4 reasons why the new Gender Equality Strategy (2020-2025) is key in responses to the COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath

[Brussels, 13 May 2020] - The current Covid-19 crisis has only made the need for coordinated EU action on women’s rights clearer to everyone. It is proof that inequalities between women and men are persistent and that unpaid and undervalued care – overwhelmingly provided by women – is the backbone of our societies.

Women all across Europe need to see progress urgently. It is essential to finally put equality between women and men back at the heart of the EU project - it must drive our responses and action in the post Covid-19 period and beyond, so that the price of the current crisis and its future impact is not paid by women.

We need now to urgently and swiftly implement the Gender Equality Strategy launched early March by the European Commission. These comprehensive set of measures and commitments from the European Commission are an essential contribution to tackling violence against women and girls, ensuring women’s economic independence and guaranteeing policies and funds are directed to securing the rights of women and girls .

To make sure the Strategy achieves its potential impact, and leaves no women behind – especially the most excluded –, we will need the full commitment of all Member States and European institutions. We need the European Union to act in solidarity showing a strong, coordinated and brave leadership in making this Strategy a reality, which will be fundamental in our response to the current public health crisis.

Here are the 4 reasons why it is key to implement the EC Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 to respond to the COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath:

- 1 The current COVID-19 shows how inequalities between women and men are deeply rooted in our society and how rapidly we can go backwards on hard won progress. We are hearing testimonies of women heavily impacted by the pandemic: bearing most of household chores and child care, letting go of their job because “it pays less” than their partner’s; at home with a violent partner; exposed to the virus in their frontline work as nurses, cashiers, cleaning ladies, baby-sitters, elderly carers, etc. Because, indeed, with inequalities comes a paradox: women are actually carrying the burden of most of the now so-called “essential services” which are also the most undervalued and underpaid by our society. In sum, this crisis reveals how far we actually are from equality in all spheres of life and how crucial it is to keep fighting for full realisation of women’s rights in the EU. The Gender Equality Strategy, as a key tool to remedy these inequalities, must be urgently turned into action.

- 2 Since implementation of lockdown measures, there has been an increase of 30-50% in domestic violence in the EU. This increase shows how many women and girls live in a violent household across the continent. There is no way to ignore it: all EU leaders must recognise violence against women and girls as a crime they must tackle jointly. We need EU action to ensure each and every woman and girl in the EU, irrespective of where they live or where they are from, benefit from the same protection. Building on the strong commitments already in the Gender Equality Strategy, the European Commission must propose an EU Directive on preventing and combating all forms of violence against women and girls to whether online or offline, including sexual exploitation.

- 3 A recent study by the European Institute for Gender Equality shows that women represent a majority of frontline workers in the current crisis : 82% of cashiers, 93% of childcare workers and teachers, 95% of domestic cleaners and helpers, and 86% of personal care workers (1). Yet, with this crisis, women face the highest risks of losing their jobs, experiencing poverty and the impact of austerity measures, balancing employment with traditionally feminised care roles for children and sick or elderly family members. The European Commission should show vision and leadership by proposing a bold new “Care Deal for Europe”: to place the care of each other at the heart of the European project; ensuring quality care infrastructure and decent work within these essential sectors. This would encompass commitments on pay transparency and women’s economic independence already in the Gender Equality Strategy.

- 4 In the political discussions and decision making about how to get the economy back on track, the gender dimension of the COVID-19 crisis seems to be totally overlooked. This is worrying when this crisis might have long-term impact on our economy and women’s economic independence. To ensure women don’t carry the burden of this crisis, the EU and its Member States must apply gender mainstreaming in their responses to the COVID-19 crisis: bringing together the analysis, data policies and fundings. To ensure the European Commission abide by its promises to “integrate a gender perspective in all major Commission initiatives” (2), a special focus must be on gender budgeting, sex-disaggregated data, gender impact assessments and effective accountability measures. In addition, women’s civil society who are essential in delivering tailored services must be fully funded and consulted across all levels of decision making. The EU’s long-term budget must further ensure that women and girls do not face the brunt of austerity ever again: funding for women’s organisation and women’s frontline services must be increased in the next MFF.

Read and share EWL’s recommendations to EU Member States and to the European Parliament to ensure the implementation of the Gender Equality Strategy (2020-2025) leaves no woman behind:

Recommendations to the Member States:

Recommendations to the European Parliament:

(2) A Union of Equality: Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025, COM(2020) 152 final, p. 15.

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EWL event "Progress towards a Europe free from all forms of male violence" to mark the 10th aniversary of the Istanbul Convention, 12 May 2021.

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