5-6 JUNE 2018 / Tour & Taxis / Brussels

Cultural Heritage and Creativity through Women’s Lens

Which access for women and girls to active participation in society? Lessons and perspective from Cultural Heritage and present creative efforts

Special Event
Wednesday, June 6, 2018
10:45 to 12:00

On the occasion of the European Year of Cultural Heritage, this session will highlight how heritage and creativity can be key drivers of community development and women’s empowerment. Over the centuries, women have contributed to shaping values, expressions and ways of being. They have been powerful actors in safeguarding and transmitting tangible and intangible heritage and in promoting cultural diversity. Some traditions and promoted cultural values have led to social inequality, segregation and discrimination; on the other hand heritage and creativity have offered and still offer precious keys to activate social change and innovation, giving voice to women’s diverse stories and promoting their economic, social and cultural rights. The panel will aim to adopt recommendations to foster synergies between policies for gender and the mainstreaming of the cultural dimension of development and international cooperation through cultural heritage valuing.

Key points

  • Gender inequalities have long persisted in the cultural sphere, determining who participates in, contributes to and benefits from culture.
  • Transforming harmful cultural norms requires more people in the arts to raise their voice and challenge the status quo.
  • We need a shift from viewing culture as an obstacle to women’s rights to one of ensuring women’s equal enjoyment of cultural rights.
  • The European Commission and other international institutions should put greater pressure on governments to let women’s voices be heard, no matter how tough or difficult the message.



How can we harness culture to empower women? This was the central question posed to representatives from the arts, leading cultural institutions and national ministries of culture.

Cultural heritage shapes our identities and everyday lives. It is not only found in art and objects but also in the stories we tell, the food we enjoy, and more. Gender inequalities have long persisted in the cultural sphere, determining who participates in, contributes to and benefits from culture.

A Belgian-Congolese singer has been at the forefront of the global movement to celebrate African culture and heritage. She described how, growing up in Brussels, African art was often referred to as primitive and racism prevented people from appreciating African traditions.

Her music has helped bring the sounds of Africa to the world, encouraging African women to become “queens” who embrace and defend their blackness, celebrated by supportive men. For her, transforming harmful cultural norms


Women in Africa need to take back control of their cultural narratives. Too many stories are told by outsiders or men with their own agendas. Women can be Africa’s storytellers with empowering pro-women messages that can uplift and inspire the continent.

Organised by


Fleur Macdonald
Firmin Edouard Matoko
Assistant Director-General – Africa Department
UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization)
Stefano Manservisi
European Commission - DG for International Cooperation and Development (DEVCO)
Abel Enrique Prieto Jimenez
Minister of Culture
Marie Daulne