UN diplomat stresses need to incorporate gender dimension in a renewed negotiating process

The importance of incorporating the gender dimension into a renewed negotiating process aiming to solve the Cyprus problem was highlighted during a discussion on Wednesday, under the title Does the future of Women belong to women? that was hosted at the residence of the Ambassador of France in Cyprus, Rene Troccaz, on the occasion of the International Women’ s Day.

Speakers at the event, moderated by Cyprus’ former EU Commissioner Androulla Vasiliou, were the UNSG’s Special Representative in Cyprus, Elizabeth Spehar, former FM of the Republic of Cyprus Erato Kozakou Marcoullis, Turkish Cypriot lawyer Mine Atli, and member of the Cypriot parliament Annita Demetriou.

In her speech, Spehar said, inter alia, that it would be good to look at additional effective mechanisms that could bring women’s voices and women’s concerns much more concretely into the peace process for a Cyprus settlement.

She noted that because we are in a hiatus right now, there is time to think about this and then with both creativity and political will to make sure that that becomes part of a renewed negotiating process.

Spehar said that in the framework of the negotiations some very important agreements have been made up until now. We have an acquis. We have a body of work that hopefully could be preserved and, in that case, we have to think about how we bring in the gender perspective and women, meaningfully, when you are 78% per cent down the road, she noted.

What kind of a gender perspective have we had at the talks up until now? In my own personal experience, I would say precious little up until the present day, Spehar went on to say, adding that only once in two or so year there was a discussion at the level of the negotiators about the quotas for women, and never made it into a final text.

Moreover, the UN diplomat underlined that we want to see more women involved in the peace process, adding that it is not just how many women are at the table, but it is also where women are placed. Why not at the top? she wondered.

She also remarked that it is obvious in all the chapters of the negotiations that “if we don’t think about what women have experienced in this conflict, and what their aspirations are what their needs are we are going to miss a big part of the picture.”

On her part, Marcoullis said in her speech that if nothing changes in the way major decisions are taken and if no drastic transformations take place challenging the male dominated system, women shall continue to lag behind, preventing the country from benefitting from the talents, skills, ideas and perceptions of half of its population.

She said that “we have the capacity to affect the required changes if we work together on a common goal and a common vision”.

Marcoullis elaborated on a series of measures that need to be taken in order for women to be able to own the future. These measures concern the introduction of legislative quotas for elections, quotas in the Councils of Ministers and quotas in the boards of major companies, universal and publicly funded child care and parental leave, equal pay, elimination of violence against women and girls and womens active participation in the peace process.

Turkish Cypriot lawyer, Mine Atli, said that as Cypriots we are involved in a negotiating process where we are designing our future. It is vital then, that the federal state that we envisage is one that includes concrete measures to eradicate gender injustice, she added.

Only then the future of Cyprus will belong to us, not to us as Turkish Cypriots or as Greek Cypriots, but as Cypriots and not just as women but as human beings, Atli added.

Moreover, she noted that although there are many Turkish Cypriot men who will agree whole heartedly that a solution should guarantee the effective participation and political equality of Turkish Cypriots, when it comes to the effective participation of women and the political equality of women the hefty approval halts.

MP Annita Demetriou said in her speech that women are the present and the future of Cyprus and we must, as a civilized, fair and progressive state take measures to make sure there is no discrimination.

Moreover, she noted that to materialize the title of the event it is essential to unite all women in Cyprus, Greek Cypriots, Turkish Cypriots. Latinos, Maronites and Armenians. To unify all women in Cyprus we have to achieve the reunification of our country. This must be the objective of all Cypriot women and all Cypriot citizens, Demetriou said.

In addition, Demetriou noted, among others, that our focus for the future should be the equal economic independence of women and men, and stressed the need for combating gender-based violence.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, when Turkish troops invaded and occupied 37% of its territory.

Source: Cyprus News Agency