8 March is International Women’s Day. At the 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety, we saw a conscious effort to ensure the gender balance of speakers; and so today, we celebrate the role of women in the opening and closing ceremonies of the conference.
In the opening ceremony of the Ministerial Conference, both the European and African Unions were represented by women.
Adina-Ioana Vălean, Transport Commissioner for the European Union, highlighted Vision Zero and the need for safe systems that recognizes that human error is inevitable. “The EU is ready to work with all of you on our common goal,” she concluded. “We cannot tackle any of these goals in isolation.”
Amani Abou-Zeid, Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy for the Africa Union used her speech to recognize the need for concrete road safety solutions that meet the needs of the dynamic and growing economies across Africa and the commitment and progress that are already in motion: “Africa, despite lots of challenges, represents a light of hope in the world: a young and dynamic population, some of the fastest growing economies in the world, rapid deployment and application of digitalization to develop home-grown, unconventional solutions to our problems, rapid urbanization…these create vast opportunities for us Africans. We need to manage these opportunities wisely so that our people are the winners. Our countries are racing time, facing the pressure and needs and ambitions of our growing populations.”
Two of the most memorable speeches of the whole conference for many delegates were the passionate calls to action from the youth taskforce. Omnia El Omrani, Egypt, who spoke at the opening ceremony, and Raquel Barrios, Nicaragua, speaking at the closing ceremony had a strong message for the conference attendees: “We are tired of false commitments.” Raquel invited Ministers, city mayors, urban planners, to “pick a lane” and warned them that “we will be watching which lane you pick.”
Alongside Raquel in the closing ceremony, were two other strong women: Hala Abou-Ali, Professor at the University of Cairo and Member of Parliament, Egypt, and the Alliance’s Executive Director, Lotte Brondum, whose speech was for many NGOs a recognition of the progress that civil society has made as partners to their governments.
Representation of women, as well youth, vulnerable and marginalized groups, and representation from different regions of the world, are essential and we welcome the efforts of the conference organizers to ensure a balance and representation of all stakeholders. As Hala Abou-Ali said in her speech: “That is my challenge and hope. As an African, as an Egyptian, as a woman, as a human being, my hope is for a future of mobility that is safe, that is equitable, and that is built on the values of each and every member of our societies: men, women, youth, and children.”
So, this is why we, the road safety NGOs, are celebrating International Women’s Day: the hope of safe, equitable mobility that works for us all.