuse to recognize racism; in Italy where there is a terrifying women traffic; in Ireland where descendants from Africa who want to buy a house have to do a HIV-test before they can get a mortgage. But also in France, the UK, Austria, Germany and especially in Belgium and Brussels, the capital of Europe and the heart of the EU institutions, where black people and migrants are invisible and underrepresented everywhere. The BEWC stated that black women do not want to be victims anymore but actors who participate in all EU structures.
The EU commissioner Vladimir Spidla attended the launching and gave his support to this initiative. The multiple discrimination against black women has to be tackled by implementing existing rules and sanctions. Members of Parliament speeched and support the Black European Women's Council.
18 million black people in the EU, many descendants from ACP countries, are struggling for equal opportunties and economic, social and human rights. This is a serious and urgent issue. 'Reaffirming Human Rights for All' that was the theme of the conference that was held from 3-5 September 2008 in Paris UNESCO Headquarters at the occasion of 60 years Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The conclusion was that human rights are at stake because of the international trading system and economic situation today with its energy and foodcrisis.
Human rights have to come first, they concern the integrity of each human being. Economic and social situations may never be an excuse to exploit people. 1400 representatives from 74 countries attended the 61 annual United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI)/Non- Governmental Organisations (NGO) in Paris. They discussed the situation of the human rights in the world today 60 years after the Universal Declaration was concluded.
The final conclusion was that there is not enough awareness and knowledge about the meaning of human rights, that there has to be more education, information and capacity building, especially among lawyers to safeguard the implementation of the Human Rights.
Joyce van Genderen-Naar