March 10th 2010

International Women’s Day – European Commission announces its Equality Charter

A few weeks ago, we highlighted the European Charter for Equality of Women and Men in Local Life, co-authored by Ai Director Jeremy Smith for the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR).

On issues like financial (de)regulation we have been quite critical of the European Union’s role – see our recent Iceland posts.

So it is good to record positive news –  the European Commission has just announced its own gender equality “Charter” to coincide with International Women’s Day.  It is in English, French and German. The EU has really been in the lead over many years, in cajoling its member states into taking legislative and practical action for equality.

This new  “Charter” (which is really more of a declaration)  highlights in particular the issue of gender violence and equal pay for work of equal value.

“Especially in times of crisis, we need to incorporate the gender dimension in all of our policies, for the benefit of both women and men,” said Commission President José Manuel Barroso.

A new Eurobarometer survey on gender equality  shows that 62% of Europeans believe that gender inequality still exists in many areas of society. According to the survey, Europeans’ top two priorities for action in this field are tackling violence against women and closing the gender pay gap (respectively 92% and 82% of respondents believe these issues should be addressed urgently). In addition, 61% believe that decisions at EU level have an important role to play in the fight against gender inequality.

The Commission is promising also to adopt a new gender equality strategy by the middle of this year, for the rest of their 5 year term of office.

While it talks about partnership with (of course!) “all stakeholders”, this latest Commission declaration does not refer specifically to the European  Charter for equality in local life.  That’s a shame, since as we pointed out, the local Charter has well over 900 signed-up cities and towns, and has a won lot of political support.

Hopefully, the new European Institute for Gender Equality, a specialist support agency based in Lithuania, will  get all of these initiatives working together.

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