Parliament speaker Annita Demetriou said on Wednesday that women are still underrepresented in politics and leadership positions.
She made the remarks at the world conference of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGS) in Nicosia, where more than 400 participants from 106 countries were present.
In addition, she said that in some parts of the world women do not have access to education, while in others they are victims of violence, social oppression and patriarchal stereotypes.
She said more action should be taken so that women’s voices across the globe are heard, and that efforts should be supported to change attitudes and promote legislation and appropriate policies in support of women.
Speaking of her own role, she assured the participants that so long as she is parliament speaker, the House of representatives will stand by women.
She said she faced challenges and doubts throughout her life and career but noted that these experiences only served to strengthen her resilience and determination.
“Being a woman was nothing but the source of my strength,” Demetriou said.
She added that once she took office as parliament speaker, women’s issues such as gender equality and the elimination of gender stereotypes were a priority on her agenda.
She also said that she was proud to have spearheaded the adoption of legislation to recognise femicide as a criminal offence in its own right, as well as ensuring the effective implementation in Cyprus of the Istanbul convention on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence.
“We also worked for legislation that criminalises sexism, harassment, and stalking,” she said, also adding that the House had passed a resolution in solidarity with the women of Iran, supporting them in their fight for equality and justice.
Following on from that, she praised the role of women’s voluntary movements in women’s empowerment, saying “this is the driving force for challenging social norma, eliminating gender discrimination, and promoting women’s rights across the world.”
“Volunteering and active civic engagement are the backbone of your actions, and you have shown us in action the power of unity in diversity by creating spaces where girls from different backgrounds can come together, support each other, and make a difference in their communities,” she said.
President Nikos Christodoulides also spoke at the conference on Wednesday night, when the attendees gathered in the Kourion amphitheatre.
He told the attendees “women have been the backbone of our societies, both ancient and modern”.
“As we strive to work to ensure that women’s rights are upheld and safeguarded, where they have equal rights and opportunities, organisations such as the WAGGS and institutions such as Girl guiding are important and valuable in creating an empowering community for girls”, he said.
He added “as a father of four girls, this is an issue that is very close to my heart. A number of measures are already being implemented, namely the expansion of facilities to help streamline family and employment responsibilities and the creation of a legal framework that effectively addresses gender discrimination “.
He went on to outline his government’s achievements regarding gender equality, but said “we are very well aware that there is so much more to achieve”.
An important steppingstone in this effort, he said is the National action plan for gender equality, on which the government is collaborating with the Gender equality commissioner Josie Christodoulou.
“Representation of women matters, women being at the table and being decision makers matters. We have a lot more barriers to break in empowering women and girls to reach their full potential, to thrive in all fields of education, in the labour market, in research, in the arts, in academia”, he said.