Women as agents of change in Europe – nothing less

March 9, 2009

image001- Brigitte Triems is president of the European Women’s Lobby, the largest non-governmental women’s organisation in the European Union, representing approximately 2000 organisations in 30 European Countries. Working with its members at national and European levels, the EWL’s main objective is to fight for gender equality and to ensure the integration of a gender perspective in all EU policy areas. The opinions expressed are her own. -

Some Europeans like to claim that we have achieved equality between women and men in Europe, and that the struggle for equality belongs to another, preferably faraway, region. Unfortunately there is little reality behind these claims.

Fresh figures show that the average gender pay gap in Europe is 17,4 percent and that women’s job security is more precarious than those of men.

Women are largely under-represented at decision-making levels both nationally and at a European level. Only 22 percent of the members of national parliaments are women in the EU, and of the seats in the European Parliament barely a third are filled by women.

Violence against women is persistent throughout Europe, and women’s right to abortion is being denied or restricted in several EU countries.

International Women’s Day is a day for all those who strive for equality and justice. The realities outlined above are some of the reasons why women’s movements remain mobilised throughout Europe, and in particular on International Women’s Day. This is a day that is relevant for all citizens who want to contribute to a more just and sustainable society in which women and men share political and economic responsibilities, where care for elderly and children is shared between women and men and made a societal concern rather than a private one, and where women live lives free from violence.

However, it is also important to be aware that women in Europe face a range of realities and struggles. The possibility of creating a more just society will largely depend upon integrating migrant women, lesbians, and disabled women into the core political processes.

The world of economics has a gender. It is male. With the financial crisis and the now evident systemic challenges, gender imbalances become even more striking. Every television screen and panel features male politicians and male economists, often the very same men that engineered the current financial meltdown, whom we are asked to trust to come up with solutions.

Feminists across Europe demand a different approach than patch it up and go on with “business-as-usual.” A gendered analysis of our economies as based on both productive and reproductive work, and how this can and must be coupled with issues of equality, should together with sustainable development perspectives become center stage at a moment where we look for new models for the financial and economic systems.

Equality is the only forward option for Europe. In view of the importance of the upcoming European elections in June 2010, and the opportunity it creates for change at European level, European Women’s Lobby has launched a campaign “No modern European democracy without gender equality – 50/50,” calling for more women in decision making at all levels. Having more women in decision-making is a question of democracy and it is about fully recognizing women as actors of change, as driving forces of sustainable social, economic, and environmental development in Europe. The 50/50 campaign is supported by more than half of the current 27 European Commissioners, and over 200 prominent supporters have signed up to the campaign.

Sign the petition and take action – European Women’s Lobby 50/50 Campaign website

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I wanted to share that in support of International Women’s Day, the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration dedicated their blog entry to the importance of the day. You can read it at http://fspajusticeandpeace.wordpress.com  /

 
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