A Q&A with Tomasz Kozlowski, AMBASSADOR of the European Union TO INDIA on international women's day

Tomasz Kozlowski

Plan India, with the Delegation of the European Union to India and the Embassy of Finland jointly celebrated International Women’s Day to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls so that they can learn, lead, decide and thrive.

To mark the day, Tomasz Kozlowski, Ambassador of the European Union to India, participated in a panel discussion on ‘Women and Economic Empowerment’ with Nina Vaskunlahti, Ambassador of Finland to India, Bhagyashri Dengle, Executive Director, Plan India along with Nisha, a member from the Banking on Change project.

Tomasz Kozlowski, Head of the Delegation of the European Union in New Delhi shares his thoughts on the changes he has witnessed through economic empowerment programmes and why supporting women is essential for sustainable development.

Q 1: As an Ambassador to India, what message would you like to convey on the International Women’s Day?

Tomasz Kozlowski: Whether in Europe or anywhere else in the world, EU works to promote gender equality and women's empowerment in all aspects of life. This is key to whether and how our societies and economies thrive. I would like to recall the signal contributions being made by Indian girls and women in all spheres of activity including education, medicine, law, scientific research, sports, administration and business. Their outstanding performance has been a source of pride to all Indians and shown that they are and should be acknowledged as equal partners in every way.

Women have a central role to play in the development of the Indian economy and need to get a fair share of its direct and indirect benefits. There is still a lot of work to do, in both our societies to achieve gender equality, and I am confident that we can achieve much more together.

Q 2: You have partnered with Plan India for an economic empowerment program in Uttar Pradesh, could you share a few experiences of how impactful the program had been? How has the programme been able to bring about a change in mindsets towards women and their economic empowerment?

Tomasz Kozlowski: The EU is committed to gender equality and women's empowerment in Europe and its initiatives across the world. Just to list an example, we have been working on an action plan to tackle the gender pay gap in the EU, while in India, we supported a project on gender-wage parity in Uttar Pradesh in partnership with Plan India.

Project Samanta benefited more than 10000 women by increasing substantially their salaries to make them equivalent to men engaged in the same jobs. At the same time, more than 20000 kids of working women were enrolled in appropriate learning institutions. This project also led to increase in awareness about wage parity in the region, including with government officials. While this is a small initiative, we hope this will be replicated in other States.

Additionally, all our development cooperation projects in India or anywhere else in the world are required to be gender sensitive in order to get approved, and we make sure that all projects benefit as much as possible women as well as people in vulnerable situations.

Q 3: Could you also tell how do you think the economic empowerment of women can make a difference?

Tomasz Kozlowski: It is important to have more girls in schools and more women active in our economies. Europe does not have enough female entrepreneurs: They account for only one third of all entrepreneurs in the EU, and the presence of women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is even lower.

The economic empowerment of women, which is out theme for International Women's day 2018, is not only a moral imperative, but it also makes perfect sense in economic terms as all studies show. For example, it has been estimated that without a significant increase in female entrepreneurs, we are set to lose EUR 11,500 billion in economic growth between now and 2025 in the EU. Imagine the equivalent numbers for India. Now this cannot happen overnight, and we need to start taking small steps by way of education and change in mindset to be able to take big leap in the future.

To reach those goals, there is a question that we must honestly face: in order for women to fully assume their role and make the most of their potential in the labor market, we have to do everything we can to make sure that this is not done at the cost of their family life. No mother – or father – should be put in a position of having to choose between being a successful professional or a caring parent.