Women doing unpaid family work not paid COVID stimulus, lobby denounces discrimination

Malta Women’s Lobby says women doing valuable work for families taken for granted and largely ignored

Women make policy, not coffee.. an activist at a feminist rally in 2018 in Valletta sends a clear message
Women make policy, not coffee.. an activist at a feminist rally in 2018 in Valletta sends a clear message

The Malta Women’s Lobby has expressed disappointment that women not in employment and doing unpaid work in their family, were not considered deserving recipients for the COVID stimulus cheque distributed to the electorate in the last days.

“This shows that women doing this valuable work in the family are taken for granted and are largely ignored, whilst the value of their work and their contribution to society is not appreciated,” MWL chairperson Dr Anna Borg said.

“The Malta Women’s Lobby urges all political parties to stop ignoring half of the population, whilst we insist that whoever is in government implements the proposals in the Femifesto,” Borg said.

The Malta’s Women Lobby, an umbrella organisation of 14 NGOs, issued its own ‘femifesto’ for the 2022 elections, noting that women victims of violence have been waiting years before they are allocated a date for their court hearings.

“Justice is hard to come by with such delays. There seems to be a reluctance to issue temporary protection or emergency barring orders in cases of violence against women. This is putting women victims of violence more at risk and leaving them without protection.”

The MWL also said reconciling paid work and family still causes a lot of stress for parents, especially mothers. 

“Children get sick and parents are only allowed 15 hours of urgent family leave a year. Fathers get just one day of paternity leave, and parental leave is unpaid resulting in caring gaps between women and men that continue to discriminate against women. Whilst during the pandemic, flexible work was encouraged, now that the COVID measures have been relaxed, many workers have been ordered back to their place of work.  This has had a negative impact on workers, especially those who have a family, and because it involves more commuting, it also works against the environment​.”

The lobby also said women trying to open up a business still face more hurdles than men, and that pay and pension gaps are on the increase. “The more a woman is educated, the more the discrepancy there is in the pay. In spite of having more female graduates for many years, the number of women in top positions remains disappointingly low.”

The MWL supports quotas and sanctions on the private sector to ensure that, at least, 30% of board members are women, or are from the least represented gender.

The lobby also complained that pro-choice activities were being demonised and threatened while the Labour Party in government was attempting to legalise prostitution, which largely works against women and in favour of pimps and traffickers. “Not criminalising the buyer fuels a rape culture, increases violence on women, and adds to the existing inequalities between women and men.”

The MWL wants the State to introduce the Equality Model which criminalises the buyers, and reduces the demand for trafficked women and girls. 

The MWL has also called for all worker, both women and men regardless of their status - parents or not – to work flexibly in terms of choosing their working hours and working from home, where possible.

It called for increased paid paternity leave for fathers and generous paid parental leave for both parents, with reserved quotas for both so as to close the caring gaps between women and men. “Government should fund these incentives so as not to burden employers. Workers – parents or not – should be granted leave to be able to care for their sick or disabled family members.”

ADPD candidate Dr Melissa Bagley has expressed the Green Party’s commitment to work on the issues mentioned in the Femifesto.

“During this meeting with the MWL, it was clear that there is a lot of overlap between our view of how sexism and misogyny is negatively affecting women and girls in society, and on most of the targeted steps needed to tackle this. As ADPD we commit and look forward to continuing this conversation in the future, it does not stop at the election.”

Party Chairperson, Carmel Cacopardo commented: “I was disappointed to hear that other parties did not welcome the women’s lobby’s invitation for a dialogue. Dialogue is one of the fundamental needs in our society. If we are not even able to listen to each other, how are we going to work together, how are we going to achieve political consensus and tackle stigma?”