As the UN Commission on the Status of Women convenes, social-democratic ministers for gender equality call on Europe to unite for women’s rights.
One year into the Covid-19 pandemic, everyday life has been turned upside down. Many activities have come to a standstill or have shifted to the virtual sphere. But one thing has remained constant—the call for change and recognition of women and feminists around the globe. The pandemic has pushed many women to their limits.
Women play an important role in our society and they are bearing a disproportionate burden of this crisis. As our progressive governments have reiterated throughout the last 12 months, the pandemic has exposed existing gender inequalities.
On the frontline
Women are on the frontline of this crisis: they make up 76 per cent of EU healthcare workers and disproportionately work in jobs where exposure to the virus is high—as cashiers, cleaners, personal carers and teachers. Women are more likely to be in temporary, part-time and other forms of precarious employment, leaving them especially vulnerable to the economic consequences of the crisis. Lockdown measures have moreover led to a rise in unpaid care work for women and a further deterioration in their work-life balance and mental health. Gender-based violence has increased in many countries and access to sexual and reproductive health rights has been deprioritised or even restricted across the globe.
The 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women begins today and we reiterate our call to make women truly count, once and for all. We urge all European leaders to join us in making women count at all levels of policy-making—as citizens, caregivers, employers, workers and human beings.
At the CSW, Europe must stand united in its commitment to gender equality as a human right and fundamental value which must permeate national recovery plans, macroeconomic policy and global development. The recovery plans are an opportunity to enact structural change for gender equality, because the pandemic has revealed the blind-spots in our societies.
Too little progress
Europe must take the lead in tackling these crucial issues and make a real difference for women. If we are to build back better, social and economic inclusion of women must be central to the digital and green transitions.
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For us as progressives, it is clear that gender equality is part of the solution and cannot be put on hold. Advancing gender equality benefits society as a whole and Europe cannot afford to put women’s rights on the backburner any longer—26 years after the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, too little progress has been made.
Indeed, especially in the context of a growing backlash against women’s rights and democracy, the fight for real gender equality is now more important than ever. That is why we, together with our progressive allies in Europe and globally, will continue to speak out alongside the unheard, fight against the marginalisation and under-representation of women and minorities, and demand accountability from conservative forces who obstruct progressive change.
We, Party of European Socialists ministers for gender equality, have the political will to make women truly count.
Mariana Vieira da Silva is minister of state for the presidency in Portugal. Franziska Giffey is federal minister for family affairs, senior citizens, women and youth in Germany. Taina Bofferding is minister for equality between women and men in Luxembourg. Tytti Tuppurainen is minister for European affairs and ownership steering and leader of Social Democratic Women in Finland.