Today the European Commission boasts of Ursula von der Leyen as its first female president and when her name was first announced, the commission set to make it the most gender-balanced in the history of the EU. However, back in 1992 decision-making in Europe was all men; there was just one woman commissioner and even now progress in terms of gender equality has stalled in a majority of the European countries, not a single one of them can say their county is truly gender-equal.
Women want an ambitious political strategy to tackle equality issues
“Progress, if you can even call it progress, is extremely disappointing. There’s no single EU country that has achieved equality. We need concerted efforts by all EU member states to take measures – and an end to austerity,” says women’s rights campaigner Joanna Maycock. What women expect today from the EC is more than what they did about 2 decades ago, women want an ambitious political strategy to tackle equality issues between men and women. There are no doubts that the Nordic countries have achieved a lot more than other countries in the continent, however, the large responsibility of raising children and caregiving for the elderly still continues to be branded as women’s work. Moreover, a majority of working mothers work part-time as compared to working fathers and this has not only created the retirement-savings gap, but also the pension gap and as a result, more women are struggling to make ends meet in their advanced years than men.
Furthermore, there is also the question of parental leave for working parents and the culture of men taking leave if it is available for them. However, one of the most worrying issues in the European Union is the question of the safety of women and the portrayal of women in the media. ‘In Brussels itself, just last month a fast-food company posted an ad on social media in which a man was shown punching a woman for handing him the wrong burger. The comic-book image provoked outrage. Belgian equality minister Nawal Ben Hamou described it as sickening and totally irresponsible,’ reported The Guardian. It was shocking that such an advertisement was approved by people even in this day and age. While there is enough data on the violence against women, there is a lot that needs to be done from the point of view of political policies and agendas. Maycock adds “We need real political weight. [EU] ministers for sport meet six times a year. Ministers for fish, I’ve lost count. But ministers for equality never meet. The previous commission just had a working paper, and that doesn’t have the political weight.” However, this also means that women should not remain silent and bring their issues to the limelight and speak up until some action is taken.
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