International Women’s Day 2017
Year after year we celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March as the day when we acknowledge women’s achievements in areas of equality, peace, social justice and development. It is a time were a number of institutions, including those at local and EU level, give an overview of what has been done towards gender equality and although they renew their commitments annually, the progress towards gender equality is still sluggish and gender discrepancies still abound.
Women and work
This year the United Nation theme for Women’s Day is “Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2040” focusing on Sustainable Development Goals (SDP) number 5 : Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls and number 4 : Ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning. Indeed the world of work has also changed for women in Malta with new opportunities and new measures that facilitates their integration in the labour market especially when they have caring responsibilities with an increase from 33.7% in 2006 to 52.8% in 2016.
Lorraine Spiteri, Chairperson of the MCWO said that some days ago the MCWO was pleased to hear that the government will be discussing new ways of flexibility for working parents. However Ms Spiteri said that the MCWO will be very concerned if the statutory maternity leave of 18 weeks will be reduced to give an increase in paternity leave. Both the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) strongly recommends that women who give birth needs those number of weeks to recuperate physically and have more choice to breastfeed. Besides the OECD reports state that in countries where the maternity leaves are the longest, female employment rates were the highest. Therefore the right step would be towards giving paid paternity leave to fathers and shared parental leave to both parents.
The Gender Equality Index 2016 issued by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) which measures gaps between women and men still shows an overall equality gender gap of 46.8 when the EU average is 52.9. Meanwhile figures from Eurostat show that the gender pay gap in Malta has increased from 4.5% in 2014 to 10.6% in 2016! This goes up to 21.5% when it comes to women and men in managerial grades.
Malta also fares very badly when it comes to women and men in political and economic decision making. A report by the National Commission for the Promotion of Equality (NCPE) in Malta reveals that only 2.7% of women are represented on the boards of the largest publicly-listed companies in Malta, and a ratio of 1 woman for every 4 men holding the position of director or CEO.
On a positive note EIGE’s gender gap on health in Malta stands at 95.6 compared with the EU average of 90.0.
Violence Against Women
On Women’s Day we also look at the situation of women who suffer violence silently just because they are women. The European Commission has declared 2017 the European Year of focused action to combat violence against women and girls which continues to be the most pervasive violation of women’s human rights in Europe and worldwide and affects the lives of millions of women and girls.
A Coalition of more than 25 European-wide networks and NGOs dedicated to social justice and equality including the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) is calling on the EU decision-makers to mark International Women’s Day with concrete actions and welcomes the Malta Joint Statement signed on the 3 Feb 2017.
The European Coalition to end violence against women and girls considers this a landmark initiative where three European Institutions (European Parliament, European Commission and the Council Presidency) have jointly made a strong call for action to the Member States, asking them to ratify and fully implement the Council of Europe’s Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention) and to approve the EU’s accession to this Convention in a meaningful way.
Today in Europe – Facts and figures issued by the EWL:
• In Europe, 50 women die every week from male domestic violence
• 95% of all acts of violence taking place within the home are against women
• One in three women has experienced physical and/or sexual violence since the age of 15.
• Every second woman has been confronted with one or more forms of sexual harassment.
• 75 % of women in top management positions have experienced sexual harassment at work.
• As many as 1 in 4 women experience physical and/or sexual violence during pregnancy which increases the likelihood of having a miscarriage, still birth and abortion
• 60% of homelessness women cite domestic violence as one of the causes of their homelessness.
• Violence against women can have life- long implications for the physical and mental health of women.
• Certain women face a greater risk of violence because of motives fuelled by sexism as well as racism, xenophobia and other forms of discrimination. Furthermore, intersecting forms of discrimination limit access to justice and support and protection services.
• Between 50% and 60% of women mental health service users have experienced domestic violence, and up to 20% will be experiencing current abuse.
• 28% of older women had experienced some kind of violence and abuse at home in the 12 months prior to a survey.
• Women with disabilities are 2 to 5 times more likely to be victims of violence than non-disabled women and are subjected to sterilisation and abortions against their will. There are 46 million women and girls with disabilities in Europe, representing 60% of the overall population of persons with disabilities.
• 34% of women with a health problem or disability have experienced physical or sexual violence by a partner in their lifetime.
• 23% of lesbian women had been at least once physically/sexually attacked or threatened with violence at home or elsewhere (street, on public transport, at your workplace, etc.) in the last 5 years.
• At least 500,000 women and girls live with the lifelong consequences of female genital mutilation (FGM).
• Violence against women costs 226 billion euros each year, which represent almost 2 % of the annual EU budget
The MCWO is an umbrella organisation that represents a number of local member organisations. The Confederation is a full member of the Brussels based European Women’s Lobby.