Friday morning March 8th. A day that for me means two very different topics. One being security and defence, the other gender equality.
Security and defence will dominate my calendar today since our Embassy is hosting the Swedish Defence Commission (Försvarsberedningen) for which my colleagues have prepared a comprehensive programme. I am quite impressed that the entire Commission is coming, in fact they arrived already yesterday evening. This tells you something about the increasing importance of Poland in this respect.
In parallel today is also the International Women’s Day - this year with a thematic focus on genderbased violence. Unfortunately a theme that permanently needs attention.
Take some minutes to read the message from the Head of UN Women, former President of Chile Michele Bachelet. I did and it is really getting through to you, through cyberspace:
“My message today is simple and straightforward. This year on International Women’s Day, we say enough is enough. Discrimination and violence against women and girls has no place in the 21st century. It is time for Governments to keep their promises and protect human rights in line with the international conventions and agreements that they signed onto. A promise is a promise.” You find the entire statement with this link: http://www.unwomen.org/2013/03/un-women-executive-director-calls-for-action-on-ending-violence-against-women-in-message-for-international-womens-day/ (And both the Swedish Minister Maria Arnholm and the Polish Minister Agnieszka Kozłowska-Rajewicz attended the recent session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women and gave speeches e.g. http://www.nowyjorkonz.msz.gov.pl/pl/polska_w_onz/stanowiska_i_wystapienia/sesja_komisji_onz_ds__statusu_kobiet).
Enough is enough – the message takes me back to the Women’s Congress last year in Sala Kongresowa. The debate on genderbased violence when more and more women were joining the queue to tell their individual stories. Some truly heartbreaking but all presented with dignity, even energy. And the theme for the discussion was the same. We have had enough. Or in Polish: Mamy dość.
Two days ago my staff brought to my attention a recent report presented at a conference in the Sejm with some figures from a new report. According to that study a Polish woman falls victim to male violence every 40 seconds. http://thenews.pl/1/9/Artykul/129119,One-in-three-Polish-women-subjected-to-male-violence-claims-research.
In a previous blog I mentioned some of the Polish statistics I learned about in November. For instance: During 2011 help was provided to domestic violence victims 86 000 times. Around 150 women are killed every year in this context. And too often children are victims as well, not least because they are witnessing the violence.
I wish I could have described Sweden as a zone free from this kind of evil. But obviously I cannot. And the overwhelming problem in domestic violence is related to gender. Men are beating women. It is as bad and as simple as that. It is outrageous and it continues all over the world.
There are many good reasons to address men in the struggle for gender equality. Violence is one of them.
Others are related to the selfinterest of men. I strongly believe that we men gain from a more equal society – as well as women do. In many dimensions, most importantly perhaps in our relations to our children.
I made comments around these advantages in a speech at a round table during the Women’s Congress: “Interestingly enough research also tells us that families that are more equal in this respect also is more likely to stick together, avoiding divorce. Equally interesting is that it tells us that women experience a rise in income when their husbands stay at home. And additionally: Men who stay at home for some time, take better care of themselves, drink less and have a more healthy life style.”
And equality means possibilities for both men and women to combine family life and paid work on the labour market. Where both women and men are needed. Gender equality is smart economics – that is a message that deserves to be repeated. More women doing business, more women being active on the labour market means growth, higher incomes. It means development.
These are themes which our Embassy will continue to work with this year. In different ways. You will see it reflected in this blog, on our Webpage, on Facebook – and now also on Twitter https://twitter.com/AmbSzweWarszawa.
I am happy that something like the International Women’s Day exists for sure. But what will make a difference in the long run is what all of us, women and men, do during the remaining days of the year. If we try to change or if the old patterns and power structures are allowed to prevail.