On 15 February, the Italian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, Marina Sereni, chaired an informal bilateral panel for promoting women’s rights and combating gender inequality, organized by the Embassy of Italy in Brussels, with the support of the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

Marina Sereni, Italian Deputy Foreign Minister
Marina Sereni, Italian Deputy Foreign Minister

The event, which was attended by several Italian and Belgian personalities from different sectors of society, aimed to strengthen cooperation between Italy and Belgium on the issue of women’s rights. 

Ms. Sereni expressed her appreciation of the initiative of the Embassy in a country such as Belgium, where many women hold leading positions while pointing out that Italian institutions consider the gender issue a top priority. 

The deputy minister also stressed the importance of women’s empowerment in development cooperation policies and recalled the Italian firm commitment in favor of women in Afghanistan.  

Afghanistan women's rights

Recently, INDiplomacy published the story of a project launched by the Italian Foreign Affairs Ministry and the EBRI Foundation “Rita Levi-Montalcini,” aimed at hosting young Afghan students and researchers in Rome. The project will allow Afghan women to pursue scientific and academic careers, something that the Taliban’s return to power has made impossible to do in Afghanistan. 

In November, Deputy FM Sereni announced that Italy had taken action to assist the most vulnerable Afghan female citizens. The Italian Foreign Ministry opened preferential lanes for visas and allocated €150 million of extraordinary resources in support to the Afghan population, “with a specific focus on the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), which focuses on the condition of women.” 

Leading the Belgian delegation was the Minister for Climate and the Environment, Zakia Khattabi, a keen advocate of social justice and the engagement of girls and young women in climate policies. 

Zakia Khattabi, Belgian Minister for Climate and the Environment
Zakia Khattabi, Belgian Minister for Climate and the Environment

Other high-profile members of the panel included Eva De Bleeker, Belgian Budget State Secretary; Federica Mogherini, Rector of the European College; Antonella Fioravanti, professor of molecular microbiology at VUB University of Brussels; Irene Zancanaro, Director of the EU Office at Ferrero and Catherine Moureaux, Mayor of Molenbeek. 

The goal of the initiative was to highlight, in Belgium too, the Italian commitment and the initiatives recently taken by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on issues concerning women’s empowerment and gender equality, and to draft a roadmap of initiatives aimed at sharing best practices with Belgium, a country leader in women empowerment.