LifeWatch ERIC in El-Hiwar Euro-Arab Policy Dialogue on Opportunities for Women’s Empowerment


On 24 March 2022, LifeWatch ERIC Gender Consultant, Africa Zanella, took part in the El-Hiwar Euro-Arab Policy Dialogue on Challenges and Opportunities for Women Economic Empowerment in Times of Climate Change. El-Hiwar II is a project funded by European Commission DG NEAR and implemented by the College of Europe, conceived as a dialogue tool for the EU and the LAS to support strengthened work relations and to learn about each other’s functioning, mechanisms and policies. There was strong female representation among the 37 participants of the Dialogue, made up of gender experts and policy officers from both the EU and the LAS, as well as representatives from the UN and prominent women’s organisations.

Specifically, this policy dialogue was centred around gender and climate action priorities, particularly in terms of revamping policies and initiatives to support women’s economic empowerment, in light of the evolving situation generated by climate change and its wide-ranging consequences on economic sectors. Women play a crucial role in climate change adaptation and mitigation, with knowledge of what is needed to adapt to changing environmental conditions and to come up with practical solutions. Unfortunately, they are still a largely untapped resource. Key topics included the role of women in rural areas and the consequences of climate change on the Arab region, with an open call made to attendees to consider Horizon Europe as a funding mechanism for further research on women’s contribution to climate action and/or capacity building for women in rural areas to mitigate and adapt to climate change in key regions in the Mediterranean.

European Commission frameworks such as the Gender Equality Strategy and the Green Deal are making extra efforts to involve more women in the areas of energy, fund SMEs and entrepreneurs, and get closer to reaching SDG 5, “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”. Damningly, to date, no country is on track to achieve SDG 5 by 2030; while steps forward have been made in terms of education and health, little concrete economic progress has been seen. Participants agreed that there was a need to “walk the talk”.

Africa Zanella had much expertise to offer both in her role as social scientist, and as a representative of LifeWatch ERIC, whose crucial role in biodiversity and ecosystem research was pertinent to the discussions at hand. The infrastructure already has a well-established relationship with ASREN, the Arab States Research and Education Network, and is planning to present a joint paper on women and sustainability at its next annual meeting. Furthermore, following the Dialogue, Ms Zanella is in the process of exploring further potential synergistic collaborations between LifeWatch ERIC and other gender and ecology -oriented organisations. She reflected on the crucial subjects covered in the meeting:

Of the 22 countries involved in ASREN, over 50% of the population is under 25 years of age; this huge generational gap highlights the urgency of taking immediate climate action. It is in this context that I hope that the role of women in combating climate change will be a key topic at the COP27 in Egypt, to seriously examine the difference in the impact and contribution of the genders, considering also that women tend to be poorer and more likely to be impacted by environmental disasters.


The Bulgarian National Distributed Centre is represented by the  Agricultural University-Plovdiv.

To know more about how Bulgaria contributes to LifeWatch ERIC, please visit our dedicated webpage.