WHAT IS IT? EIGE defines gender equality as a situation in which women and men’s rights, responsibilities and opportunities do not depend on gender. It means that the interests, needs and priorities of all genders are taken into consideration, also recognizing the diversity among different groups of both women and men.

Gender equality in different forms has been the core of feminism from its beginning. First, it was focused on equal political rights: equal work and prohibition of discrimination, right to education, right to vote and repeal of anti-abortion laws. After, the focus changed to the assertion of difference and recognizing women specific needs while fighting for equality of opportunity. Now, the key objectives are to achieve equality of political representation and access to power, equality within the household, and understanding of intersectionality; that is taking into account other factors such as race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation… that interact with gender and affect the objectives of equality.

BACKGROUND/ HISTORY Gender inequalities were talked about from early times by women, especially women who had access to education due to their belonging to nobility or to convents. Historical figures, such as the 14th century Italian author Christine de Pizan have been identified as precursors in the struggle towards women’s rights. Her novel The Book of the City of Ladies argued in defense of the abilities and capabilities of women, as well as their virtues, answering to the sexist tropes present on the literature of the time.

In the eighteenth century, during the French Revolution, the idea of universal suffrage and citizen rights became widespread, but only for men. As a response to the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, French author Olympe de Gouges published the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen, in which she calls the attention to the lack of attention to women in the revolutionary demands, and asserts the gap between women’s and men’s rights should be fixed following the law of nature and reason.

During the revolutions of the “People’s Spring” in 1848, women in Austria and Vienna called for voting rights and created democratic clubs for women, but after the restoration, they were prohibited to participate in any political activity. From the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, nonetheless, feminist movements started to grow in Europe with demands of gender equality before the law, access to university education and access to jobs. The struggle for the right to vote was the most widespread and widely known (e.g. the suffragette movement in the UK). The first European country to achieve real universal suffrage, with women being able to vote and be elected for parliament, was Finland, in 1906. This is only the most known and visible fights for gender equality:  marital and parental rights, rights to access equal education and university education, right to take on civil roles… continued to be protested and achieved over time. The First World War prompted women’s introduction to the job market due to the absence of men, introducing new demands such as equality of treatment and salary within employment, maternity leaves and work-life conciliation measures.

After the Second World War, advocacy for equality gained international attention inside the framework of Human Rights and became consolidated inside the objectives of international organizations. On the 8th of March 1975, the UN celebrated the International Women’s Day for the first time. In 2007, the EU created the European Institute of Gender Equality. Today, the UN and the EU, along with other international bodies, have a compromise to continue advancing towards effective equality between men and women, facing new challenges that come from the technological era.

ACTUALITY The European Institute for Gender Equality has calculated a score of 68 out of 100 for the European Union in its Gender Equality Index. It reports that at the pace that the issue is currently advancing, equality will take at least 3 more generations to be achieved, and Covid-19 has slowed down the process.

Its last report, EIGE points out that it is necessary to improve equality in the realm of access to power, especially decision-making, due to low representation of women in these areas. They also point out that it is necessary to improve gender equality in education, attending to the gender division in tertiary education between arts and humanities degrees and STEM degrees. Many forms of violence against women, such as sexual harassment and abuse, obstetric violence and intimate partner violence are still prevalent in our societies. In some countries, women’s rights are facing backlash and opposition, (i.e. the right of abortion).

Nonetheless, advancements continue to be made. Spain recently approved a new law of consent which modifies previous national law on sexual abuse and aggression and improves the prosecution of such acts. Plus, this new law advocates for integral sexual education in order to teach clearly about consent and prevent sexual violence against any potential victim. The EU and national governments continue to promote initiatives towards gender equality.

There are initiatives toward equality in multiple government levels: regional, national, European. In the European Union, EU Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 is an integral initiative aiming towards gender equality. Key objectives are ending gender-based violence; challenging gender stereotypes; closing gender gaps in the labour market; achieving equal participation across different sectors of the economy; addressing the gender pay and pension gaps; closing the gender care gap and achieving gender balance in decision-making and in politics (https://ec.europa.eu/info/policies/justice-and-fundamental-rights/gender-equality/gender-equality-strategy_en ). It also provides funds for projects dedicated to gender equality in all the realms, especially employment, education, innovation and social participation.

The European Agency for Fundamental Rights also collects data and works with local stakeholders in order to carry out surveys and research and produce reports on equality at all levels. Plus, its yearly Fundamental Rights Report deals with the state of  gender equality in European countries as well as the advancements in matter of discrimination due to race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, etc.

At the national level, Spain founded the Ministry of Equality in 2008. This ministry funds research on gender equality, provides grants and subsidies, creates gender equality campaigns, informs of instances of violence against women, proposes laws and policy on equality in all forms. An example is the “Companies for gender-based violence-free society” initiative to raise awareness and foster employability of women victim of domestic violence.

VISUAL RESOURCES Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 Factsheet: https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/default/files/aid_development_cooperation_fundamental_rights/gender_equality_strategy_factsheet_en.pdf

European Projects on Gender Equality: https://genderaction.eu/resources/sister-projects/

Spanish Ministry of  Equality “Companies for gender-based violence-free society” Initiative video https://violenciagenero.igualdad.gob.es/sensibilizacionConcienciacion/inicitativaEmpresas/home.htm

Spanish Ministry of Equality Campaign example https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Qdjfj6VqCQ&feature=emb_title

FRA campaign on violence against women https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUp2oQ4cMtc&feature=emb_title