European Citizens’ Initiative in the sake of women’s rights

Femmes d’Europe, a Belgian association promoting women's rights organized a conference today in the European Parliament to discuss the European Citizens' Initiative, an instrument introduced by the Treaty of Lisbon. In her speech Lívia Járóka, Chairwoman of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality recommended to initiate legislation on policy fields such as the reconciliation of work and family life or improving the situation of Roma women, where there is still a room for improvement despite the undeniable achievements of the EU regarding gender equality.

The Brussels-based civil association Femmes d’Europe organized an international conference to discuss the opportunities granted by the European Citizens' Initiative which will come into affect on the 1st of April 2012. This instrument will enable one million European citizens of one quarter of the Member States to call directly on the European Commission to initiate or alter legislation in its competence.

In her speech EPP Group MEP Lívia Járóka, Chairwoman of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality called the initiative an unparalleled opportunity to spur dialogue between NGOs and EU institutions; to bring forward effective and progressive proposals and to stimulate civil associations – including those of the ever growing movement to promote gender equality – to make their contributions to shaping the continent's future. "Despite the undeniable progress that the EU has induced in the past few years, we can and must improve our policies on issues regarding the daily life of women, such as reconciling private and professional life" – Járóka said.

Járóka recommended utilizing this opportunity in policy areas not yet covered by community legislation on the one hand, and where the introduction or alteration of well-defined, clear and distinct rules can induce significant positive changes on the other. As an example, she mentioned the reconciliation of work and family life of women, where progress may be brought forward by easily describable and transposable rules, such as preventing companies from enquiring about woman’s childcare responsibilities, or the prohibition of dismissing or demoting women returning from maternity leave. She also described the situation of Roma women who compared to their non-Roma counterparts, have lower life expectancy rates, lower education levels, significantly lower rates of employment and higher rates of poverty.