Tomorrow 8 March marks International Women’s Day which celebrates women’s achievements in areas of social justice, equality, peace and development. On this historic day we also need to look at the gender discrepancies and evaluate why progress towards gender parity in Malta is still slow in many areas, despite having ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1991 and the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence in 2014.
The Gender Equality Index 2015 issued by the European Institute for Gender Equality measures gaps between women and men in work, money, knowledge, time, power and health in 2012. While the overall average score of the 27 EU countries is 52.9 Malta scores 46.8. Malta ranked higher than the EU average in money and health while the ratings on work and time are slightly lower. However when it comes to knowledge and power the score for Malta compared with the EU average is strikingly low. Therefore, Malta needs to continue working in order to ensure that women who are in paid employment and have caring responsibilities receive more support. Similarly, the number of women in politics, and in government boards also needs to be improved.
On days like this it is also imperative that we do not forget the thousands of women who are suffering silently because of domestic violence and violence against women in general. It is shocking to read the latest survey of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights showing that 33% of women in the EU have experienced physical and/or sexual violence and 43% have experienced psychological violence. By comparison, one in four women in Malta (22%) are affected by physical and/or sexual violence by a partner of non-partner while more than one in three women in Malta (37%) experience psychological violence. This is certainly unacceptable.
Lorraine Spiteri, Chairperson of the MCWO urges policy makers to reject anything that undermines the human dignity, bodily integrity, the rights of women and the overall wellbeing of society, for example, through the damaging effects of pornography, prostitution, ‘gentlemen’s clubs’ etc that feeds into the system of exploitation of vulnerable women and young girls.
Ms Spiteri said “Gender equality is not just good for women and girls but society as a whole benefits when this increases. The benefits for the families and the community are great when women can live free from violence and are able to participate economically and politically at par with men. In order for this to happen men and boys must be included and involved in the debate in order to remove systemic inequality which still afflicts us negatively.”
The theme chosen this year by the United Nations is: “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”. The aim behind this theme is to speed up the 2030 Agenda for the effective implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals. The Malta Confederation of Women’s Organisations (MCWO) urges the authorities, decision makers and political parties and those who can make a difference to commit themselves towards creating more positive role models, to encourage the public and private sectors to smash the glass ceiling, and to make a more effective and visible effort to boost the decision-making role of women in all areas.
The Confederation is an umbrella organisation that represents 13 local member organisations. The MCWO is a full member of the Brussels based European Women’s Lobby.