Archive for March, 2009

The 8th of March, Women’s Day, in Poland is a event that used to be just another opportunity for men to buy their girlfriends, wives and mothers flowers and chocolates. For some time, however, it’s been known as the biggest festival of women’s rights. That is the day women come out on the streets of Polish cities.

For 10 years now, the International Women’s Day has been an opportunity for women to voice their opinions and persuade people that women share common interests and promote the idea that they should be more active and independent: do business, get into politics, demand equality within the family and in the workplace. For 10 years, the Polish organization called Porozumienie Kobiet 8 Marca (March 8 Women’s Alliance), supported by many women’s groups, has been organizing the biggest demonstration of women’s rights supporters, widely known as Manifa (march of protesters). It has become a grassroots democratic movement. The Manifas are being organized in many Polish cities, by local committees, comprised of NGOs, university gender studies programs, scientific associations, and informal groups or individuals.

When organized for the first time, Manifa gathered only 200 participants, but last year there were almost 4,000 people. That also demonstrates the great need for having initiatives like that and for creating a spectacular event highlighting the role of women and the concerns and problems women face in our country. But in the beginning, media perceived these demonstrations as gatherings of “strange women feminists, showing their dislike of men.” Today though, they already know that instead of, or rather, in addition to, flowers, women deserve to change of discrimination and stereotyped beliefs they suffer from. As one of the protesters in 2008 said, “Women are everywhere, they are 50% of the society. Yet their voice is not being heard. Women issues and problems women have are ignored and marginalised. We are fed up with this. Therefore it’s high time we did something about it.”

Each year Polish women taking part in Manifas are voicing different priorities within the area of women’s rights, which for them seem to be the most important and need to be addressed immediately. Among the demands, they make are: easy access to contraception; abolishing the gender role stereotypes that people are socialized into; right to decide about oneself and one’s body; no more treating women as sexual objects; proper sex education in schools; and treating equally women who are elderly, poor, homosexual, of different ethnicity, of low social standing or handicapped.

This year’s Manifa, to be held on Sunday, March 8, 2009, is advertised by many women’s organizations using the following words: “Come and Join Us Because … Poland is Ill.” It is therefore aiming to highlight the problems connected with health, including a new law addressing in-vitro fertilization, which is currently being drafted by a bioethics committee. The project is expected to regulate in vitro procedures including protecting the rights of an embryo, forbidding the sale of sperm and eggs, as well as banning the selection of eggs for fertilization. But, women’s groups claim, the draft law is very much influenced by the Catholic ideology – the law will prevent single persons and also homosexual couples for accessing IVF. Also, the law will change the existing provisions which oblige a doctor to inform its patient who wants to undergo abortion about another doctor or clinic where such a procedure may be performed if he or she refuses to perform one. After adoption of a new law, a woman will not have a right to be provided with such information. The law may also criminalize the use of certain types of contraceptives, like coil, or morning-after pills, like Postinor.

The demonstrators will also underline controversial ideas of the Ministry of Health regarding registering pregnancies in Poland (see: Pregnant in Poland? Government Considers Tracking You for Illegal Abortion, and not allowing for voluntary anesthetization during delivery (see: Poland Says No to Pain-Free Childbirth, all of which raised serious concerns among women as to whether they are willing to become mothers, if basic health guarantees are not ensured or seem to be at stake.

It is clear that health is a fundamental prerequisite for a good life, for the ability to support oneself, and for the enjoyment of other human rights. Of course, the health of women matters, most of all, to women themselves. But it also matters to their families, communities and societies. Therefore, it should not be considered in isolation. In order to improve the health of women, other determinants of women’s health status need to be analyzed. That includes, among others, inequality in employment between women and men, where equal pay is still practically inexistent – women are still paid 25% less than men while holding the same positions. And unemployment, where 60% of all unemployed are women. Both of which influence their ability to support themselves and their families, also in relation to healthcare.

Manifas are designed to be cheerful events with lots of open-minded people, colorful clothes, but with a serious message. By organizing manifas in many various cities in Poland as part of the International Women’s Day celebrations, this serious message could be heard more easily by a wider audience.

Anna Wilkowska-Landowska’s blog

This Sunday, the Eighth of March, Assemble at Plaza O’Leary at 9 AM in Silence, to March toward Plaza Los Museos, the Location of the Cultural Festival

We Are Marching to Open New Paths. Big Marches Work Their Magic Because We Make the Path by Marching, Which Is the Legacy of the Collective Memory of Our Peoples.

Contraception and Sexual and Reproductive Education So Women Won’t Have to Have Abortion, and Legal, Safe, and Free Abortion So Women Won’t Have to Die!

When Women Advance, No Man Backslides, and the Organization Grows.

Women and Men Are Fighting Equally to Build Popular Power.

May Our Powerful Steps Be Heard, the Heartbeat of the Pachamama Giving Birth to a New Life.

“I did not earn the rank of Colonel in the bed with Bolívar — I earned it in the battlefield of Ayacucho.” — Manuelita Sáenz

Compañeras, campesinas, women workers, indigenous women, mothers, women students, women artists, girls, and popular organizations:

Venezuela, decorated in national colors, is making progress in the building of a socialist Matria, a just, free, and sovereign motherland, a dream partially realized through our revolutionary process. Our land calls upon us, thousands of women and men, to dare to build socialism with gender equity, to soar, to bring together our color, labor, and hope.

The eighth of March is a day to commemorate the struggle and remember all those women who, with their own steps, charted the path that we are traveling today: Clara Zetkin and other German socialist women who proposed to unite feminism and socialism; the Russian women who spearheaded the Soviet revolution; 146 North American women who fought for better working conditions and were killed in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York in 1911. But the eighth of March is also a day to celebrate the lives of women, a fiesta in which we joyfully proclaim: another world without gender oppression is possible.

In the past and present of our continent, marches and mobilizations have sought to sow the seeds of hope, with women in the front (not only as cooks, wives, or nurses) ready to fight and engage in politics in the struggle for land and liberation: la Minga (cayapa in the indigenous tradition of Venezuela, the process of members of a community working in cooperation) in Colombia, the Zapatista struggle in Mexico, the defense of natural resources in Bolivia, the Landless Workers’ Movement in Brazil, and the call for socialist revolution in Venezuela, among many others in Our America.

This history didn’t happen by chance — it’s connected with a tradition of courageous women fighting against the patriarchal-capitalist system. With their blood they wove a network, and with our blood we are doing so today — we are the weavers, picking up this authentic thread, which was nearly buried by the imposing records of official history.

Today we are taking a firm step to reclaim our rights, which remain incomplete. Let us finish the unfinished revolution, bequeathed to us by the commitment of our fighting grandmothers, our fighting mothers, fighting women who taught us a lesson in solidarity, women of wisdom who protected life, making it possible to dream a different world.

Let us unite in this great “movement” of women that is rising in every corner of our beautiful earth, in Africa, in America, in Asia, in Europe, and in Oceania.

Today, we, women of Venezuela, women of Latin America, are marching:

In the realm of politics
* To celebrate our achievements as women and our active participation in the revolutionary process.
* To deepen and consolidate popular power in Communal Councils, communes, and socialist communal cities.
* For our more active and visible participation in decision-making within the spaces for the building of popular power: Communal Councils, communes, municipalities, the PSUV, and social movements.
* For the revolutionary ethics, because the personal is political
* For the right to undiminished love without discrimination and with respect for sexual diversity.
* For our President Chávez who consistently stands up for the causes of women’s struggles, proving himself to be a man who is in touch with his feminine side.

In the realm of education
* For the transformation of the education system, to create new men and women.
* For the expansion and improvement of the Simoncito (preschool) program.

In the realm of law:
* For the compliance with Articles 88, 76, 21, and 14 of our constitution and Article 14 of the Land Act which stipulates subsidies for pre- and post-partum campesinas. Let’s put our legal rights into practice.
* More time for breastfeeding as the first act of food sovereignty.
* For the implementation of daycare centers as nurseries to educate, not just to stay in compliance of the Organic Labor Act.
* For the compliance with the Act for Women’s Right to Life without Violence.
* For the legalization of the termination of unwanted pregnancy.

In the realm of land struggles:
* For the real intensification of the “war on latifundia.” For land for women who work the land, and for the good environment and housing for all women and men.
* For an urgent government action for the transformation of the production model. Let’s leave destructive, productivist agriculture behind and make progress toward agricultural ecology and sustainable family farming.
* For the defense of the culture of our people, which is our people’s heritage and a source of resistance to imposed “cultures.”

We condemn:
* The reduction of women to sexual objects and commodities by the media of mass deformation (e.g., through reguetón lyrics).
* The situation of over 200 widowed campesinas and their orphaned children, whose fallen compañeros were killed in the struggle against latifundia, at the murderous hands of hired assassins and paramilitaries allied with landowners.
* The expulsion of Yukpa, Barí, and Wayuú women, men, and children form their territory in the Perijá mountain range (among other indigenous communities in this country) by landowners and by a developmentalist conception of the occupation of space.
* The failure to comply with the Commission on Land Demarcation, favoring the interests of multinational mining corporations and ignoring the indigenous peoples’ self-demarcation of territories.
* Indiscriminate evictions in our cities, which violently take the right to homes and shelters away from women — even pregnant women — and their families.
* The institutions of higher education and their alliance with transnational corporations which produce professionals complicit in the deaths and diseases due the development of monocultures with pesticides that poison the mother earth and her children — us.
* The dismissal of women from their jobs by Antonio Ledezma, the opposition mayor of Metropolitan Calacas.
* Domestic violence, the suffering hidden by the demagogy of the conservative bourgeois society.
* The Catholic Church for its support of the rapist Nixon Moreno.
* The presence of patriarchy in our daily lives, which manifests itself among our compañeros and even women who copy the machista model.
* The men who are unable to express affection, solidarity, consideration, cooperation, and respect among others.
* Corruption and the bureaucratic red tape that prevent the transformation of the bourgeois state into a socialist state.
* The violence of the empire in all corners of the world, in Palestine and in our continent, and its plots implemented by its lackeys, manipulating students, even those from our barrios and villages.

Convenors: FNCEZ, La Via Campesina, CTU, M.P.R Fogata, Pachamama Collective, the Committee for the Popular University, SURCO-DP Collective, National Coordination of Undergraduate Education in the Department of Political Science and Government at the Bolivarian University of Venezuela, Marea Socialista (Socialist Tide), Voces Latentes (Latent Voices), Argimiro Gabaldón Socialist Commune, “Sin Techo” (Homeless) Movement, the Committee in Support of the Eighth of March, and many others.

Women rallied worldwide to demand equal rights and protest against domestic violence and growing poverty in the global economic crisis as they marked International Women’s Day.

Thousands gathered in public squares from Bangalore to Kinshasa to the capitals of Europe Sunday, drawing attention to discrimination and fears facing women in their respective countries.

For Europeans, deteriorating financial security in the face of recession has made life more precarious for women workers. “Masculine globalisation equals female poverty” read a banner at a march in Madrid, while in Warsaw calls for equality were linked to paychecks: “Equal rights, equal pay.”

“When, in times of crisis, jobs become scarce, women are often the ones who are the first to go,” said Helga Schwitzer, a leader of Germany’s powerful IG Metall union.

“Women must not be the losers in the crisis,” she told a gathering in Emden, northwest Germany, as she noted that women still earn on average 23 percent less than men.

US President Barack Obama said women are “vital” to solving world challenges and called for “the full and active participation of women around the world.”

His former White House rival, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, celebrated women’s untapped potential but lamented that “no nation in the world has yet achieved full equality for women.”

The French government sought to raise awareness by releasing a book for 18-year-olds titled “Respect Girls”, warning teenagers not to buy into stereotypes in advertising and providing information on sexual harassment and equal opportunities.

“These few pages will help you know your basic rights so that you can translate this into positive and ambitious life choices,” Valerie Letard, state secretary for women’s issues, at a meeting with about 100 young women in Paris.

The Vatican took a different spin on Women’s Day, proclaiming what has liberated Western women the most is none other than the washing machine.

“The debate is still open. Some say it was the pill, others the liberalisation of abortion, or being able to work outside the home. Others go even further: the washing machine,” the official Vatican newspaper said.

For women mainly outside the West, however, their very existence is in peril from violence and cultural attitudes that endanger their lives.

Indian activists in Bangalore, in India’s south, met in parks and open areas to protest a spate of violent attacks on women by religious extremists in the name of “moral policing”.

In Africa, women called attention to the plight of their sex in war zones. Some 10,000 women marched in the streets of Kinshasa to protest massive and savage violence against women and children using them as a weapon of war.

“The desires of Congolese women are clear: stop rape, stop HIV/AIDS, and stop other human rights violations against women and children,” said Marie-Ange Lukiana Mufwankolo, family minister in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Darfur rebel leader Abdel Wahid Mohammed Nur called for support for women and girls in the strife-torn region who are “victims of Islamic fundamentalism and ethnic cleansing.”

“I call upon all women in the world to celebrate Women’s Day by helping Darfur people and Darfur women and girls,” Nur told AFP in Paris, where he has been living in exile for a year and a half.

In Iraq, despite post-war reconstruction, many women — especially widows — are too poor to provide for their families, according to a report by aid agency Oxfam, published to mark International Women’s Day.

“I was convinced that I could improve conditions for women, but I ran into a wall,” said Nawal al-Samarrai, Iraq’s former minister for women’s rights who resigned in despair over lack of support last month.

Another female politician who has risen to the top in a male-dominated society, Shukria Barakzai, an Afghan member of parliament, also lamented her gender’s plight.

She is campaigning against forced and child marriages — practices still common in Afghanistan — after her husband took a second spouse.

“It is very painful for me that my husband has another wife. I myself am a victim of male violence against women in this country. My husband married his second wife without even telling me,” she said.

Muslim women around the world are facing a “growing crisis” as Islamic governments fail to honour commitments to end inequality and violence against them, an independent UN expert warned.

Yakin Erturk, the United Nations’ rapporteur on violence against women, told a weekend conference in Malaysia that women must demand their governments carry out pledges to grant them equal rights and ensure their safety.

And the Colombian office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights pressed for violent sex crimes against women to be investigated and punished, saying that often “the guilty parties are members of several armed groups.”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said this week one woman in five around the globe has been a victim of rape or attempted rape, and that in some countries one woman in three has been beaten or subjected to some kind of violent act.

In Cuba, President Raul Castro called it a “disgrace” that Cuban women’s representation in political life was not as significant at the “decision-making” level as it should be.

In Caracas, meanwhile, Cuba’s key ally President Hugo Chavez announced he would be upgrading the Women’s Affairs Ministry to a stronger role in his self-styled socialist revolution. The new entity will be called the Ministry of People’s Power for Women and Gender Equality, Chavez said.

Women took to the streets around the world on International Women’s Day to demand equality and protest against domestic violence and growing poverty.

Thousands gathered in public squares from Bangalore to Kinshasa to the capitals of Europe on Sunday.

Adressing a rally in Emden, north-west Germany, top IG Metall union official Helga Schwitzer pointed out that, “in times of crisis, jobs become scarce and women are often the ones who are the first to go.

“Women must not be the losers in the crisis,” she told the gathering, stressing that women still earn on average 23 per cent less than men.

In Bangalore, women activists met in parks and open areas to protest at a spate of violent attacks on women by religious extremists in the name of “moral policing.”

And in Africa, women called attention to the plight of their gender in war zones.

Some 10,000 women marched on the streets of Kinshasa to protest against the massive and savage violence meted out to women and children as a weapon of war.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, family minister Marie-Ange Lukiana Mufwankolo said: “The desires of Congolese women are clear – stop rape, stop Aids and stop other human rights violations against women and children.”

An independent UN expert warned at the weekend that Muslim women around the world are facing a “growing crisis” as Islamist-oriented governments fail to honour commitments to end inequality and violence against them.

United Nations rapporteur on violence against women Yakin Erturk told a conference in Malaysia that women must press their governments to deliver pledges on equal rights and to ensure their safety.

Women in Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz province established a business association on Sunday to boost economic development.

Women Affairs Department official Nadira Joya explained that it aimed to “enhance women’s role in economic activities in order to boost their income.”

In Bogota, the Colombian office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called for violent sex crimes against women to be investigated and punished, saying that often “the guilty parties are members of several armed groups.”

UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said this week that one woman in five around the globe has been a victim of rape or attempted rape and that, in some countries, one woman in three has been beaten or subjected to some kind of violent act.

In Cuba, President Raul Castro called it a “disgrace” that Cuban women’s representation in political life was not as significant at the “decision-making” level as it should be.

And, in Caracas, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced that he will upgrade the Women’s Affairs Ministry to play a stronger role in the country’s socialist revolution.

Mr Chavez announced that the new entity will be called the Ministry of People’s Power for Women and Gender Equality.

International Women’s Day is a time to celebrate women’s commitment to work for equality and justice for all people.

The landscape for women’s rights has changed dramatically over the past century. In 2009, the issue is less about women’s legal status — although many countries do still have discriminatory laws on their books — and more about ensuring women genuinely experience equality in all aspects of their lives.

At the international and regional level, there are legally binding agreements to protect and promote women’s rights. In many countries women are active participants in the political process and have made progress towards some economic equality. However, women’s right to life, to physical integrity, to health, to education, to freedom from violence, remains largely unfulfilled. Nowhere is this more evident than for women living in poverty. The reason? The lack of political will, and the rhetorical commitments of political leaders are followed by a gaping vacuum in terms of action and resources.

There are no legitimate excuses to explain why governments have failed to fully implement — and make effective — the national and international laws passed over the last few decades to end discrimination and violence against women once and for all.

The failure of governments to act, coupled with persistent and pervasive discrimination in societies, systematically undermine the rights of women who are marginalised and excluded. Women living in poverty are deprived of their rights to health and education and live in fear of violence in their lives and of their children, demonstrating that freedom from fear and freedom from want or inextricably linked. Women living in poverty are excluded from the opportunity to actively participate in decisions that affect their lives. Women experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination based on their race, ethnicity, caste, religion, gender or sexuality but also simply on account of their living in poverty.

In South Africa, high levels of sexual violence and the prevalence of HIV make women particularly vulnerable to HIV infection. Women who live in poverty are often unable to afford the costs of transportation to access medical facilities where they could receive comprehensive care and treatment. Women living in Kibera, Kenya, one of the world’s largest slums, struggle daily to access basic necessities such as water and food and some degree of physical security. In Haiti, many girls cannot afford to pay school fees. This either means they are denied access to education or they end up in sexually exploitive relationships with men in order to pay the fees. Over half a million women die preventable deaths every year from complications related to pregnancy. The vast majority of these deaths are of women living in poverty. Poverty will not be eradicated unless all these gross human rights violations are addressed.

The Millennium Development Goals, the major global response to poverty agreed by all governments at the beginning of this century, do include commitments to women’s empowerment and health. But the existing targets and indicators used to measure progress to this end are inadequate – masking discrimination, and leaving largely unaddressed the violence and marginalisation of women. Violence against women inhibits poor women’s efforts to overcome poverty through employment. Violence against girls, means fewer girls attend school, and violence against women is both a significant factor pushing women to leave rural areas and their continuing exposure to it in slums.

Today, International Women’s Day, women around the world will celebrate, stand up and speak out to demand their rights. Will governments listen to these demands and act to uphold the rights of women? Of all women?

Amnesty International urges governments to listen and to act. Failure to respect the rights of women deprives us all. None of us can afford to live in a world in which the gifts, talents and experiences of half the population are excluded.

March 8, 2009

On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2009, I am proud to honor women around the world who are blazing trails and surmounting obstacles in pursuit of equality and opportunity. Although you may not know their names or recognize their faces, these women advocates are hard at work in every country and on every continent, seeking to fulfill their right to participate fully in the political, economic and cultural lives of their societies. Often working against great odds and at great personal sacrifice, they are a key to global progress in this new century and deserve our admiration and support.

Put simply, we have much less hope of addressing the complex challenges we face in this new century without the full participation of women. Whether the economic crisis, the spread of terrorism, regional conflicts that threaten families and communities, and climate change and the dangers it presents to the world’s health and security, we will not solve these challenges through half measures. Yet too often, on these issues and many more, half the world is left behind.

This is not simply a matter of emotion or altruism. A growing body of research tells us that supporting women is a high-yield investment, resulting in stronger economies, more vibrant civil societies, healthier communities, and greater peace and stability. But even so, no nation in the world has yet achieved full equality for women.

Women still comprise the majority of the world’s poor, unfed, and unschooled. Hundreds of thousands of women die in childbirth every year. They are subjected to rape as a tactic of war and exploited by traffickers globally in a billion dollar criminal business. Laws are still on the books denying women the right to own property, access credit, or make their own choices within their marriage. And honor killings, maiming, female genital mutilation, and other violent and degrading practices that target women are tolerated in too many places today.

Like all people, women deserve to live free from violence and fear. To create peaceful, thriving communities, women must be equal partners. That means making key resources available to women as well as men, including the chance to work for fair wages and have access to credit; to vote, petition their governments and run for office; to know they can get healthcare when they need it, including family planning; and to send their children to school—their sons and their daughters.

Women also have a crucial role to play in establishing peace worldwide. In regions torn apart by war, it is often the women who find ways to reach across differences and discover common ground as mothers, caretakers, and grassroots advocates. One need only look to Northern Ireland, Rwanda, the Balkans, and parts of Central America to see the impact of women working in their communities to bridge divides in areas of sectarian conflict.

This week, as we celebrate the accomplishments and the untapped potential of women around the world, we must remind ourselves that ensuring the rights of women and girls is not only a matter of justice. It is a matter of enhancing global peace, progress, and prosperity for generations to come.

When women are afforded their basic rights, they flourish. And so do their children, families, communities, and nations.

Press Release: US State Department

The White House released a statement by President Obama proclaiming March Women’s History Month. March was selected as a time to honor American women in 1978, when a Women’s History Week was initiated; the time-period was expanded to a month in 1987. Obama’s proclamation follows:

With passion and courage, women have taught us that when we band together to advocate for our highest ideals, we can advance our common well-being and strengthen the fabric of our Nation. Each year during Women’s History Month, we remember and celebrate women from all walks of life who have shaped this great Nation. This year, in accordance with the theme, “Women Taking the Lead to Save our Planet,” we pay particular tribute to the efforts of women in preserving and protecting the environment for present and future generations.

Ellen Swallow Richards is known to have been the first woman in the United States to be accepted at a scientific school. She graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1873 and went on to become a prominent chemist. In 1887, she conducted a survey of water quality in Massachusetts. This study, the first of its kind in America, led to the Nation’s first state water-quality standards.

Women have also taken the lead throughout our history in preserving our natural environment. In 1900, Maria Sanford led the Minnesota Federation of Women’s Groups in their efforts to protect forestland near the Mississippi River, which eventually became the Chippewa National Forest, the first Congressionally mandated national forest. Marjory Stoneman Douglas dedicated her life to protecting and restoring the Florida Everglades. Her book, The Everglades: Rivers of Grass, published in 1947, led to the preservation of the Everglades as a National Park. She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1993.

Rachel Carson brought even greater attention to the environment by exposing the dangers of certain pesticides to the environment and to human health. Her landmark 1962 book, Silent Spring, was fiercely criticized for its unconventional perspective. As early as 1963, however, President Kennedy acknowledged its importance and appointed a panel to investigate the book’s findings. Silent Spring has emerged as a seminal work in environmental studies. Carson was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously in 1980.

Grace Thorpe, another leading environmental advocate, also connected environmental protection with human well-being by emphasizing the vulnerability of certain populations to environmental hazards. In 1992, she launched a successful campaign to organize Native Americans to oppose the storage of nuclear waste on their reservations, which she said contradicted Native American principles of stewardship of the earth. She also proposed that America invest in alternative energy sources such as hydroelectricity, solar power, and wind power.

These women helped protect our environment and our people while challenging the status quo and breaking social barriers. Their achievements inspired generations of American women and men not only to save our planet, but also to overcome obstacles and pursue their interests and talents. They join a long and proud history of American women leaders, and this month we honor the contributions of all women to our Nation.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim March 2009 as Women’s History Month. I call upon all our citizens to observe this month with appropriate programs, ceremonies, and activities that honor the history, accomplishments, and contributions of American women.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this third day of March, in the year of our Lord two thousand nine, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-third.


Most women want the next European Parliament to guarantee equal pay for equal work, promote day care facilities for children, include child-minding years as pensionable years and combat violence against women, according to a Eurobarometer Flash survey presented in the European Parliament on March 4 2009.

The poll shows significant variations among countries, but a common view is that European politics is a male-dominated world.

Additional research published on March 4 showed that women also give priority to consumer protection and public health measures, a European Parliament media statement said.

Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou, Vice-President of the European Parliament said: “On the eve of the International Women’s Day and the forthcoming European elections, this special Eurobarometer and the socio-demographic analysis give an added value to our efforts to come closer to the European citizen.

“They offer to us, at the European and national levels, important elements about the female voters such as their expectations, their image of the EU, their priority policies to be defended or discussed during the campaign, their participation to politics in European level,” she said.

“This is of a great significance as 83 per cent of women and 76 per cent of men agree that women can bring a different perspective to politics”.

European Commission Vice-President Margot Wallstrom said: “Eurobarometer results show that a large majority of Europeans agree that men dominate politics and that women can bring a different perspective.

“A democracy which does not make enough room for 52 per cent of the population at the
decision-making table is no real democracy at all. A concrete opportunity for change will present itself soon, when European Parliament elections take place at the beginning of June,” she said.

“Decisions are made by those who turn up. Let’s work together so that as many Europeans as possible and at least as many women as men will take this opportunity to get out on polling day and use their vote for candidates who believe in issues which are important to them,” Wallstrom said.

A total of 35 000 women and 5500 men in 27 countries were interviewed by telephone on their perceptions of European politics and more specifically on equal opportunities.

The objective of the poll, commissioned jointly by the European Parliament and the European Commission, was to get a clearer idea of women’s expectations of the European Union in the run up to the elections of June 4 to 7 2009, and in the context of International Women day on March 8.

The majority of women surveyed, and also of men but in a lower proportion, agree that politics is a male dominated world, the percentage being especially high in the Czech Republic, Poland and Portugal.

Most respondents would like to see more women in politics, up to half of the interviewees wishing to see at least 50 per cent of MEPs being women, but only a minority, 10 per cent, considering the use of mandatory quotas to be effective.

When choosing a candidate, the most important factor for women is experience in European issues, 10 points above political orientations.

In deciding their vote, 37 per cent say they decide on the basis of campaign issues, while 29 per cent say that they always vote for the same party.

For 25 per cent of respondents, the personality of the candidates was the key factor. Men tend to give the same weight to experience and political orientation, according to the survey.

When answering the Eurobarometer Flash poll, 46 per cent said their interests as women were not well represented in the EU, with 39 per cent feeling they were well represented.

Women in Luxembourg, Netherlands and Denmark were the most satisfied with how Europe takes into account their interests, with Latvia, Bulgaria and Hungary at the opposite end.

To assure equal opportunities in general, most want more efforts to end the pay gap and to combat violence against women. Equal access to employment is cited in third place.

To promote family – work balance, the next European Parliament should be acting in different areas, such as including child-rearing years in the pensionable period and facilitating access to childcare facilities, according to the majority of responses.

Differences in this area persist on a national basis, with women in Slovenia, the Netherlands and Romania considering that their personal lives were least hindered by work obligations, and at the other end of the spectrum women in Greece, France and Slovakia finding it the hardest.

Those with highest education levels were the ones most likely to say they find difficulties in reaching an adequate balance.

The majority of women report that they do not feel discriminated by gender, with 32 per cent reporting the contrary, with the biggest percentages in Sweden, Greece, Finland and Hungary.

Thirteen per cent still feel discriminated against at home, this percentage being higher in the UK (21 per cent), Greece (21 per cent) and Ireland (17 per cent).

The European Parliament also published on March 4 a research study on previous polls, with the aim to explore difference in attitudes between women and men on general European issues and showed that women would like Europe to be more active in consumer protection and public health.

Based on the answers to previous polls over a period of 18 months, the socio-demographic research, commissioned by the European Parliament, confirms that women are more negative than men regarding the economic situation, the risks of globalisation and the impact of the euro.

When asked how often do they discuss politics with friends, the gap between genders is obvious: 34 per cent women never do, compared to 23 per cent of men.

The analysis shows that women give priority to consumer protection, public health, whereas men give higher priority to the fight against terrorism and climate change.

Women feel themselves less listened to in politics than men and are, on average, less interested in European issues.

But in the most recent European elections in 2004, their participation rate was overall the same as for men.

The European Commission (EC) has launched a campaign aimed at tackling the gender pay gap across the European Union (EU).

Figures show that, on average, women receive more than 17 per cent less in their pay packets than men.

The campaign has been launched to coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8th.

Vladimir Spidla, the European Union Employment Commissioner, commented: ‘We cannot continue wasting the potential of women in the economy and squander what we have achieved in equality.’

According to the EC, the pay gap leads to many women living in poverty in later life as a result of having lower pensions.

The report did, however, find that the proportion of women in EU national parliaments has risen from 16 per cent in 1997 to just under a quarter (24 per cent) in 2008.

Data from the Office for National Statistics shows that the gender pay gap widened in the UK between 2007 and 2008.