Gender equality through intersecting inequalities is the way forward

On 24-25 January Social Platform went to Vilnius for our annual meeting with the European Institute of Gender Equality (EIGE). This year, EIGE invited our members, including national members of the European Women’s Lobby, and Men Engage Europe to a joint meeting. I was happy to see that many Social Platform members participated – more than in previous years – in the discussion of around 70 people on how we can work with EIGE to advance gender equality in Europe. With the help of an interactive tool to carry out live polls via a smartphone or laptop, EIGE asked which topics the participants considered most important to cooperate on, with “intersectional inequalities” winning the most votes. Intersectionality is about understanding how gender becomes a factor when looking at age, ethnicity, religion or belief, and how it contributes to a person’s unique experiences of discrimination.

Among several parallel discussions, I participated in one on EIGE’s Gender Equality Index; an excellent source of research for civil society actors to back up their recommendations to decision-makers. Jolanta Reingarde presented the index, which includes six domains: work, money, knowledge, power, health, and time spent on, for example, care and maintaining the household. Additionally, the index takes into consideration intersecting inequalities and violence. The index presents a solid database that compares the situation of women and men in all EU Member States, but there are still gaps where comparable data is missing: more data is needed on ethnicity, age groups of 65+, and gender identity. Another area that determines gender inequality is access to sexual reproductive health and rights, but as such services are often specific for women they are not comparable by gender, which is a criteria for the index. Furthermore, we discussed the need to explain the gaps and the importance of further variables in order to get more complete data to better understand gender inequality. Our members, such as AGE Platform Europe and Transgender Europe, are happy to support EIGE in identifying the gaps.

My colleague Valentina and I also had the opportunity to host a session. We chose to focus on two topical policy processes that we are following at European level: work-life balance and gaps in EU legislation in the area of regular migration, focusing on domestic and care work. We look forward to staying in touch with the participants who came to our session when continuing to develop our recommendations to decision-makers.

Last but not least, we sat down with EIGE to plan concretely Social Platform’s areas of cooperation in 2017. Among other issues, we agreed to disseminate information about EIGE’s research and stakeholder events, and likewise to share information about our activities that can be relevant for them. A particular request from EIGE was to provide them with proposals for reports the institute could publish in the future. Finally, we will follow-up with EIGE with regards to work-life balance and gender budgeting, as this will be part of our work and the institute already has research on it.

Looking back, I am pleased to see that our cooperation with EIGE has improved over the years. An idea I would like to explore is to address the chair of the European agencies in the area of Justice and Home Affairs and suggest an exchange of good practices of how to work with civil society.