Vienna, 5 March 2010 Press release

Plassnik: "Get out of the women’s corner!"

Women’s issues must move to the centre of politics, demands the Special Envoy for International Women’s Issues

Vienna, 5 March 2010 - "The images from all the different corners of our global village are speaking for themselves: Violence, suffering, lawlessness, discrimination, humiliation. Even on the International Women’s Day 2010, a glance around the globe from a woman's point of view does not give rise to satisfaction, let alone joy. All in all, progress in improving the concrete living conditions for women and girls has been modest. Implementation of the UN millennium development goals, especially of those relating to women, still reveals huge deficits. In the fight for their fundamental rights and freedoms, and for access to education, health care services, and funding, women are still meeting with great resistance in many countries. We need a boost in awareness on an international level and the consistent commitment of governments."

"Very often the worst enemy of women is silence. Violence against women, for example, is still part of the dark matter of our societies, on which we have no clear data. Even where we have had continuous progress so far - for instance, the percentage of women in parliaments or top positions in business -, there is now stagnation, or even regression", said Ursula Plassnik, Member of the National Council and Special Envoy for International Women’s Issues in the Foreign Ministry.

"Up to this day, power has been defined by men. As in the past, women still have to fight against stiff resistance, hostility, or overt vilification for their self-evident rights. Little has changed since the introduction of the International Women’s Day more than 100 years ago. At the core of all this is still one issue: women’s rights are human rights. Establishing this as a fundamental principle of everyday life at all levels must finally become a central task of politics in the 21st century – in Europe and the world over. Strong men are turning this into their very own cause."

Plassnik added: "We must create an acceptance in society for the fact that so-called „women’s issues“ are, in fact, issues affecting society as a whole. This is not about a duel between women and men or vice versa. It is about working together at all levels toward a fairer world, not one in which 50% of the population are brushed aside. Effectively, there are no purely `women’s topics´ - be it child care facilities or violence against women. To have women and men equally participate in shaping the future of our society is a fundamentally democratic cause. The quality of results increases as more women are included, not only in business, but also in politics and in society."

The Special Envoy warns: "We can only manage the challenges of the future together, women and men. This is true back home in the municipalities, in our country, in Europe, and in the global village. The motto must be "equal, not similar". Women can contribute different perspectives, experiences, and skills. We must quickly learn to regard the differences between genders not as bricks to build dividing walls between us, but as opportunities to become stronger. We can only tackle global problems efficiently if we can mobilize the potential and the energy of the female half of the world's population in the public realm as well."

 "There is no reason for complacency. In Europe, too, discrimination against women is still a reality in many ways, either in the form of wage differences or career opportunities. This is something that, fortunately, the current Spanish EU Council Presidency is pointing its finger at. Even in Europe, antiquated role models are too often transported and accepted as behavioural standards in advertisement, media, and politics. As a result, the society ultimately chooses to abandon important resources, depriving itself of future opportunities."

The Special Envoy concluded: "Our children should no longer have to experience how women are alone in their fight to be respected and taken seriously. They need men who consistently denounce any injustice done to women or any overt and concealed discrimination against them, and who commit themselves to overcoming it. Moreover, courageous men must publicly and audibly denounce any toleration of discrimination against women under the pretext of religious or social traditions. We no longer need any `macho zones´ with 80 or 90 percent male quotas. Let us therefore encourage women to take up responsibility in previously male-dominated power biotopes. Let us encourage women to address important issues, and to participate in the efforts to find solutions to these. Therefore, the following should become the maxim in the 21st century: Out of the women’s corner and into the heart of society!"

Federal Ministry for European and
International Affairs Press Department
Tel.: +43 (0) 50 1150-3262, 4549, 4550, 3739
Fax: +43 (0) 50 1159-213