Celebrated every year since 1977 in many countries around the world, International Women’s Day is as relevant today as ever…and will remain so until full equality between men and women is achieved. This year’s theme is ‘Time Is Now: Rural and Urban Activists Transforming Women’s Lives’.

Change could be now

This year’s International Women’s Day takes place against an unusual backdrop, following the unprecedented global movement championing women’s rights, equality and justice that has emerged in recent months. This has taken the form of global campaigns, including #MeToo in the US and its equivalents in other countries (#BalanceTonPorc in France, #YoTambién in Mexico and Spain, #QuellaVoltaChe in Italy, etc.) targeting sexual harassment and violence against women. This high-profile campaign has encouraged women to speak out and triggered a public debate on issues that sadly are still considered taboo. So the time is ripe to tackle the deep-seated inequalities between men and women and above all to effect change!

International Women’s Day 2018 is an opportunity to transform this momentum into action and to empower women in both rural and urban environments. Of the world’s 800 million illiterate individuals, 75% are women. And yet women are often the linchpins of development. They are innovators who work hard to improve the day-to-day lives of their families.

25 years of commitment to women

The ENGIE Foundation’s work reflects the need to support women-led projects worldwide. In the Philippines, the Barefoot Women Solar Engineers programme trains illiterate women to bring electricity to their villages. In France, the Ikambere programme empowers, facilitates access to rights and promotes the social inclusion and workforce integration of HIV-infected migrant women.

This year, the ENGIE Foundation wanted to do even more to help women by supporting new projects. The Women’s Empowerment programme run by American NGO CARE operates more than 1,000 projects in 94 countries, aimed at making women’s empowerment a major focus of the fight against poverty. Fondation des Femmes (Women’s Foundation) is a platform that raises funds from private institutions and individuals and redistributes them to organisations that promote women’s rights. Aware (Archives of Women Artists) aims to restore the presence of women artists in the history of art through a range of high-quality programmes, a dedicated website, symposiums and a prize supported by the French Ministry of Culture.

Women’s rights begin with girls’ rights, which is why the ENGIE Foundation is committed to providing a better future for thousands of girls affected by inequality and discrimination around the world, primarily by promoting access to education. This is the objective of the NGO PADEM in Kenya, which offers free education to teenage girls in the Kibera slum on the outskirts of Nairobi, and the Promoting Afghan Girls Education programme which has electrified 13 schools enabling 27,000 Afghan girls to access education. In South Africa, the iNSPIRE programme aims to rebuild the confidence of girls subjected to discrimination and exclusion, make them aware of their potential and empower them to contribute actively to the development of their country. The ENGIE Foundation believes that educating boys is key to changing mentalities, which is why it supported the UNESCO Open Campuses, which seek to make high-school students in educational priority areas more aware of major social issues such as gender equality. Last but not least, many programmes address the vital need to support girls who have been victims of violence by improving access to education and care. These include the TARA Girls programme in India, which provides accommodation, support and protection to girls affected by violence, including academic support, sporting and artistic activities, and awareness workshops on hygiene and health.

A different world with different women

International Women’s Day is also an opportunity to celebrate the activists who work tirelessly to champion women’s rights and help women to reach their full potential. As members of our Board of Directors or Selection Committees and as heads of charitable organisations, they give us the benefit of their expertise, commitment and endless determination. The ENGIE Foundation wishes to thank and pay tribute to these women, who fight daily to ensure that every girl and woman will one day be able to lead the life they choose.

Finally, the ENGIE Foundation has decided to support Yann Arthus-Bertrand’s forthcoming documentary Woman, scheduled for release in 2019, in which the renowned photographer and director will pay homage to all the women who, in their own way, change the world.