European Union op-ed by Serge Lavroff, Ute König, Raphaël Varga van Kibéd, Álvaro Fernández Baquerín, and Sanjin Soldatic to mark International Women’s Day 2021 today
NEARLY A year ago, on March 12, 2020, TT recorded its first covid19 case, marking the arrival of the pandemic to the nation. The ensuing lockdown and other restrictions protected the lives of the nation. However, while these measures safeguarded the people from the virus, it also took, and indeed still takes, a heavy toll on the livelihoods of the people who have had to adjust to the new realities.
Women are one of the most severely affected groups by the loss of jobs in a society. In February, the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) reported that the pandemic would lead to a reduction in women’s employment representing the loss of at least ten years’ progress.
Regionally, the female unemployment rate is expected to reach 22.2 per cent in 2020 and 54.3 per cent of women in the Caribbean work in sectors that are expected to be hardest hit in terms of jobs and incomes versus 38.7 per cent for men.
In the midst of the current pandemic, adopting a gender perspective may seem a secondary concern. However, pandemics are known to affect women and men differently, making it essential to recognise these differences in order to understand the impacts on individuals and communities and to respond effectively and equitably.
There is already clear evidence that the ongoing health, social and economic crisis is having gender specific impacts. And precisely because of all that today, International Women’s Day, is the right time to recognise and commend the women fighting the pandemic.
Women have been on the frontline of covid19 both directly and indirectly. We express our gratitude to the tireless work and commitment of women healthcare professionals in TT’s many hospitals and clinics, and other health facilities. We also commend the endurance and strength of women within the different sectors of our society: the community leaders, entrepreneurs, teachers, social workers, retail service workers, public servants, scientists, and more.
A great deal of commendation must also go to the many women’s rights and social justice activists in this country who are making their voices, and those of the silenced, heard loudly to demand justice and change in the face of increased violence. Despite the hardships, these activists continue to raise awareness and keep the wider society’s attention on women’s rights.
Gender equality is a core principle of the European Union and therefore the EU will continue to work tirelessly to promote gender equality, empower women and reduce violence. In business, politics and society as a whole, we can only reach our full potential if we use all of our talent and diversity. Women still face too many hurdles and barriers on their way. In Europe and beyond, women continue to be targets of gender-based violence, stereotypes and hate speech.
Globally, the European Union’s new main financial instrument to support our external action and international partnerships, called the Neighbourhood, Development and International Co-operation Instrument (NDICI), is set at €79.46 billion (US$95.94 billion) for the period 2021-2027. In this new financial instrument, an 85 per cent target of actions promoting gender equality will ensure that gender is properly mainstreamed, and five per cent of these actions will have to have gender equality as their principal objective.
On the local level, the EU has worked to ensure gender mainstreaming is incorporated into our development co-operation, such as the recently launched Innovation Programme. We also launched the EUR 4.5 million Spotlight Initiative with the United Nations to eliminate violence against women and girls. We have also been working consistently to support the work of civil society to ensure they have the resources and expertise necessary to be effective change advocates. In that regard, we have engaged with a number of organisations on social justice and gender projects and events. We also continue to engage in political dialogue and advocacy with government leaders.
The EU remains committed to empower women and girls – to stop the violence, to promote their socioeconomic wellbeing and their participation in decision-making. We will do this through our development funding, our policy and political dialogue and our global and local partnership networks.
Serge Lavroff is the ambassador of the Republic of France
Ute König is the ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany
Raphaël Varga van Kibéd is the ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands
Álvaro Fernández Baquerín is the chargé d'affaires at the Embassy of the Kingdom of Spain
Sanjin Soldatic is the acting head of the European Union Delegation to TT