Empowering women's participation in politics

Photo: EP Federica Mogherini and Joao Pimenta Lopes

Marking the International Women's Day, about 80 days ahead of the European vote, lawmakers from the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM), together with more than 20 national MPs from 15 Member States and Norway, gathered in the European Parliament in Brussels to discuss on “Women's power in politics”. The sitting was presided by the FEMM chair Vilija Blinkeviciute.

Debating on how to surmount the obstacles that women face when it comes to their presence on the political scene, parliamentarians from the EP and national assemblies again mentioned the use of quotas and the role political parties play when preparing electoral lists. Special accent was put on the issue of barriers - such as precarious working conditions, lower income, absence of paternal leave - that hinder young women's participation in politics.

We must keep working to have more women in politics, but also in businesses, it is a battle for dignity and respect that must be fought by all of us, underscored EP President Antonio Tajani. Furthermore, he pointed out that women are in today's world still subject to discrimination and unacceptable violence, also in the European Union.

When it comes to domestic violence, even in Croatia courts are too lenient towards the perpetrators, let alone victims of sexual violence who are often looked at with scepticism, the first-ever female president of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic, stressed. She added that women are often underpaid for the same job in comparison to men, unemployment is also greater among women. President Grabar-Kitarovic also stated how she had to fight for her place, both in life and in politics, and to break countless glass ceilings.

In his intervention, Dimitrios Papadimoulis, EP vice-president and chair of the High-level Group on Gender Equality, expressed his hope that after the European elections there will be women at the important positions that are still filled by men. This has to change, because if we continue according to the rhythms we are following now, we will achieve gender equality in 182 years, he opined.

Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Commissioner Vera Jourova put her finger on a very pressing issue: “when you look at the figures, you see it quite clearly: we see that with this 50% of university graduates, we have 6% of CEOs in European companies. We still have a gap in employment, we wanted to have 75%, so equal employment with man and we still are below it,” the commissioner noted.

If you only see sixty, seventy-year-old white men in ties, and the society does not look that way, you might feel a certain distance that might translate into a lack of trust, or a lack of confidence or a lack of identification, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini emphasised. “I think we are also serving democracy and the democratic institutional life if we empower women in institutions.”

The sitting was wrapped up by FEMM Vice-Chair Joao Pimenta Lopes, who also advocated for more women in decision-making and insisted men to be involved in the fight for gender equality.

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