[B’Kara, 8 March 2011] This year, the Malta Confederation of Women’s Organisations (MCWO) is
celebrating the first hundred years since the first time women raised their
collective voice to demand the right to vote and safe conditions of work in the
first wave of feminism. Over the years women continued to demand an end to
discrimination and implementation of equality between women and men in all
While today is a day of celebration, there is still a lot that needs
doing. MCWO has been focusing on three major areas of concern – women’s
public and political participation, the poor presence of women in the Maltese
labour market, and persistent violence against women – areas that were
deliberated in October 2010 at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in
This was the occasion when the MCWO was invited to submit a shadow
report to the Malta national report on the implementation of the UN
Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women.
Public and Political Participation
The dearth of Maltese women in decision-making positions is hindering
Malta’s efforts to join other leading EU countries in being considered a
developed state. Whenever the issue is tabled, Malta is invariably cited as
the worst performer on the list for the absence of women in decision making
positions. The latest instance was the Gender Balance in Business
Leadership Report, where again Malta placed last with 2% – compared to
an EU average of 12% with and Sweden and Finland placing highest with
Malta’s miserable performance is not limited to business leadership however.
Female participation in parliament is equally low, standing at 9% as compared to the EU average of 24%.,The trend is evident across the board - in national
administration Level 1 at 0% (EU 26%) and at Level 2 registering a slightly
better result at fifth place from last with 27% (EU 36%).
On the first of this month, Commissioner Reding was reportedly quite explicit
in her call to business leaders to address the lack of female participation in
the Europe’s boardrooms. She referred to Norway, France and Spain as
having introduced ‘regulatory intervention’ in this regard. The last country of
the three to do so was France, when in January of this year, legislation was
passed that calls for 40% of boardrooms to be female.
Reding declared that "Enhancing women’s participation in boardrooms can
make companies more profitable and trigger sustainable economic growth."
Commissioner Reding promised EU member states that they “can count on
my regulatory creativity" if no change is registered by the end of the next 12
months, “My goal is to bring women’s presence on the boards of the major
European publicly listed companies to 30% in 2015 and to 40% by 2020"
says Reding. An ultimatum that underlines how dire and untenable the
situation has become.
MCWO will definitely be following developments in Malta. This is the third call
made to the Malta Government within the last six months for the introduction
of positive action, including quotas, to rectify the inequalities within Maltese
society. The first call is incorporated in the UN Concluding Remarks on the
Malta National Report mentioned above, whilst the second was that of the
European President Buzek when he remarked on the total absence of
Maltese women MEPs and suggested that if need be positive action should
be considered to rectify the situation. MCWO will continue to lobby for a
strong commitment followed by effective action from the Malta Government to
address these concerns.
The International Women’s Day this year highlighted another major area of
concern for Malta – the labour market and the gender pay gap. Whilst women
make up 60% of university graduates, they are by far less visible in the labour
market with 39% participation. The drop in the participation of women comes
with age 34+ with child bearing and child rearing, as many have no option but
to leave a family-unfriendly job market.
This is where the crux of the problem lies. The traditional structure of the
labour market obstructs flexibility for workers with family
responsibilities. Despite the much-publicised renewed government
commitment in this regard, the lack of an overall plan to-date that addresses
the various needs of these workers undermines initiatives and incentives
introduced so far that aim to encourage workers, particularly women to remain
or re-enter the labour market.
Progress in this sector is also being hindered by the lack of universal
childcare services and by the lack of before-and-after school services in all the localities. Currently school opening hours are not compatible with working
hours and this pushes many women to opt for part-time work or to leave the
labour market all together. Much more needs to be done in this area in order
to relieve the caring duties which unduly fall on the mother’s shoulders.
However, even more serious is the issue of the gender pay gap. According to
NCPE study on the subject, the gender pay gap in Malta stands at
23%. According to a new report, published just a few days ago, women in the
27-member EU earn 17.5% than men on average — a gap that has remained
consistent for the past 15 years.
Commissioner Reding said that this means “that women in the EU would need
to work an extra two months a year in order to earn as much as men.” If this
is case for European Women, Maltese women would need to work much
longer than that.
This discrepancy is attributed to the “structural problems in the labour market
says Reding’s spokesperson. An issue of concern is that women “are not
getting into professions like engineering, computer science, and management,
where there are higher paid jobs.”
This is a reflection of developments in Malta where, in spite of the fact that the
majority of university graduates are women, there is still a lack of female
graduates in these areas. MCWO continues to call for better career guidance
based on effective training for career counsellors particularly in the context of
Malta’s objective to become a centre for innovation and excellence in IT by
the year 2020.
Violence against Women
Since its inception the MCWO has been working against one of the most
fundamental issues that plague women of all ages and from all walks of life to
this very day – domestic violence.
Locally, one in four women suffers abuse during her life. Half of these women
are still experiencing abuse, studies show. Each day, 25,000 women are
being beaten, abused, intimidated, but above all, robbed of their fundamental
Active within the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) Observatory on Violence
against Women, the MCWO is unwavering in its commitment to ending this
anguish. It is a well known fact that, in the majority of cases, women are the
main victims of domestic violence.
Information gathering is one of the tools that the EWL is honing, to be better
able to build an all encompassing overview of legislation, plans of action,
shelters, and services in place in all 27 EU member states.
MCWO notes that what is more worrying is the fact that only half of these
women seek help while over one third of the research respondents believe
that domestic violence should be kept within the confines of the family.
It is clear that a lot more awareness-raising is still needed for all members of
our society to acknowledge that violence against women is a crime against
society and should be condemned outright. The message that it is the
responsibility of each individual to report such cases to the police, even if
anonymously, should be embedded into young and old, women and men.
MCWO welcomed the call made by Minister Dolores Cristina in recent weeks
asking for submissions on amendments to the 2006 law on domestic
violence. MCWO recognises the need for such amendments particularly to
remove the heavy weighting that the law gives to the victim’s willingness or
otherwise to give evidence against the alleged perpetrator. Whilst the law
recognises that domestic violence is a crime against society, alleged
aggressors are very often walking away free without answering for their
actions before the courts even when evidence, apart from that of the victim, is
available. The law urgently needs to address such lacunas in order to put a
stop to victims being further terrified into withdrawing or refusing to give
evidence before court hearings.
A welcoming sight indeed were also the voices of the male bloggers appalled
at the violence against a woman last week as reported in the press. MCWO
warmly welcomes this outright condemnation by men who are aware of the
danger of domestic violence not only to women but to children and to society
as a whole.
Within the wider context of violence against women, MCWO strongly
condemns all violence that women and children are facing on a daily basis in
the war zones, particularly in the African continent, where rape is being used
as a weapon of war.
MCWO augurs, that come next IWD in 2012, women would be in a position to
celebrate progress in the issues highlighted above. MCWO is always ready to
work with the stakeholders in the field, particularly, the National Commission
on the Promotion of Equality and the National Commission on Domestic