European Parliament: FEMM Committee Meeting

Wednesday 25th January 2023

In the annual European Parliament FEMM committee conference in Brussels, EIGE Director Carlien Scheele presented its 2023 work programme, outlining key thematic priorities and upcoming milestones.

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Image: Alain Rolland/European Union 2023

Good morning honourable members, and for everyone joining us today.

I am very pleased to share highlights of EIGE’s work programme 2023 with you all.  

Naturally, this year’s work is a continuation of our ongoing commitment for gender equality, focusing on the thematic and political priorities set out by the European Commission, principally the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the environment.

Our 2023 work programme was fine-tuned by the important discussions which took place at EIGE’s first ever Gender Equality Forum, last October in Brussels.

We covered topics such as crises and gender-based violence, the Index 2022’s thematic focus on unpaid care, the twin green and digital transitions and the effective ways to communicate gender equality against the strong tide of anti-gender narratives among others.

These are not new conversations - especially for the gender equality community as we know it.

But now, we are increasingly joining up with others. Our forum brought in the voices of new stakeholders – the ‘unusual suspects’ if you will - such as business leaders from tech giants, founders of new media platforms and the youth.

Age-old conversations were explored with fresh relevancy – giving everyone a renewed sense of purpose by taking #3StepsForward – EIGE’s campaign promoting gender equality for our societies and economies – which, I am pleased to report, received an invigorating boost from the Commission's President von der Leyen and Vice-President Timmermans who weighed in with their #3StepsForward for gender equality.

For EIGE, these conversations and commitments provided a clear path.

A path which I will now take you on.

This year we are going to focus on the European Green Deal, as well as start with our 2024 priority on “a new push for European democracy”. And of course our ongoing priority of gender-based violence with a prominent project related to the war in Ukraine. A number of publications, activities and events will unfold throughout the year, underpinned by these thematic areas.

Firstly, we are proud to be supporting the Presidencies of the Council of the EU.

Next week I will be in Stockholm where our participation in the Swedish Presidency over the next six months kicks off. We are looking forward to taking this opportunity to reflect on how to use the full potential of EIGE’s expertise. The Presidency’s agenda on resilience and recovery echoes nicely with our extensive research on gender equality and gender mainstreaming in the COVID-19 recovery, so we endeavor to provide targeted support for future policy discussions.

The Presidency then rotates over to Spain in June, where we will also be frontrunning our evidence-based gender equality expertise in line with the agenda, including on gender gaps regarding work life balance policies and informal care.

With regards to Member States, we also intend to visit Hungary and Lithuania, where we want to hone a clear message that gender equality is a cornerstone for the functionality of our economies and societies – where women and men, girls and boys in all their diversity are accounted for and acknowledged.

Data collection is a core aspect of our work. By closing data gaps, we have wider optics on the state of gender equality. For the first time, EIGE has begun collecting its own data for a new EU-wide survey on the gendered use of time when it comes to unpaid care and social activities. These findings will be published later this year.

Next. It goes without saying that gender-based violence remains a high thematic priority at EIGE. In 2023, EIGE will continue to improve the knowledge, availability, and quality of administrative data.

The new data collection will be conducted in 2023, using a new data collection tool developed in partnership with national data providers. It will provide information on Member States’ performance and victims’ access to justice, and will also support the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the Proposed Directive on combating violence against women and domestic violence, once adopted at EU and Member State level.

Reliable and comparable data presents a powerful and necessary tool for implementing effective prevention measures and providing victims and survivors of gender-based violence the right support.

To that end, EIGE is about to embark on a joint survey with FRA on Violence Against Women, complementing the Eurostat’s EU-GBV survey, with the aim to have comparable EU data after 10 years of the last prevalence study on Violence Against Women in the EU. These findings will be released in autumn 2024.

Remaining in the realms of GBV, we turn to cyber violence against women and girls.

The Internet has created a dangerous and evolving dimension for gender-based violence.

And it doesn’t simply start and stop online – there is a continuum into the offline world and vice versa. Cyber stalking can fast turn into the perpetrator showing up outside the victim’s home.

We all spend so much time online, therefore we have to remain vigilant to the emerging forms of cyber violence.

Last year we dedicated our Orange the World campaign to this topic, as part of launching the Cyber violence against women and girls report – which included harmonized and new definitions of the different forms of cyber violence. Building on this, we are now aiming to research and develop the indicators that are able of capturing the digital dimension of GBV to as large an extent as possible.

Still in the area of GBV, we have a running project on how women and girls fleeing war – specifically Ukraine - can realise their sexual and reproductive rights in the EU. Women and girls who are victims of conflict-related sexual violence face obstacles in accessing specialised healthcare.

This study will assess the gaps and challenges in the provision of reproductive and sexual healthcare services. From this, we will collect and map information across all 27 Member States which are essential for victims of conflict-related sexual violence such as safe abortion and post abortion care, long and short-term psychological counselling.

By the autumn we will be geared up for the release of the Gender Equality Index 2023.

Last year, our Index 2022 saw that Gender Equality has only made a small inch of progress. There were even recorded decreases in scores in several areas of core Index domains, such as in work and health. What saved us from going backwards was an increase in the area of power.

We owe this progress to more women participating in economic and political decision-making after the introduction of legislated quotas in a handful of EU Member States. This key milestone comes after the European Parliament and the EU Council adopted the directive to improve gender balance on corporate boards.

Another encouraging development last year was the introduction of the European Care Strategy, ensuring quality, affordable, and accessible care services as well as the new rules for the Pay Transparency directive, aiming to help close the gender pay gap.

While we can celebrate these gains, we cannot assume the work for gender equality can now take a backseat. It requires constant monitoring, attention, and bold decisions.

For 2023’s Index, we turn our attention to the European Green Deal as the thematic focus.

The link between gender equality and the European Green Deal is still loose. Therefore, we want EIGE research and data to support policy developments that strengthens this link and helps sharpen policy makers’ attention and public awareness towards the necessity for a gender perspective in Green Deal policies. Because the impact of climate change and environmental distress is not gender neutral and neither can be the policies that aim to tackle it. We will be addressing this by developing good practices for gender mainstreaming in environmental and climate action as well as developing guidelines for gender sensitive evaluation in environmental and climate action.

As we move along the year with our focus on the Green Deal, we will also take the opportunity to start preparing for our 2024 priority: the new push for European democracy in line with the Commission’s priority. EIGE will update data collected on how gender sensitive national parliaments and EU Parliament are. We will also develop a tool for parliaments to set up their gender equality action plans to improve the state of gender equality in the parliaments.

EIGE also seeks to support EU strategic foresight efforts with gender equality research and expertise. We are ready to contribute with relevant data and knowledge to the annual EU Strategic foresight report, to ensure that a gender perspective is reflected. EIGE will also enhance its own strategic foresight efforts to collect the views of a broad range of stakeholders to inform EIGE’s contribution to the design of the new EU Gender Equality Strategy in 2025.

Until then, we will continue to support the current vision of the strategy and help achieve its objectives and goals while encouraging open dialogue throughout the process.

EIGE’s liaison office in Brussels plays a central role in ensuring that these activities are successfully carried out.

As you can see, we have our work cut out for us – it’s going to be a very active and productive year for EIGE. That being said, bringing our work to life comes with its structural challenges due to our limited human resources. As you know, EIGE’s second external evaluation was conducted last year, the report of which will be published in February along with the recommendations of EIGE’s management board to the European Commission.

We will continue to rise to the occasion with steadfast efficiency, as well as relying on the robust support from European Parliament. We look forward to boosting each other’s work through mutual co-operation and guidance.

I now invite you to ask any questions you may have.

Thank you for your attention.