Protest sign: "The future is female"

International Women’s Day: 3 EU Mayors fighting for women’s rights

International Women’s Day: 3 EU Mayors fighting for women’s rights

Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Barcelona Ada Colau, and Mayor of Amsterdam Femke Halsema are making invaluable steps towards equality

International Women’s Day (8 March) is the perfect opportunity to pause and reflect on the world we live in. While we must undoubtedly acknowledge and applaud the achievements of women on this day, we must also take a moment to think about their journeys. For this reason, this day is so much more than a celebration.

It is about understanding, admitting, and highlighting that while women have indeed made incredible progress in the fight against inequality, they still have a long way to go. To achieve true equality and put an end to the injustice that still exists, women still fight every single day.

In honour of International Women’s Day, TheMayor.EU looks at 3 initiatives started by women for women. More specifically, we recall the policies, reforms, and ideas of three highly respected and successful mayors: Anne Hidalgo, Ada Colau, and Femke Halsema.

“The first woman to hold the office”

There is one key sentence that unites these three mayors. That is, in the biographies of all three leaders, one can read: “She is the first woman to hold the office.” In itself, this sentence is cause for celebration as these few words are a testament to the progress that has so far been made.

However, even more important than this, is the fact that these three women recognize how much more needs to be done. All three understand that to achieve equality, we must fight for it every single day. Being the first women to hold the highest office in their cities, each of these mayors has made an extraordinary step in the direction of social inclusion and acceptance.

Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo: Women4Climate

Anne Hidalgo was elected Mayor of Paris on 5 April 2014 and she was later re-elected on 3 July 2020. As all political leaders, Hidalgo was tested. In her first term, she witnessed and dealt with the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo shooting and the November 2015 Paris attacks. Like most politicians throughout this past year, Hidalgo also had to oversee the city’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Amidst these challenging tasks and tremendous responsibilities, Hidalgo ensured that she fought for the rights of women. During her time as Chair of C40 Cities, the Mayor of Paris founded Women4Climate in 2017. As the name suggests, this initiative was launched with the aim of supporting and empowering a specific group of people – young women.

On its website, Women4Climate explains that although women make up more than half of the population, their voices are rarely heard. Moreover, it notes that women are more severely impacted by the effects of climate change as traditional gender roles often put them in closer proximity to the consequences of extreme weather.

The reason why women’s voices are rarely heard is, of course, owed to a lack of inclusion and representation when it comes to decision making. Therefore, the aim of Women4Climate is to combat these issues by giving young women all the tools and connections they need to become the next generation of climate heroines.

Mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau: Campaign against gender violence

On 13 June 2015, Ada Colau was elected Mayor of Barcelona. This day holds tremendous significance as it marks the day the city welcomed an all-feminist government. From the very beginning, Colau stated that her government would work to ensure that women are not overlooked or ignored.

According to the City Council’s website, Colau’s strategies “incorporate the gender perspective in every area of politics and society so as to combat the more structural aspects of gender inequality and sexism and overcome the situations of discrimination that still persist in a patriarchal society such as ours [Spain].”

One of Colau’s most notable campaigns was to reduce – and eventually eliminate – sexual aggression and harassment in nightclubs and bars. To achieve this, the campaign sought to train staff at nightlife venues how to spot aggressors and assist victims of sexual harassment.

In addition to this, it ensured that preventative measures were also put in place and followed. These measures included the elimination of sexist door policies and girls-only discounts on alcohol. Staff were also ordered to deny access to those with sexist attitudes and to be wary of darker areas in the venues.

Last but not least, information on sexual harassment and gender violence was also put up inside bars and nightclubs. This information assured women that they not only can but that they also must report assault.

Mayor of Amsterdam, Femke Halsema: Improving the lives of sex workers

Femke Halsema was elected Mayor of Amsterdam on 27 June 2018. Much like Anne Hidalgo and Ada Colau, Halsema is working towards improving the lives of women. More specifically, the Mayor of Amsterdam is seeking to improve the lives of sex workers by reforming the red-light district.

Before Halsema assumed office, she had helped to make prostitution legal. Now, she aims to better the lives of Amsterdam’s sex workers by making changes to one of the capital’s best-known locations. In an interview with The Guardian, Halsema explained that she wanted to emancipate sex workers and accepted prostitution as a legal profession.

However, she claimed that the red-light district must be reformed to protect the women who work there. Times have changed and the district is no longer what it used to be, Halsema explained. While it was once an intimate place, it is now a tourist attraction where crowds of people gather to point, photograph, and laugh at sex workers.

As a woman, I cannot accept this kind of humiliation of women. I cannot accept it. It is against all women’s right and against the idea that we want to empower sex workers,” she stressed.

This year, councillors agreed that the brothel windows would be shut so that the women would no longer have to suffer abuse or humiliation. In addition to this, a new erotic centre will also be set up outside of the city centre, although its location is yet to be determined.

A celebration of strength, courage, and determination

Indeed, we must celebrate how far women have come. We must rejoice at the progress we have made and the strides we have taken. Most of all, however, we must praise those who continue to fight for women every single day.

When we celebrate women like Anne Hidalgo, Ada Colau, and Femke Halsema, we think of the past, the present, and the future. We acknowledge the challenges of the past, we celebrate the triumphs in the present, and we commend the invaluable work they do for our future.

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