President Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, delivered the opening speech during the event ‘Empowered Women Unite’, organised by Angele Cristina and Sarah Suda, at San Anton Palace.
As women from the Mediterranean Region, which has historically been characterised by patriarchal societies, “it is essential for us to promote and give visibility to the experiences of women who have managed, against many odds, to be successful,” said the President.
In this way, “we will not only encourage one another, but most importantly we will also be inspiring and encouraging other girls and young women to be determined in their journey, to be successful, and to achieve their full potential”.
“I believe we must continue to promote and emphasize the important contributions women have made and are still making to positively transform our country and our region”
The President encouraged everyone to work together and network to empower other women, to achieve fuller participation, in the political, economic, cultural, and social sectors of our society.
“On the other hand, we must also be aware that our plight is different from that of countless women who experience disrespect and lack of protection across the world”, the President said, adding that we must continue to remind ourselves and others, of the basic truth that women’s rights are human rights.
“It is also essential for us to continue to make a gender-inclusive, rights-based approach as our top priority”, the President insisted.
President Coleiro Preca said that in this context we must be led by the already-established mandate of the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 and its seventeen Sustainable Development Goals, in particular SDG 5 which specifically targets the need for gender equality and for the empowerment of women and girls as part of our countries’ commitment to a future of equality, equity, and justice for all.
“We cannot be complacent”
In today’s climate of uncertainty, in our region and in the world, “when we are facing so many challenges, we cannot afford to be unsure of our objectives to achieve meaningful gender inclusion, gender quality, and gender equity.”
President Coleiro Preca said that we cannot be complacent when indicators from the World Health Organisation tell us that 1 in 3 women around the world are at grave risk of physical or sexual violence.
The President also quoted indicators from Eurostat suggesting that 40% of respondents in Malta believe that violence against women is provoked by women themselves.
“Furthermore, Malta has been deemed as the member state with the most severe level of violence against women in the European Union, according to the most recent European Gender Equality Index”, she added.
On female representation in Parliament, President Coleiro Preca said that we also cannot be complacent when the most recent index compiled by the Interparliamentary Union about Women in National Parliaments reports that as of 1 January 2018, Malta stood at the 145th place out of 188 countries.
On the gender pay gap, the President quoted data from the World Bank stating that women around the world are consistently paid less than men, earning only an average of 60 to 75 per cent of men’s wages and are therefore at increased risk of precarity.
“We must respond to indicators from Eurostat which show that the gender pay gap in Malta is getting worse and not better, with an increase of 7.7% in 2011, to 11% in 2016”, the President said.
The President said that we also cannot be complacent “when the European Commission itself reports that women and girls are at particular risk of trafficking and modern-day slavery”.
On human trafficking, President Coleiro Preca said that we must respond urgently as a Mediterranean country of destination and transit, to ensure that women and girls are not being exploited and trafficked on our shores and are given every opportunity for protection and support.
The President appealed to authorities, policy-makers, and civil societies across Malta and the Euro-Mediterranean region to “act together to ensure that the precarious situations are addressed with urgency”.
“We must find further ways of uniting the women of our country, and across the Euro-Mediterranean region to promoting strategies of effective empowerment”
President Coleiro Preca explained that it was for this reason that last year, together with the President’s Foundation for the Well-being of Society, she facilitated the creation of the empower platform which is made up of all Maltese organisations that work for gender equality and women’s rights.
“We must encourage women and girls to share their experiences as you will be doing today at this event and use every platform to promote women’s participation in every level of our society. Hence, I urge you to be united, in pursuit of equality, equity, and dignity for each and every member of our human family”, the President concluded, adding through effectively addressing inequalities, and discrimination, we can hope that we will live in peace to ensure prosperity and well-being for all.