Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London, yesterday called on member states of the European Union to “empower women” in her opening speech at the GenderWorks conference in Brussels.
Speaking to an audience of experts and grassroots activists from the GenderWorks project , an initiative part-run by Oxfam and funded by the European Commission that investigated women’s experiences of poverty and social exclusion in Europe between 2008-2009, Jean called for a “living wage” not a “minimum wage” and the need for “high quality public services” to help support women.
Jean, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Employment and Social Affairs Committee, said:
“There will be some very good results that come out of this project: there will be strong policy recommendations and some very good practice that really ought to be taken up and used. How do we get that into the mainstream so that it wasn’t just an interesting two-year experiment but something that has really shaped policy and will move it forward?
“…Certainly the gender dimension is still something we are having to fight for within the European Union. It’s improved over the years, but it still has to be fought for, people still have to be reminded that it exists. Just because you have mainstreamed it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen, because mainstreaming means it’s everywhere, which can also mean it’s nowhere, and therefore the gender dimension still needs to be fought for as an important value.”
Referring to her recent trip to Bangladesh as Chair of the South Asian delegation where she visited projects concerned with empowering young women, Jean continued:
“We are used to thinking of projects like GenderWorks in the context of places like Bangladesh where it’s about empowering women – we know what it does to women’s lives. We know that if you empower women this has a huge effect, not just on their children but on the society as a whole. I think sometimes we forget that we need to be doing that as much in the European Union still as we do anywhere else in the world.”
Reminding the audience that 2010 is the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion, she concluded:
“If we work together to try and get the different levels of activity to communicate and bring forward the policy proposals and the direct experiences of women in poverty, we will end up with much better policy at the national and European level. That should make a huge improvement to people’s lives. And as we have seen if you really want to change society and its values, then what you do is you empower the women.”
Notes to Editors
 GenderWorks brought together Oxfam in the UK, Lamoro in Italy, and WAVE in Austria in a two-year mutual learning project (funded by the European Commission under PROGRESS) that ran from 2008 to 2009. The project aimed to investigate women’s experiences of poverty and social exclusion in Europe, and to use policy processes to improve women’s lives.
* For more information on the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion visit http://www.2010againstpoverty.eu
* Jean Lambert is one of eight MEPs representing London and one of two UK Green representatives in the European Parliament. Jean was first elected Green Party Member of the European Parliament for London in the 1999 European elections and was re-elected in 2004 and 2009.