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European Women’s Lobby’s reaction to the launch of the European Commission “A Union of Equality: Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025” 5 March 2020

Brussels, 5 March 2020 -
Ahead of International Women’s Day, the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) welcomes the Strategy on Gender Equality presented today by the European Commission as its key political framework for promoting equality between men and women in the EU. EWL shares the European Commission’s conclusions on the serious threats to the rights of women and girls in Europe: women and girls make up more than half the population of the EU but still face systemic discrimination, stereotypes, and barriers in all spheres of life in Europe and beyond.

EWL welcomes and supports the political leadership and commitment of the European Commission in setting out this strategy to put equality between women and men back at the heart of the EU project. After 5 years without a political framework at EU level, the time for action at EU level was long overdue. Indeed, six decades of EU action have most certainly advanced equality between women and men. However, Europe has stopped progressing for a decade now: economic austerity measures combined with a backlash on women’s rights has stalled progress to equality, and threatened the rights of all women and girls.

Central to a successful strategy that empowers women and advances equality between women and men, we must recognise and directly address the fact that discrimination on the basis of sex is often combined with other factors such as race or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age, sexual orientation, class, and/or migration status. These other factors may affect women and girls belonging to such groups to a different degree or in different ways to men and boys and aggravate their negative impact.

EWL particularly welcomes the emphasis put in the Strategy on tackling violence against women and girls, advancing women’s rights, leading by example on equal representation of women in decision-making positions, closing the gender and pension gap and, integrating a gender perspective into all major policies and funding streams of the EU.

EWL strongly welcomes the statement that the EU ratification of the Istanbul Convention on violence against women remains a key priority of the European Commission. However, EWL is worried that President von der Leyen might not fully live up to the promises she made to the European Parliament to incorporate all forms of violence against women and girls among EU crimes (art. 83 TFUE). By limiting its ambition to “areas of crime where harmonisation is possible to specific forms of gender-based violence” and to forms of violence “already apprehended by the existing Eurocrimes”. EWL calls on the European Commission to meet its promises to protect all women and girls from violence by aiming for the inclusion of all forms of violence against women and girls among Eurocrimes. This will pave the way for an EU Directive on all forms of violence against women and girls, including sexual exploitation and online violence.

Moreover, we are happy to see the important issue of care given attention in the Strategy and take this as a starting point to build towards a bolder framework of a “Care Deal for Europe”. This would recognise the undervalued and usually unpaid contribution of women to society and shift towards an economy that puts care at its centre. EWL praises the European Commission’s intention to improve women’s inclusion in the labour market and the emphasis on tackling the gender pay and pension gaps

EWL also supports the European Commission’s assessment that equal representation of all women in all spheres of decision-making is “a necessary pre-condition for a well-functioning democracy”. It is very encouraging to read that the Commission will push for the adoption of the Directive on improving the gender balance on corporate boards. EWL also strongly welcomes the Commission’s leadership in ensuring parity in the next European Parliament elections and within its own management. EWL calls on the Commission to leverage those actions to push for more women on the boards of all public institutions in the EU and to encourage Member States to adopt legislation to ensure equal representation of all women in all decision-making spheres.

Last but certainly not least, EWL would like to underline the very important commitment set out in this strategy to integrate a gender perspective into all EU policies and major initiatives of the Commission, such as those on climate change, health, digitalisation and the EU budget through fully implementing gender budgeting and funding conditionality. EWL would like to stress the need for increased resources to women’s organisations inside and outside the EU and, while totally endorsing the need for EU institutions and the Member States to deepen their relationships with women’s organisations, EWL would like to underline that, without increased resources, such engagement would be compromised.

Gwendoline Lefebvre, President of the European Women’s Lobby: “As President of the largest umbrella of women’s organisations in the EU, I would like to welcome the Gender Equality Strategy issued today by the European Commission. It is a great first step to accelerate progress on the rights of all women and girls throughout the EU. Now is time to turn words into action and to implement these new fresh commitments. The European Women’s Lobby will monitor closely whether the EC and EU Member States implements those promises. All women and girls in Europe are counting on our political leaders to protect them against sexism, exploitation, violence and all forms of discrimination and to offer them opportunities to fully enjoy their fundamental human rights.”

Joanna Maycock, Secretary General of the European Women’s Lobby: “After five years without a strong political framework for women’s rights at EU level, we are happy to see this European Commission taking leadership in support of equality between women and men. With this Strategy, Commissioner Dalli has set out important proposals to advancing the human rights of all women and girls. As the European Women’s Lobby the proposals set out in this strategy, we see as a starting point for more ambitious measures from the European Commission, from the European Parliament and the EU Member States in addressing the structural root causes and consequences of inequality between women and men, boys and girls in the European Union.”

-  The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) is the largest umbrella organisation of women’s associations in the European Union (EU), working to promote women’s rights and equality between women and men. EWL membership extends to organisations in all 28 EU Member States and three of the candidate countries, one efta country, as well as to 18 European-wide organisations, representing a total of more than 2000 associations (to be reviewed after Brexit).

For further information, interviews and comment, please contact; Adeola Aderemi, EWL Digital Communications and Media Officer, tel: +32 2 2100421, 0484350928

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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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