European & International News

Women hardest hit by financial crisis and austerity measures, experts tell MEPs

[Brussels, 18 July 2012] The Sub-Committee on Human Rights at the European Parliament organised last Thursday a hearing on the impact of the financial and economic crisis on human rights. All the speakers confirmed the bigger negative impact on women’s lives.

In Spain, 21% of women and 19% of men are poor, and one third of elder women are at risk of poverty. All around the world, women make up the majority of poor workers. The fact that violence against women hinders their ability to take part to economic activities is even more relevant in times of crisis.

This alarming data about women is part of a general picture drawn by the experts speaking at the hearing on the impact of financial and economic crisis on Human rights last Thursday. Beyond gender considerations, the speakers also evoked the fact that around 70 million people will sink into poverty by 2020, and that today, between 30-40 million people are unemployed.

This hearing came at the initiative of the Latvian MEP Inese Vaidere, who is preparing a report on the topic. Ignacio Saiz, Executive Director of the Centre for Economic and Social Rights and Olivier de Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, dedicated a part of their intervention to the situation of women. Mayra Moro-Coco, Development Policy Advocacy Manager for Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) focused on the gendered impact of the crisis.

european parliament woman

Ignacio Saiz notably underlined the higher impact of crisis and austerity measures on women and vulnerable groups such as migrants or children. He also mentioned the fact that human rights and solutions to the crisis are not incompatible. Olivier de Schutter recommended taking into account a gender approach to the crisis and any solutions therof. He recalled that women will never have better conditions of life if they are not targeted by specific measures.

Mayra Moro-Coco from AWID mentioned three concrete aspects of the crisis linked to women: the food crisis, women workers and violence against women. Women produce worldwide half of all food yet own only 1% of lands. In addition, women are the majority of poor workers in the world. This makes them more sensitive to the crisis. Ms. Moro-Coco reckoned the crisis a failure of the neoliberal model and called for a gender-based approach to the crisis. A video of her intervention is accessible here.

Closing the hearing, Inese Vaidere provided an efficient summary of the conclusions reached., which were all in the same vein. She recalled the shared responsibility of the European Union in tacking the crisis, notably as regards its impact on third countries, on which she will focus her report. She mentioned that even if all workers are suffering, women are particularly so and this gender gap needs to be targeted by specific measures.

Inese Vaidere will submit her report to the EP Sub-Committee on Human Rights on 09 October. [1]

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