Women’s groups in Derry have met Swedish MEP Mikael Gustafsson in the city to discuss gender equality issues.
Mr Gustafsson was in Derry as part of a delegation of 22 MEPs who participated in a study visit organised by Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson.
Mr Gustafsson, the first man to be appointed Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee for Women’s Rights and Gender Equality, met with the local groups in the Sinn Féin centre, Rath Mór.
Speaking during his visit, the Swedish MEP said the introduction of austerity policies across Europe is having a particularly negative impact on women.
“The problem is if you have cutbacks in the public sector it will be women who are worst hit because there are more women in the public sector. Women are more dependent on the public sector and that means when you cut back on the public sector it increases the pressure on women, many of whom are already dealing with the responsibilities as carers as well.
“If these austerity policies continue to be implemented it will lead to an increase in gender inequality.
“Economic independence is the key factor in gender equality, and if you are not in the labour market you cannot be economically independent,” he said.
Mr Gustafsson encouraged the local groups to access European funding to promote gender equality in the north west.
“Martina Anderson and I both spoke to the groups about the opportunities and possibilities that exist in Europe in terms of funding to address gender inequality. We both talked about the processes involved in applying for forms and gave them examples of groups that have been successful in the past,” he said.
Marie Cavanagh, director of Gingerbread, one of the groups who took part in the meeting, described it as useful.
“We looked at a range of issues around gender equality and it was a good opportunity to get an insight into what is being done at a European level. Gender equality is a major issue for lone parents and it was interesting to hear Mikael talk abut the impact of caring responsibilities on lone parents.
“From our perspective it was quite interesting to hear what Mikael had to say about the impact of caring responsibilities on gender equality. That is something that is often overlooked and it was good to see that it is recognised at a European level.
“Mikael and Martina gave us some insight into how to influence matters at a European level and that was useful for all the groups,” she said.
The local groups who attended the meeting included, The Women’s Centre; Galliagh Women’s Group; Derry City Council; Destined; Hillcrest House; NWCN/PESP; Pink Ladies; and Gingerbread.