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International Women’s Day verdict - pandemic has increased inequality

UN Women Finland says physical violence and online harassment of women have increased alarmingly during the pandemic.

Nainen on pukeutunut paitaan, jossa lukee Loud woman.
A woman attending the annual women's march in Amsterdam on Sunday, the day before International Women's Day. Image: Evert Elzinga / EPA
Yle News

Monday is International Women's Day, an occasion celebrating women's achievements and the pursuit of gender equality.

On Monday, the NGO UN Women Finland is launching a campaign not only celebrating those achievements, but at the same time highlighting obstacles to equality.

Taking part in the campaign, "A Woman's Place", are a number of high-profile influencers from various sectors of society, including former president Tarja Halonen, champion hurdler Nooralotta Neziri and actress Krista Kosonen.

Harassment and violence continue

In a press release about its campaign last Thursday, UN Women Finland said that despite many steps forward, girls and women around the world still have to fight for their right to choose their place in society.

According to Jaana Hirsikangas, Executive Director of UN Women Finland, various means have always been used to limit women's participation, including violence.

"Large-scale harassment and violence against women is still a serious obstacle to women's equal participation and influence, as well as to the realisation of democracy," Hirsikangas wrote in the organisation's press release.

According to the NGO, harassment and violence against women, including female politicians and decision-makers, limit women's opportunities to participate in the decision-making process or to seek political office.

The Executive Director of the global UN Women organisation, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, pointed out in a recent UN bulletin that only 22 states or governments in the world are currently headed by a woman.

In addition, there are a total of 119 countries in the world where a woman has never been in a top state leadership position.

Increased domestic violence in Europe

According to the UN Association of Finland, by the age of 15 more than than 40 percent of Finnish women have been subjected to physical or sexual violence or intimidation by a man.

UN Women Finland stated in its press release that physical violence and harassment of women online has increased alarmingly during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Even before the coronavirus pandemic, the forces opposing women's rights had strengthened, and they are trying to push back the trend towards equality," Executive Director Hirsikangas wrote.

The European Parliament also said that with people spending more time at home, the level of domestic violence has increased in Europe during the pandemic.

On the frontline of the crisis

On the eve of International Women's Day, the European Parliament also emphasised the key role of women in the fight against the pandemic.

It said that women have been at the forefront of the fight against the coronavirus and that the pandemic has particularly affected female-dominated sectors such as healthcare. Many sectors have also lost many jobs as a result of the crisis, which has disproportionately affected women’s employment.

According to UN Women Finland, the Finnish job market continues to be strongly divided along gender lines. In addition, one of the most persistent problems of equality in working life is the gender pay gap. United Nations statistics show women's earnings in Finland are on average 16 percent lower than men's. Globally, the pay gap is 22 percent.

International Women's Day has been observed in Finland since 1914. It became an annual official UN observance in 1975.

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