Staffan Nilsson`s opening speech at the conference of the gender dimension in the Europe 2020 Strategy

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Today's event and its main focus – the EESC opinion on the gender dimension in the Europe 2020 Strategy – are essential to put gender equality and gender mainstreaming on the European agenda.

The EESC has always been very active when it comes to promoting gender equality. Over the last 8 years, we have adopted some 20 opinions on crucial challenges to it.

Equality between women and men is enshrined in the Treaties of the European Union and gender should be mainstreamed into all EU policies. It should be as simple as that.  

But despite the European Union’s recognition of gender equality as a fundamental principle, women’s participation in society on an equal footing with men and with the same rights as men is still not a reality. This is not only a problem in terms on fundamental rights. It is something the EU simply cannot afford! Especially not in times of crisis, when all potential talent needs to be tapped into.

The gender perspective seems to be one of the aspects undermined by the current economic turmoil and the focus on fiscal consolidation policies.

This low gender awareness contradicts EU’s fundamental principles and the aims of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. We risk a missed opportunity to tackle gender inequalities and stereotypes.

To improve the gender dimension in the different areas of the Europe 2020 flagships, there are many aspects to be considered:

  • For example, in the context of the economic crisis, it is important to stay clear of misinterpretations. If, for example, the employment rate gap has diminished, it is not necessarily because of an improvement in the situation of women but because of the stronger impact of the crisis on men.
  • What is more, atypical forms of work, mainly part-time or temporary work, are increasing, but current statistics show that it affects in particular women, who more often find themselves in precarious jobs. Once we adopt a gender perspective on different issues, we find new opportunities for action. And much action is needed.
  • For example, the reasons behind female and male early school leaving should be analysed in order to shed light on gender inequalities in this area.
  • Also, we must introduce a new indicator here, which could be called “economic autonomy” and be based on an estimation of individual incomes.
  • Furthermore, as environmental policies influence gender equality, deeper analyses are required. We need to establish indicators which improve monitoring of the environment and the use of energy from a gender perspective.
  • Finally, an estimation by gender of the people involved in Research and Development should be conducted.

The EESC awaits the launch of the Gender Equality Index announced by EIGE for June with keen anticipation. It will hopefully clarify the situation and inspire decision-makers to take real action. Because gender equality is an important matter for everyone. It frees potential, it frees growth, it frees participation and it frees men and women alike.

Before I finish, I would like to invite all of you to take part in the opening of the Exhibition of the EESC third Civil Society Prize Livstycket. Livstycket is a contemporary knowledge and design centre in Tensta, Stockholm in which women from all around the world participate. Livstycket applies functional pedagogy, which combines artistic practical activities with theoretical teaching.

Livstycket wants to give women who have immigrated to Sweden the chance to learn the Swedish language and culture while enhancing their self-esteem.

Since 2007 Livstycket has also been active in international projects to strengthen women's self-esteem and position in society.

And on this note, I wish you a fruitful exchange and sound conclusions from today's conference! Thank you for your attention.

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Staffan Nilsson`s opening speech at the conferenc eon the gender dimension of the Europe 2020 Strategy