Over the years, the Council of Europe's activities to promote the cause of women have taken a number of forms, such as legal measures, mobilising public opinion and training and research.

One of the main threads running through all these activities is the principle that there can be no lasting solution to the social, economic and political problems of society unless women are fully involved in the process.

Women's status, real equality, emancipation, sexually-related violence, the problem of women and disability and human trafficking are just some of the other aspects around which the Council of Europe has developed activities, such as awareness campaigns, all of which are intended to bolster legal equality of the sexes and make it a reality.

In 2009, women made up on average 28.6% of government ministers in Europe and 21.7% of members of parliament. This is slight progress compared with the 19.9% of women ministers in 2005, but there has been no change in their representation in national parliaments. Besides, the figures remain well below the 40% minimum recommended by the Council of Europe.

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Statement by Chair of Committee of Ministers, Luigi Di Maio, Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation
Chair of Committee of Ministers Strasbourg 8 March 2022
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8 March: International Women’s Day

“To mark International Women’s Day, allow me to reaffirm Italy’s firm commitment to protect women’s rights, gender equality and women’s empowerment, and to combat all forms of discrimination and gender-based violence.

The 8th of March represents the annual opportunity to take stock of the progress made in this field, but above all to recognise the challenges that still face us and relaunch our commitment to tackle them. The theme chosen by the United Nations to celebrate the 8th of March this year, “Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow”, underscores the unbreakable link between gender equality and sustainable development. These issues are also the focus of the meeting of United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which is scheduled to open next week in New York and at which Italy will not fail to make a propositional contribution.

In these last 12 months, we have worked to foster a sustainable and inclusive economic recovery and overcome the negative fallout that the Covid-19 pandemic also had in the field of women’s economic empowerment and women’s access to education and training.

In these past few months, in our capacity as rotating President of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, we decided to include the promotion of women’s empowerment and the struggle against gender discrimination among our priorities and we are unrelentingly working to primarily promote the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (better known as the Istanbul Convention), the most advanced international instrument to prevent, combat and punish gender-based violence.

At the same time, we cannot forget that in the last 12 months we have continued to witness crises and conflicts worldwide which have had inevitable repercussions not only on people’s safety but also on the protection of their rights, with especially serious effects on the most vulnerable population segments, including women and girls.

Last summer, the crisis that suddenly broke out in only a few weeks in Afghanistan produced a dangerous setback in the progress made in the preceding two decades in terms of human rights and fundamental liberties, especially the rights of women and girls to access political and economic life, health and education. From the very beginning, Italy resolutely promoted coordinated international action, firstly within the framework of the United Nations and of our Presidency of the G20, in order to avoid nullifying the results achieved in the two decades of the international community’s commitment to foster the rights of Afghan women and girls. Also at national level, the protection of women’s and girls’ rights to empowerment is a commitment that we have transversally incorporated into the initiatives envisaged in the National Plan for Afghan People.

In these past few weeks, the ongoing conflict in Ukraine has shown that we cannot lower our guard, even in the heart of our Europe. The crisis has already had devastating effects on the respect for human rights and women are especially exposed to the enormous risk of suffering violence, abuse and discrimination, including the risk of losing access to education and essential healthcare services. In only a few days, more than 1.7 million people, mostly women and children, have left Ukraine and are now in a condition of serious vulnerability.

In these extremely difficult and distressing times, I would like to express my closeness and solidarity to all Ukrainian women and girls and to all the women who, everywhere in the world, have forcefully voiced their protest for the extremely serious and unjustified military aggression against Ukraine. I look with sincere admiration at your courage and your strength in these dramatic times. Italy will not fail to assure you its utmost support and commitment.”

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... International Women's Day is a public holiday in several European countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Azerbaijan and Armenia?