By Peter Stevenson
CYPRUS is in 107th place globally when it comes to female representation at parliament it was revealed yesterday during an event at Europe House in Nicosia.
Over 145 countries were included in the survey. Yesterday’s event: ‘Democracy, Equality and Active Participation of European citizens’ was organised by the Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies (MIGS) and the European Parliament Office in Cyprus.
The main message of the campaign is ‘Vote for Change – Vote for Equality in the 2014 European Parliamentary elections’.
Head of MIGS, Susana Pavlou said Cyprus going backwards and not forwards when it comes to female representation at decision-making level.
“The economic crisis in Cyprus disproportionately affects women as they are more at risk of poverty and social exclusion, and they constitute the majority of the long-term unemployed,” she said
Benefits for single-parent families, which 98 per cent of are women, are being reduced, she added.
“We believe that gender equality is not a matter of numbers or an increase of only numbers of women in important decision-making roles, it is the utilisation of skills, experiences, talents of all the citizens of a country and it is part of the solution to the economic crisis we face not only in Cyprus, but in Europe too,” she said.
Deputy Head of the European Parliament’s office in Cyprus Alexandra Attalidou said that despite 35 per cent of MEPs being women, the average percentage of women at national parliaments within the EU remains static at 24 per cent.
“Twenty three per cent of ministers are women and in Cyprus that number is even lower,” she said.
She said that electoral quotas had been successfully implemented in France, Spain, Belgium, Slovenia, Portugal and Poland and that this needed to be examined as a serious option for Cyprus.
MEP Antigoni Papadopoulou broke down the numbers and said that women account for 24 per cent of MPs at national parliaments in the EU, close to 25 per cent were ministers in the EU, and 35 per cent were MEPs.
In Cyprus there is currently one woman minster, women make up 10.7 per cent of MPs at parliament, there are no female mayors – although there was one during the last mayorial term in Nicosia and previous to that in Ayia Napa – 17.5 per cent of municipal councils are made up of women and 20.8 per cent of senior government officials are women.
Papadopoulou said, there was only a small number of women on committees and only one woman accountant-general. A handful of women have been appointed ministers since 1960 but no woman has ever been President of the Republic or House President, she said.
Ombudswoman Eliza Savvidou in her short speech said that quotas were a misunderstood concept in Cyprus and that the idea had been met with opposition despite the fact that wherever it has been applied it has had extremely positive results.
“In Sweden there has been considerable equality in representation of women in all areas,” she said.
The quota system is applied temporarily she added to help combat prejudice and stereotypes until everyone is convinced that women can do just as good a job as men.