[WATCH] Malta gender policy has ‘incredible precision and detail’

At a business breakfast on gender mainstreaming, OSCE adviser Ajla Van Heel said the policy document showed dedication and commitment to gender equality

Alja Van Heel said she was struck by the incredible precision and detail in the governent's gender equality strategy document. (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Alja Van Heel said she was struck by the incredible precision and detail in the governent's gender equality strategy document. (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)

A proposed policy document on a gender quality reform for Malta has been praised for its precision and detail by an adviser on gender equality at the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Addressing a business breakfast on gender mainstreaming on Wednesday, Ajla Van Heel, an adviser to the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, said she had been working in the field for ten years but was struck by the policy document prepared government.

“Reading the document, I was struck by its incredible precision and detail,” Van Heel said.

She noted document’s references to international standards and literature, insisting that it demonstrated the “wealth of expertise” of the technical committee that drafted it.  

Van Heel added that the document demonstrated the dedication and commitment to the cause, and the hope that this process would ultimately bring about real change.

She noted that in a climate where political and parliamentary democracies were facing various challenges, including declining trust in institutions, a declining respect for the rule of law and increased public disengagement, gender equality remained a good marker for the health of a democracy.

Van Heel emphasised the need for political parties to take a leading role in promoting equality by giving women the space and opportunities to show that they are as worthy as men. 

Reforms parliamentary secretary Julia Farrugia Portelli expressed her satisfaction at interest generated by the document and the constructive feedback put forward by various stakeholders.

Parliamentary Secretary Julia Farrugia Portelli. (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Parliamentary Secretary Julia Farrugia Portelli. (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)

Farrugia Portelli said she was happy that 18 of Malta’s women’s organisations had endorsed the strategy, while also commending the speaker of the house for being so receptive of the proposed reform.

Gender mainstreaming, she said, meant having greater awareness and a process by which the implications, on both men and women, of decisions taken within the country’s institutions. The strategy also aims to ensure parliament has a clear and effective policy of harassment and discrimination and a formal procedure for dealing with such complaints.

“We want to boost inclusivity so that parliament can become a model for gender equality in the country,” Farrugia Portelli said, who stressed that mainstreaming was an essential prerequisite to increased female representation. 

She also referred to a proposal in the strategy to give some members of parliament the option to become full-time MPs, emphasising the need for appropriate child-care facilities and a change in culture that could allow men to feel comfortable taking their children to parliament as women occasionally do.

During the conference a memorandum of understanding was signed between the University of Malta, the secretariat and the Malta Confederation of Women’s Organisations on an EU-funded project called Equal Project, which will be aimed at raising awareness and of collecting views of as many stakeholders as possible in order to inform policy decisions going forward.

Speaker of the House Anglu Farrugia. (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)
Speaker of the House Anglu Farrugia. (Photo: James Bianchi/MediaToday)

Speaker of the House Anglu Farrugia, acting in his capacity as acting President of the Republic, pointed to last week’s Sette Giugno celebrations which he said allowed the country to recognise the “resolve of our forefathers to have a greater say in the running of the country”.

The annual celebration, he said, was an occasion for the country to reflect on the state of its democracy, including what progress has been made and what remains to be done.

Female representation in parliament was one area where Malta had fallen behind in and which needed to be addressed immediately.

He noted that Malta had one of the lowest rates of female participation in parliament across the EU and pointed out that this meant that there were no women sitting in a number of parliament’s standing committees.

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