As the Commission heralds the European Year of Equal Opportunities, a European Movement conference on 'Men and gender equality in Europe' pushed for a more significant involvement of men in gender-equality issues.
The European Year for Equal Opportunities aims to inform citizens about their right to non-discrimination and equal treatment and to celebrate the benefits of diversity.
Ahead of the official launch of the European Year, gender experts have called for a rethink as concerns the role of men in society and urged the adoption of a Charter of Intents for Equal Citizenship. The conference on 25 January 2007 organised by the European Movement International (EMI) sent out the message that men should take on more tasks traditionally attributed to women.
The European Year officially started with the Equality Summit, taking place on 30-31 January 2007 in Berlin. The Summit brought together EU ministers and civil society representatives to discuss measures to make equal opportunity a reality and to share good practice.
EMI President and former European Parliament President Pat Cox said: "Gender equality is central to the achievement of the EU´s goals on rights, democracy, solidarity, cohesion and competitiveness. The concept is undergoing a transformation from being an almost exclusive and essentially isolated women´s issue, driven by and for women, to a more inclusive societal perspective where men are no less central to its elaboration and achievement."
Brenda King of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), president of its employment, social affairs and citizenship section, laid out the objectives of the conference. She particularly underlined the need to look further into the issue of gender equality from a male perspective and communicate examples of best practice. King said: "There are still a lot of barriers that need to be removed as regards men and gender equality."
Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities Commissioner Vladimir Spidla said: "I am confident that the summit and activities throughout the European Year will spark a lively debate on diversity, giving a new impetus to tackling discrimination effectively."
Francesca Zajczyk, Professor at the University of Milano Biccoca highlighted the different cultural view on mothers and fathers. She said: "Eoles are changing but only slowly. Even nowadays there is a gender division prescribed by society that leads to a reproduction of traditional gender roles."
Doctor Hugo Swinnen from the Amsterdam School for Social Science Research highlighted an example of good practice in the Netherlands, with the adoption of the working-hours law. He said that this legislation made "a better balance of work-family life possible for women" in the Netherlands, where 74.7% of women and 22.3% of men work part-time.
Eve Liblik, president of the Advisory Committee on Equal Opportunities Between Men and Women gave an overview of her working group's activities and recommended that the Commission undertake more actions in the area of men and gender equality, such as developing a Communication. She said: "Gender equality has to be made attractive and desirable to men."