There is so much to do to bring about gender equality in Europe. Much too much for only one day of the year.
Tomorrow is International Women’s Day.
If tomorrow is however a typical day, at least seven women in Europe will be killed by a family member or intimate partner. The United Nations estimates that 2,600 women were killed in this way in 2020.
Thousands more will experience harassment tomorrow, in their communities and online. And all 229 million women in the European Union will continue to be under-represented in Europe’s parliaments, boardrooms and newsrooms.
Even among those who define themselves as women, some will face heightened discrimination. Within the LGBTIQ community, gender exacerbates the risk of falling victim to violence, with the most vulnerable those whose gender expression does not match their assigned sex at birth and intersex individuals.
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Tomorrow, then, will look much like yesterday, and the day before that, for women in Europe.
But tomorrow—for one solitary day a year—the focus is on successes for women’s rights as well as the work still to do. There is a lot of work—far too much for just one day. Tomorrow is about building feminist solidarity on the way to equality.
Tonight, PES Women and Rainbow Rose begin the work of reclaiming the rest of the year for gender equality. We are uniting to launch a new campaign: Reclaim your space—a feminist outcry for equality. It’s an outcry that should be heard all across our societies.
Join us tonight at 19.00 (central-European time) for a Twitter Spaces conversation. Taking part will be the president of the Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament, Iratxe Garcia Perez; the mayor of Ovanaker in Sweden and vice-president of the Party of European Socialists group in the Committee of the Regions, Yoomi Renström; and Daragana Todorovic, co-founder of the EuroCentralAsian Lesbian* Community.
As we shall hear, there is a lot to do to reclaim society’s spaces for women.
Europe still struggles with gender-based violence everywhere—in our homes, the streets, the workplace and online. It is pervasive and ugly and it can only be combated effectively if prevention is enhanced, survivors are protected and perpetrators are prosecuted.
That means more training for police and judges, medical professionals and others on the frontline, so they can spot when women are in danger and provide real help. It means more investment in support services such as shelters, helplines, stigma-free counselling and legal assistance. And it means a stronger legal framework, to bring people to justice.
Tomorrow, the European Commission will take an important step to address this challenge by publishing a draft directive to combat violence against women. Thanks to the progressive commissioner for equality, Helena Dalli, the EU is getting closer to a comprehensive legal framework. It is a welcome step but many more have to follow.
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Europe still has an equality problem. In public debates, in elections, in boardrooms, the media and in political speeches, women’s voices are not heard (enough), and those of lesbian, bisexual and transgender women even less. Quotas, gender-balanced or ‘zipped’ lists in elections, gender mainstreaming and usage of inclusive language are all available tools to address this.
It is time to break down the barriers women face in healthcare, the justice system, education, housing, employment and finance. Training for employers and employees on diversity management, unconscious biases and women-friendly corporate policies is part of doing so.
But to implement these policies, we need more than one symbolic day. We need a revived and progressive European feminist movement. We need you.
Citizens voices—women and men—are a powerful force for gender equality. You can push local, regional and national governments and EU institutions to do the right thing. You can make political stakeholders make women’s rights their own. You can ensure politicians are held to the promises they make.
And you can do it any and every day this year, not just on International Women’s Day. Is just one day enough? No. But it can be the start.
Women are angry. Angry about the murderers, the rapists, the harassers, often enjoying impunity. Angry about being unheard, mistreated and pushed to the side. Women cannot keep waiting for tomorrow. Or for the next International Women’s Day.
To everyone who is committed to gender equality, we say: reclaim the rest of the year. Reclaim our spaces. Reclaim our voices. Reclaim our rights.
Join us tonight as we launch Reclaim your space—a feminist outcry for equalityand find out how you can push for equality for women, in all their diversity.