Distinguished ladies and gentlemen,
It is an honour to speak on behalf of the European Union.
We have met today to discuss the lessons learned and achievements reached on the elimination of disparity between the responsibilities carried among men and women. We should cherish the progress reached, but we also have to admit that many challenges still prevail.
The EU is committed to pay special attention to improve reconciliation of work, family and private life to both women and men throughout the number of instruments including development cooperation. This is one of the six priority areas of action in the EU Roadmap for Equality between Women and Men for 2006-2010. Another instrument – the European Pact for Gender Equality, acknowledges importance of gender equality policies. The reconciliation policies also are carried through the European Social Fund and its programmes that support the improvement, accessibility and quality of reconciliation services.
It is important to note that the European Commission recently launched a programme called Exchange of Good Practices on Gender Equality, that enables the dissemination of experience on gender equality throughout Europe. The EU also expects that the newly established European Institute for Gender Equality will provide expertise, improve knowledge and raise visibility of equality between men and women.
Since 1999, the Council of the EU reviews, on a regular basis, the implementation by the EU Member States and institutions of the Beijing Platform for Action, and developed a wide set of indicators and corresponding Conclusions. In the most recent Conclusions in 2008, the Council called on its Member States, inter alia, to continue to encourage men to share family and domestic responsibilities on an equal footing with women, and to promote measures to eradicate gender stereotypes.
The EU continues to enhance the employment and business activities of women in line with the Lisbon Strategy for Growth and Jobs and to promote the reconciliation of family and working lives by considering inter alia improvements of the rights of self-employed mothers including women employed in a family business as assisting spouses and by reviewing the directive on maternity protection.
Despite all the achievements, the EU is aware of the fact that a lot more need to be done to counteract the existing feminisation of care-giving responsibilities, including in the context of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and to realise a true burden-sharing between women and men. I am therefore looking forward to a fruitful discussion on the achievements and good practices on the equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, especially caregiving in the context of HIV/AIDS that can invert this situation.
Thank you for your attention.