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Equal Pay is key to women’s empowerment, a source of progress for all

biicme0ieaac0q5.jpgIf we take a quick look at the countries of the European Union, and make a quick comparison with the rest of the world, we might get the impression that we have made so much progress in Europe that equality between women and men has been reached. Often we hear that the fight of the feminists is over, and the feminist movement itself is not relevant as such any more.

This is a mistake. The feminist battle remains essential as demands for equality have not yet been fulfilled, not even in Europe.

The campaigns that PES Women and our partner organisations have been conducting in the recent years are extremely relevant to the current political climate in Europe.

Considering that 17% of women are living in poverty, we can say that poverty still has a woman's face. We need to ensure better access of women to the labour market. The European 2020 Strategy sets the objective of reaching 75% employment among women by 2020 across the European Union.

Once employed - we have to ensure that women's salaries are equal to men's and that they enjoy equal working conditions. The Gender Pay Gap is evaluated at 16.2% in Europe today. In these harsh economic times where women are hit particulurly hard, it is more urgent than ever to close the gap. 

Yet in too many European countries, women are still constrained by old-fashioned gender roles. They are still seen as mothers and housewives rather than breadwinners. Mothers-to-be are often laid-off because of their pregnancy. By some twist of fate, the current economic crisis is somehow changing things for a number of women. As men lose their income with the rise of unemployment and cuts in salaries, more women are forced back to full-time employment. We must ensure that women take their rightful place on the labour market and keep it rather than remain an adjusting force that can be sent back home once the worst is over.

It does indeed seem all too easy to send women back in time by several decades even in Europe in the early 21st century. In recent years, we have witnessed the willingness of many right-wing parties to push for a conservative backlash throughout the European Union, often in the desperate desire to chase the extreme-right parties who advocate a patriarcal view of the society. This has not taken a more concrete and violent turn than in Spain, where the government has approved a shameful law to limit the right of Spanish women to a safe and legal abortion. PES Women campaign « My Body My Rights », launched on International Women’s Day four years ago, is unfortunately just as relevant now as it was then. 

Denying women their Sexual and Reproductive Rights (SRHR) is an assault on their fundamental rights as human beings capable of independant decision making. It is an unnacceptable form of violence that we still need to fight against.

Gender-based violence is still considered to be the major cause of death and invalidity of women aged 16 to 44, greater than cancer or road accidents. Studies have shown that one in three women will be the victim of violence during their lifetime and 10% will be victims of rape or attempted rape. Yet, many victims are still being led by their education or the culture in which they grew up, to believe that such acts may not be violence but part of life. Our society must be clear and tell all the victims and their tormentors that this is not acceptable.

Economic empowerment of women is also key in fighing against violence against them. Closing the Gender Pay Gap while strengthening the role of women in the labour market is a vital objective. PES Women welcome the strong commitment of Martin Schulz, PES candidate for President of the European Commission, to act decisively to close this wage gap between women and men.

On International Women’s Day, PES Women wishes to join all the other feminists across the world, women and men, and to say that we need to keep fighting the battle for equality - it's the one and only way to progress and prosperity for our societies. 

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