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PES Women President at SI Congress: no democracy without gender equality

After a successful SIW Congress in Cape Town, where socialist and social democratic women from around the world elected a new President Ouafa Hajji and Secretary General Marije Laffeber, I continued calling for a true commitment to gender equality and women’s rights in our socialist family.

As the 20th and yet only the 2nd woman speaker in the two hour panel on ‘The struggle for rights and freedoms: strengthening representatives democracy and gaining new democracies’, I went straight to the essence of my speech: ‘There is no democracy without gender equality’

I reminded my comrades from the four corners of the world that our modern democracies need to be open and inclusive in order to more accurately reflect the society of the 21st century. In this inclusion, women should not be neglected. They represent more than 50% of the global population and still it remains a huge political challenge to increase women’s participation – as I regretfully witnessed in this Congress. Implementing binding measures such as quotas are thus essential, as some of us have already shown in Norway and France. Even quotas in company boards are now being put on the table in Europe

Not only do we need more women in decision-making, but gender issues have also to be raised and addressed by the politicians. It is the key to winning back women’s votes. By taking into consideration problems that concern them directly, we win their confidence and their votes. We, as Socio-Democrats, have to do this urgently! These issues range from women’s employment, to gender and pension pay gap, combating violence and ensuring sexual and reproductive rights for women regardless of their origin or status in society.

We have been the frontrunners in promoting women’s rights and should remain in this position. The socialist and feminist movements have always been related, so we cannot let the right, even far-right and populist movements hijack gender equality arguments! No country is immune to the danger of conservative backlash, of gradual limiting the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens. As SI President George Papandreou said in his opening speech, democracy is empowering the citizens and ensuring them the freedom of the women and men around the world.

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