For Immediate Release

Celebrating it’s 21st Anniversary and International Women’s Day 2017, the European Institute of Women’s Health calls on both key stakeholders and citizens of Europe to #BeBoldForChange to forge a more inclusive, gender equal world

7th of March 2017International Women’s Day has been held on the 8th of March each year to celebrate women’s contributions and achievements and to call for continued change to promote gender equality. The European Institute of Women’s Health (EIWH) supports this year’s theme, “Step It up for Gender Equality #BeBoldForChange” to actively work to reduce gender inequities.

In 2017, the European Institute of Women’s Health (EIWH)celebrates its 21st Anniversary of setting the agenda in women’s health as well as sixty-years of gender equality in EU policy since the Treaty of Rome (1957) highlighted pay equity. During its anniversary celebrations, the EIWH will be highlighting the issues with regard to gender equality and working with stakeholders from throughout Europe to develop an Action Plan to work to tackle gender inequities in health. The EIWH will draw attention to and address the fact that women in the EU continue to have less financial resources than do men sixty years after the Treaty of Rome established equal pay as a key principle.

Many efforts have been made in recent decades to reduce gender inequalities throughout the world. Despite some progress, large inequities continue to persist. Explicit and continued efforts must be made to promote gender equality. In 2014, the World Economic Forum estimated that the gender gap would not be eliminated globally until 2095. One year later, the figure was readjusted to 2133. We cannot sit idly by, watching this slowdown in vital progress on gender equality.

In celebration of International Women’s Day 2017 and its 21st Anniversary, the EIWH highlights the substantive gender pay gap in Europe, which has large repercussions for both women and their families. Women in the EU earn less over their lifetime than do men, resulting in lower pension levels and higher rates of poverty. In 2012, 22% of women over the age of sixty-five were at risk of poverty compared to 16% of men of the same age. The gender pay gap has generally declined in the last decade. However, women in the EU earn about 16.7% less per hour despite having good or better qualifications than their male counterparts. As of 2014, women’s pensions in the EU are, on average, 40.2% less than those of men. This gap varies across Europe and has been widening in some countries.

Furthermore, women face a large burden of unpaid domestic work and childcare in the EU leading them to work shorter hours than men. Daily, women in the EU spend about 16% of their time on unpaid activities at home. These family obligations often force them to work in certain sectors and having children increases the gender pay gap. Consequently, women are more likely than men to be part-time and low-paid positions and are less likely to hold management and leadership positions. Therefore, the employment rate of women is lower than men in Europe. Lower employment rates among women can negatively impact opportunities for career advancement, training, pensions and unemployment benefits.

The EU has a long history of working to close the gender pay gap, starting with the Treaty of Rome, 1957. The Directive on Equal Pay for Work of Equal Value (Directive 2006/54/EC) outlines community legislation in the area of equal treatment for men and women in employment, including the application, enforcement and monitoring of equal pay provisions. At present, the Treaty of Lisbon includes a basis for EU action on the gender pay gap and the Charter of Fundamental Rights includes a commitment to gender equality. Horizon 2020 also includes various objectives to improve the employment situation of women by creating more and better jobs. The EIWH applauds these actions, but calls on the EU to evaluate the progress that has been made over the last sixty years. The EU must continue promote gender equity and to urgently eliminate the pay gap.

The EIWH applauds the EU Parliament’s Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) Committee for highlighting the economic empowerment of women. The EIWH also commends the WHO Regional Committee for Europe for adopting Resolution EUR/RC66/R8, the Strategy on women’s health and well-being in the WHO European Region. The Strategy calls on Member States “to develop and implement strategies and policies that advance the health and well-being of women […] and to promote the participation of women in decision-making as agents of change,” which includes “the impact of gender and socioeconomic inequalities on women’s health and well-being throughout their lives.”

Investing in women’s health requires a comprehensive life-course approach that includes social and economic factors. Action must be taken early and at critical points to ensure health and well-being from young through older age. Collaboration with other sectors, such as education, and with girls and women themselves is key to successful policy and programming. Available evidence must be used to best identify entry points for various interventions and services—both population and individual health for considerations to girls and women at particular points in their life must be taken into account by stakeholders.

On #IWD2017, the Institute calls on key stakeholders and citizens of Europe to make a pledge for parity #BeBoldForChange and to work to reduce gender inequities. The EIWH welcomes new efforts like the that work to promote the rights and empowerment of women and girls throughout the world and will continue to set the agenda in women’s health for years to come.

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About the EIWH

Founded in 1996, the European Institute of Women’s Health (EIWH) is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) that uses an evidence-based to advocate for an equitable, sex- and gender-sensitive approach in health policy, research, promotion, treatment and care. The Institute promotes biomedical and socio-economic research that addresses sex and gender-based differences to ensure access to quality treatment and care for women across their lifespan. The EIWH strives to reduce inequities by drawing policymaker’s attention to the obstacles that women in minority, migrant, refugee and socio-economic disadvantaged groups face. The Institute’s activities work to empower individuals to play an active part in their own health management.

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