Address by H.E. Dalia Grybauskaitė, President of the Republic of Lithuania, at the EIGE Conference “Equality between women and men, progress, challenges and best practices”
21 June 2010, Vilnius
Distinguished Participants and Guests of the Conference,
It gives me great pleasure to extend a warm welcome to all of you, well-known gender equality advocates and professionals, attending this international conference in Vilnius. I am also delighted to acknowledge the presence the Chair of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality at the European Parliament, Eva-Britt Svensson.
Equality between women and men is a fundamental right and a common value of the European Union. The European Parliament and Council places a special focus on gender equality. For this purpose, a new European institution has been created - the European Institute for Gender Equality - with its seat in Vilnius. I am happy and proud that the best gender equality experts from across Europe will work and share their knowledge here in Lithuania and that their work, both practical and theoretical, will contribute in a major way to our joint efforts towards genuine, not assumed, gender equality.
The European statistics of many years show that there are many still unresolved issues in this field. Every year the European Commission presents a report on equality between women and men, and yet every year the same problems reoccur. Women continue to earn almost 18 percent less than men for every hour worked. This figure remains stable in Europe for many years. Although women represent a majority of students, the employment rate of female university graduates is lower than men's. Women continue to carry a disproportionately large share of household chores. Domestic violence and the risk of poverty, even though they relate to both genders, are higher for women.
It is not by chance that Lithuania became the first country among the Baltic States to host a European agency. Much has been done in Lithuania to achieve equality between women and men, starting with relevant legal aspects, gender mainstreaming, and ending with specific measures to improve the actual situation of women.
We already have visible results. Women's employment has increased over the past several years and some data show that it has exceeded that for men. The gap between salaries earned by men and women for the same work has narrowed considerably.
In Lithuania, women are better represented than men among bachelor's, master's and doctorate graduates. They are active in state building and governance, and their involvement in business and public life has deepened and broadened.
These are most welcome developments, but we will yet have to make a lot of effort to translate positive tendencies into a standard of Lithuanian and EU life. I invite non-governmental organizations working in human rights, education, employment, health care, and other fields to engage even more actively in our joint action. Only comprehensive solutions will produce the results we seek and value.
I wish the conference participants fruitful discussions, creative and concrete ideas and projects.
The best of success to you all!