We can bring Europe closer to the citizens by helping women at home, at work and in politics
EU's gender-equality strategy should also address the impact of Covid-19 pandemic, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) has stressed in an opinion adopted at the assembly's Plenary session on 14 October. The European Union's strategy – entitled A Union of Equality: Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 – needs to involve local and regional authorities in its governance as they have a crucial role to play and can be key actors in addressing gender equality through their specific competences, the CoR said.
COVID-19 has brought into sharper relief inequalities that already exist, particularly gender inequality. The CoR's Regional and Local Barometer 2020 – presented on 12 October – highlights a rise in the number of reported cases of domestic violence during the lockdown, though no comparable EU-wide data set is yet available. Some countries, such as Lithuania, observed 20% more domestic violence over a three-week lockdown period. In Spain, the emergency number for domestic violence received 18% more calls in the first two weeks of lockdown. Regional authorities in Spain shared an action guide for women suffering gender violence while staying at home. The city of Amsterdam in coordination with the national government set up a system in which victims of domestic violence were able to reach out to their pharmacy by using the code words 'mask 19'.
“Women are at greater exposure to the consequences of the economic crisis resulting from the pandemic. This should therefore be fully acknowledged in the Recovery and Resilience Plans that will be launched next year. Furthermore, we propose in the opinion to take into account the accomplishment of gender equality in the European Semester and in the Rule of Law Report,” stressed Concepción Andreu Rodríguez (ES/PES), President of La Rioja region.
In the recommendations, local and regional authorities called to be recognised as strategic partners in the design, implementation and monitoring of the EU Equality Strategy. As the strategy was drawn up and published before the COVID-19 public health crisis, it is incomplete, the opinion notes, and calls for an assessment as to how the crisis highlighted even further the existing inequalities between women and men.
The CoR points out that workers in employment sectors have been particularly exposed to the risks of the Covid-19 pandemic and would need stronger social protection, safer working conditions, and better remuneration. As most workers in these sectors are women, the impact of the pandemic should also be addressed in the EU's Gender Equality Strategy. Issues such as gender-based violence, which has intensified under the lockdowns, the difficulties experienced by many women across the EU in combining working from home with care responsibilities, and the fact that women have been in the front line during the pandemic (as health-care and child-care workers, carers for older people domestic and retail workers) should be seen in the light of the new pandemic situation.
Local and regional authorities are requesting to be involved in a structured way in the EU network on the prevention of gender-based violence and in implementing the awareness-raising and communication campaign that will be launched at EU level, a campaign that the Committee views as vital for combating gender stereotypes. Theyare also calling for appropriate funding for gender policies through programmes supported in the EU's long-term budget for 2020-27.
“Women must be at the heart of Europe's recovery and the debate on its future. Although our leadership is essential, we still suffer great gender imbalance in the decision-making,” said Ms Andreu Rodríguez during a workshop entitled "The path to gender parity in politics" on 15 October. The rapporteur presented the key points of the CoR opinion and the latest figures on women’s participation in politics. The necessary steps and ideas for action to close the gender gap were discussed. A number of young elected politicians shared their experiences at the local and regional level in addressing gender equality and parity democracy. The workshop was organised in the framework of the European Week of Regions and Cities (EWRC) – an annual event during which cities and regions showcase their capacity to create growth and jobs, implement European Union cohesion policy, and prove the importance of the local and regional level for good European governance.
The domain of political power is one of the most concerning area in terms of gender inequalities. In the European political sphere today, there are 1 million local and regional elected officials, but only some 30% of those are women. As indicated by a Council of European Municipalities and Regions study on women in politics published in 2019, only 29% of local councillors in Europe are women and the proportion of women mayors is only about half that, at 15%. At the regional level, there are far fewer women leading regional assemblies (18%) than women members of regional assemblies (31%). Within the Committee of the Regions itself, women account for only 23% of members, a fact that highlights a clear gender gap at regional and local level in women's representation that needs to be addressed.
· Interview with Concha Andreu (ES/PES), CoR rapporteur on the Gender Equality Strategy
· "Strategy for a gender balance in Members' participation in the CoR" by the CoR Bureau in 2019, which aims at improving gender balance in the appointment of CoR Members.
Findings of the Annual Regional and Local Barometer:
· Annual Regional and Local Barometer – main findings
· Annual Regional and Local Barometer – full report
· Annual Regional and Local Barometer – opinion poll by Kantar (country-specific results also available)
· Annual Regional and Local Barometer – the health impact (the story, in data)
· Annual Regional and Local Barometer – the regional economic impact (the story, in data)
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