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More female role models needed, gender equality commissioner says

gender equality commissioner
Gender Equality Commissioner Josi Christodoulou

Women need a space and a voice so that female role models can be created at all levels, Gender Equality Commissioner Josie Christodoulou said on Friday.

Speaking at the conference ‘Cyprus’ modern European, a woman in the position she deserves’, Christodoulou referred to gender biases and how those are translated in the labour market.

Globally 9 out of 10 men and women have deep prejudices against women, 49 per cent believe men are better leaders than women, while according to the UN, 25 per cent believe it is justified for a man to beat his partner, the commissioner said.

She added that prejudice is also a reality in the EU, noting that 37 per cent of managerial positions and 28 per cent of board positions are held by women, while the gender pay gap stands at 16 per cent (9.9 per cent in Cyprus). Meanwhile, one in five women have suffered sexual and/or physical violence from a current or former partner.

Furthermore, 81,000 women and girls around the world have died at the hands of their partner or a family member, which means that every 11 minutes a woman is murdered in her home, a place where theoretically she should be safe.

“By the time we leave here, some 16 women somewhere in the world will have died as a result of domestic violence” Christodoulou said.

The UN Secretary-General said on March 8 that we need 300 years to achieve substantive equality.

“Women need a space and a voice so that we can also create the role models for women that we need to hear and promote at all levels – including in decision-making centres.

“We cannot become what we do not see. To this day we hear, for example, that quotas will not promote deserving women. We fully agree that we must promote the worthy and deserving, women and men,” she said, adding that related actions and policies have started being implemented.

The government aims to improve the situation and “eliminate patriarchal and stereotypical, anachronistic prejudices that prevent women from advancing”, which is why it has placed equality between women and men high on its priorities and works proactively.

She added that the legislation needs to be improved to ensure women’s rights and these gaps will be filled.

Systematic, continuous effort is needed to ensure that gender equality is constantly on the surface, being discussed and actions and policies are implemented on a horizontal basis.

Meanwhile, men should start sharing the parental and housework responsibilities equally with women otherwise “we will continue to exhaust women without giving them the prospect of personal development and professional advancement”.

She added that the message should be passed to everyone that gender equality benefits men equally, strengthens the economy and society.

Gender equality “means the balanced participation of women and men in every sector, from the governance of the country to the kitchen of our homes,” Christodoulou said.

She also said that the government has achieved 44 per cent in its first appointments, while the representation of women in the Cabinet reaches 35.3 per cent for the first time.

“Much still needs to be done. Equality is an exercise in practical democracy, but it is also essential for progress and prosperity in every aspect of our lives,” she said.

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