1 November 2021 The participants of the meeting

1 November 2021 The participants of the meeting

Monday, 1 November 2021

Women's Parliamentary Network Meets with Speaker of Cypriot House of Representatives

In the course of the official visit of the delegation of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Cyprus, headed by Speaker Annita Demetriou, the chair of the Women's Parliamentary Network Sandra Bozic and coordinator Snezana Paunovic presented the results the informal group has achieved since its formation in 2013.

At the beginning of the meeting, Sandra Bozic extended the Parliament Speaker a warm welcome, saying that she was honoured to see a woman at the head of the House of Representatives. She went on to say that, from the very beginning, the Women's Parliamentary Network’s goal has been to make the presence of women noticeable at all decision-making levels. The number of issues the Network deals with has only expanded in time, as have the WPN’s achievements, said Bozic. One of the indicators of the successful fight for gender equality is most definitely the current legislature’s 40% of women MPs.

Speaking of gender equality achievements, in the number of women holding public office and serving in all branches of government, Serbia is at the top of Europe, Bozic said, adding that this has been a process advocated by the Network for years. The number of women in the parliament and local assemblies began to grow after the introduction of the 30% electoral quotas, later increased to 40%, at the suggestion of the parliamentary opposition, which was endorsed by the President of the Republic of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic.

Bozic also informed the delegation about the introduction of the strategic national framework to combat violence against women in 2011, as well as the National Strategy for Gender Equality for the period 2016-2020. The Council for the Suppression of Domestic Violence within the Ministry of Justice and the Working Group for the Suppression of Violence against Women at the Ministry of the Interior were established by this plan, while coordination and cooperation groups were formed in cooperation with the Public Prosecutor's Office. "At the same time, in addition combating violence against women and fighting for gender equality we tried to ensure the economic empowerment of women, as one of the basic ways to empower women and enable them to achieve social equality." She also mentioned the Law on Gender Equality, passed by the current legislature, lays the foundations for greater visibility of women in society and the state, as well as the third Gender Equality Index, which has, compared to the results from 2016 when it was first measured, gone up by 5.6 points, reaching 58 points today, with topics concerning the gender aspect, digitisation and job opportunities for women, emerging as the most important. "We can proudly say that the development of digital skills among men and women in Serbia is at an equal level and Serbia is one of the four candidate countries for membership in the European Union that actually took the time to calculate the Index." Bozic also said that the Women's Parliamentary Network is working tirelessly to empower women at the local level and strives to apply these rules at all decision-making levels.

Annita Demetriou said that Cyprus can learn a lot from the Women's Parliamentary Network and she, as the first woman Parliament Speaker in Cyprus, wants to establish and apply this type of work in the House of Representatives. She added that out of the 56 members of parliament, only eight are women and they share the opinion that there should be more women in the House of Representatives, which would in turn give impetus for a larger number of women in other decision-making positions. She went on to say that Cyprus has ratified the Istanbul Convention on the preventing and combating violence against women, followed by national strategies and cooperation between the state bodies. She added that Cyprus is working on the economic empowerment of women, especially after the expansion of the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit the female population harder. Demetriou stressed that the media also have a great responsibility, because they largely portray women stereotypically and are guided by masculine principles. She pointed out that, in the media, women are often portrayed as gender stereotypes, and there are other methods of discrimination against women at play. She added that the media must take part in breaking the hegemonic hierarchy of gender regimes and create a foundation for change in the programme and professional image of women, which requires the media themselves to be ready to rethink their role in the matter. She went on to add that she herself refuses to participate in public panels on the government if these do not include women, in order to raise awareness on the topic.
Snezana Paunovic also took part in the conversation, taking the opportunity to once again thank Cyprus for its principled position on Serbia’s integrity and sovereignty, to which Demetriou replied that Cyprus will never recognise violations of international rights on the territory of Kosovo-Metohija. Paunovic also agreed with the Cypriot Parliament Speaker about the representation of women in the media, which is also often exposed to stereotyping, even sensationalist representation, in Serbia. She said that this image of women in the media must change which is another task for women in public office who must fight together and raise public awareness and motivate young women to get involved in the political and public life of Serbia.

The officials agreed that the empowerment of women must be carried out through the political structures which would respond to the strengthening and increasing presence of women in all areas.

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