Va? What did you say, do you work for a women's union? Excuse me, but are women's unions really needed? Sweden is equal.
Quite often I am met by that reaction when I tell where I work. I am the general secretary of the Center Women, the Center Party's women's union. I usually answer that as long as there are gender-related injustices that affect women, there is a need for conscious special organization in the form of women's unions.
We still live in an unequal society and many of the injustices that afflict women are often not taken into account in the policies pursued. Inequality is present throughout life, in society as a whole, even in “equal” Sweden. Students are limited by traditional gender norms in study and career choices. Girls today are not given the same opportunities as boys to play sports and stop playing sports at earlier ages than boys.
Power and influence are unevenly distributed between the sexes and we have gender-related differences in salary and career. Women perform more unpaid work than men and have lower pensions, as a result of lower living income. Women are more often exposed to serious domestic violence than men.
The list can be made as long as you like - and we work with all these parts. We as a women's union. Gender equality is about protecting the equal rights and values of all people, about everyone's freedom to decide in their own lives. Inequality is like weeds, we stop fighting weeds and it grows!
But of course they are right, Sweden has come a long way. On paper, there is a lot in place for men and women to be able to live an equal life in our society. Sweden, together with Belgium, Denmark, France, Latvia and Luxembourg, is one of the world's six equal countries according to World Bank's gender equality scale 2019. For us in Sweden, it is obvious that both women and men, young and old, can be active in politics, which is far from a given in other countries.
We can share with women in other countries
How, then, can we best help our fellow sisters around the world? We can share our experiences with women in other countries. Through the Center Party's International Foundation, CIS, the Center Women support a project in Benin, West Africa, and a project with the non-profit organization Palestinian Working Women's Society for Development (PWWSD). Both projects aim, among other things, to strengthen women's opportunities for participation and influence in politics and in society.
One of the many important international gender equality issues is the increasing traffic in Europe. A majority of the victims are women. Trafficking in human beings and prostitution is the slave trade and something we can never accept. The Swedish Sex Purchase Act gives the police and social authorities good tools, but further powerful efforts are required to ensure that no one is bought or sold. Therefore, it is important that society in a better way than today takes care of all girls, women, boys and men who are exposed.
Alarming reports have shown that Sweden is no longer fulfilling its international commitments on victims of human trafficking's right to protection and support. We want to see improvement! Fighting human trafficking and trafficking is a high priority for Center Women.
Climate change and gender equality are linked
"Okay, I hear what you're saying," I hear. "But isn't the climate issue still most important?" Yes, the climate issue is important, it is ultimately about our survival. That is why gender equality is important! Women contribute less to climate change, but are hardest hit. According to UN Women Watch for example, women in developing countries spend 2-20 hours or more a week collecting firewood for the household. It takes a lot of time and affects girls' ability to go to school and get an education. Thus, inequality increases and is cemented.
When women have poorer social and economic rights and opportunities than men, mortality is higher among women in climate disasters and extreme weather. The poor are hardest hit, and the majority of the world's poorest are women. In Sweden, men's private transports emit twice as much carbon dioxide as women's transports, according to the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation. In addition, men eat more meat.
Climate change is a challenge, but also an opportunity to find long-term solutions and more equal structures. Studies show that countries with greater gender equality get a faster and more sustainable development. Goal five of the global goals for sustainable development is to achieve gender equality. Securing women's and girls' rights is a prerequisite for sustainable development and that the goals are achieved by 2030. So on the whole, we can well agree that women's unions are also needed in equal Sweden in 2020.