With the EU Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 placing equality at the center of the EU political agenda, we are still observing worrying facts in terms of gender inequalities, especially within the domain of power. The numbers below focus on the EU political sphere and represent only a fraction of a devastating reality we find ourselves in today. All in all, researchers predict that it will take us at least 94 years to close the gender gap in political empowerment and representation.

Unfortunately, Covid-19 made this reality even more unequal, as women and girls still are at the heart of care and response efforts underway, as front-line responders, health professionals, community volunteers, transport and logistics managers, scientists, and the majority of caregivers, at home and in their communities. Data shows that the current pandemics risks radically taking backward the important accomplishments made over the last decades. This includes power and politics.

European as well as local and regional authorities have a crucial role to play and can be key actors in addressing gender equality thanks to their specific competencies. In October, the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) presented its official Opinion on the new European Equality Strategy, which follows the adoption of the Strategy for a gender balance in Members’ participation in the CoRby the CoR Bureau in 2019, aiming at improving gender balance in the nomination of the CoR Members.

The follow-up discussion, which took place as part of European Regions and Cities week, and was introduced by Ms. Andreu Rodríguez Concepción, a member of the European Committee of the Regions and CoR Rapporteur, involved the loud voices of Salla Saastamoinen, acting Director-General, DG for Justice and Consumers, European Commission, Evelyn Regner, MEP, Chair of the Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, Emil Broberg, chair of the CEMR Standing Committee for Equality, and was moderated by Redscope’s Executive Director – CLaudia De Castro Caldeirinha.

How do we tackle the barriers women face in entering politics and the discrimination and unique challenges they face once in office?

How are EU Institutions and our politicians actively engaging in this matter?

How to move forward towards gender parity in politics in today’s EU, and what role for local and regional authorities?

These questions took the central point of the discussion, which most if al highlighted the need for close cooperation among the different political levels. While EU institutions’ representatives focused on ideas for action to close the gender gap, Young Elected Politicians (YEPs) helped to understand how local and regional levels are addressing gender equality and parity democracy. With so many valuable inputs and new information regarding the pipeline for the gender equality agenda on a European level, the session left its participants with one sharp conclusion: It’s time to be impatient, aggressive, and demand more! It’s is our time, our choice, and our future!