Sassoli: Pandemic is putting decades of progress in the fight for women’s rights at risk 


Extracts of the speech of the European Parliament President on International Women’s Day

During a ceremony in the European Parliament to celebrate International Women’s Day, European Parliament President David Sassoli called for gender equality to be put at the centre of the EU’s recovery from COVID-19. The ceremony included speeches by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, United States Vice-President Kamala Harris, and President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen.


During his speech, President Sassoli said:


“The COVID-19 pandemic has not only consolidated injustices and inequalities, but it threatens to erase decades of progress in European women's battles over the right to work, to share childcare responsibilities, their autonomy in relationships, and respect for women’s rights and choices in emotional relationships.

“This pandemic has highlighted a perverse feature of our economic and social model, namely viewing poverty as a fault. However, this pandemic has also highlighted how essential caring for others is to our societies and how it is a public good. We have seen how care work, which remains largely entrusted to women, is in reality everyone’s responsibility and needs to be recognised as a public good.

“If we want genuine equality, we must start with wage equality. Equal wages for equal work. Women in Europe earn on average 14.1 per cent less than men. This is not acceptable. We are therefore ready to work on the proposal presented yesterday by the European Commission on binding pay transparency, which we will put at the centre of our work.

“The European Parliament fought for gender equality to be a central priority in the recovery plan and the next long-term EU budget. This may seem abstract, but if the recovery prioritises equality, then this will change the lives of people and women in countries in a concrete way, in cities, in workplaces, in schools and universities, in research.

“Another area where we can have real impact on people’s lives, is our duty to establish violence against women as a serious crime that must be sanctioned everywhere throughout the European Union. This is why we must continue to fight for the ratification by all EU Member States of the Istanbul Convention and to make violence against women a crime with a European dimension. It is not an abstract question, it is about who we are, it is part of our identity as a major global actor and democratic bloc.”

Full speech President Sassoli

Video message New Zealand Prime Minister Ardern

Video message US Vice-President Harris

Video of President Sassoli's speech