An international forum of women leaders “Equal Opportunities for a Better Future” took place in Minsk on the 21-22 of June. This event was organized by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) in co-operation with the Belarusian State University, Council of Europe (CoE) Information Point in Minsk,

the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Belarus, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Belarus, and Raoul Wallenberg Institute of Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, with the support of the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of the Republic of Belarus and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus. The forum gathered together more than 100 participants from different spheres – members of parliament, civil servants, scientists, journalists, civil society representatives as well as representatives of international organizations. The forum covered a wide range of issues, from the new approaches to unleashing and mobilizing the potential of female leadership to the role of men as allies in achieving equality between women and men.

Dragan Knezevic, a member of the Gender Equality Commission of the Council of Europe, and Ismeta Dervoz, Council of Europe expert, Former First Vice-President of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, participated in the Forum.

Dragan Knezevic in his speech drew attention to the fact that the legal status of women in Europe has undoubtedly improved during recent decades, however, the achievement of substantive equality – still a matter of the future. Council of Europe representative pointed out that achieving gender equality is central to the protection of human rights, the functioning of democracy, respect for the rule of law and economic growth and competitiveness. In the opinion of Mr. Knezevic, gender equality can be provided through specific policies and actions for the advancement of women and for gender equality, as well as through the promotion, monitoring, co-ordination and evaluation of the process of gender mainstreaming in all policies and programmes.

Ismeta Dervoz outlined that the Council of Europe seeks to combat gender stereotypes, sexism and violence against women in its many forms. For this reason in 2012 was launched the Council of Europe Transversal Programme on Gender Equality. It aims to increase the impact and visibility of gender equality standards, supporting their implementation in member States through a variety of measures, including gender mainstreaming and action in a number of priority areas.