Gender equality issues are high on the new president’s agenda and relevant policies will be promoted in all ministries and deputy ministries, Nikos Christodoulides said on the International Women’s Day.

The new country leader assured that he is fully aware of the challenges faced by women. Hence, he said, the governance programme includes specific policies to prevent and combat violence against women, reconciling family and professional life, reducing the pay gap and promoting equal treatment in all areas of life.

His statement comes as the cabinet on Wednesday ratified the terms of reference of the equality commissioner, to better promote equality objectives in all governmental bodies.

The aim is to strengthen and upgrade gender equality issues, the president said in his message.

He noted that today is a day of honour and reflection for the sacrifices and battles that women around the world have given to obtain their rights.

This year’s International Women’s Day is dedicated to innovation and technology for gender equality, the president added.

Given the low representation of women in innovation and technology, at the initiative of the commissioner for gender equality and in collaboration with the Cyprus State Scholarship Foundation, the government will establish ten scholarships for Cypriot women.

The newly appointed Gender Equality Commissioner Josie Christodoulou echoed the president’s will to take action towards gender equality.

“Ensuring the principle of equality between women and men is a key priority of President Christodoulides’ programme of governance,” she said, explaining that equality policies will be promoted horizontally in all ministries and deputy ministries.

A priority, Christodoulou said, is upgrading the position of gender equality commissioner, which was approved by cabinet later in the day.

The move puts all equality officers present in all ministries under the supervision and coordination of the equality commissioner.

“The aim is for commissioner to assume, among other things, coordination responsibilities for the horizontal development of policies and measures in cooperation with all ministries and deputy ministries.”

The objectives, she added, also include monitoring and implementation of policies, making proposals for promoting equality, and the enactment of legislation in cooperation with all departments, the justice ministry, the law commissioner and the House of Representatives.

The commissioner said she has already made the first contacts with the labour minister regarding the pay and pension gap, which are among her office’s priorities.

“One of the objectives of the president’s governance programme is to work in this direction, in close cooperation with the Minister of Labour and Social Insurance [with whom] we have already worked out solutions to eliminate the gender gap in pensions, and it is a measure that we will look towards its implementation.”

This will be achieved by strengthening and upgrading the role of the relevant inspectors of the department of labour relations to better handle complaints and ex officio inspections related to gender-based work and equal pay.

Another priority is to carry out a joint assessment concerning the pay gap, “always in cooperation with the social partners”, the new commissioner said.

Earlier in the day, her office had issued an announcement marking women’s day, saying that “despite the progress made and despite significant steps in the right direction, we have still not achieved full and substantive equality”.

There are many cases of gender discrimination that have not yet come to light, or have not been given the necessary attention, Christodoulou said.

Referring to the issue of women NCOs in the national guard, which was already before the House human rights committee on Monday, she said the first step is to arrange a meeting with the minister of defence but also with the affected women.

“Governance has changed and should be viewed through a new lens,” she said.

Regarding the basketball players of the girls’ national team, who were excluded from participation in FIBA youth international competitions, unlike their boys’ counterparts, she said she had already had a meeting with parents and another will follow with the Cyprus Basketball Organisation. On the same issue, the commissioner is currently attending meetings of the House education committee, which is discussing an amendment to a bill to legally enshrine the principle of equality in sport.

“Bearing in mind also the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, I encourage and send an invitation to private companies to develop action plans for gender equality, and I am at their disposal for support in this direction,” Christodoulou said.

Meanwhile, the new Justice minister Anna Koukkidou Prokopiou declared the need to officially register women’s organisations in the Republic of Cyprus’ register. She explained that until now, the National Mechanism for Women’s Rights existed as an institution of the Republic of Cyprus under the jurisdiction of the justice ministry.

A large number of women’s organisations, including two Turkish Cypriot organisations, participate in this mechanism.

She added that there is coordination by the equality commissioner and that the relevant terms of reference have been renewed at the request of the justice ministry.

Further coordinated efforts will be made in cooperation with all ministers on the issue of equality, Prokopiou said, stressing the importance of the institutionalisation of the equality commissioner.

The new minister also expressed confidence that the targets on equality issues would be implemented very soon.