In a lecture addressed yesterday as part of the Mary McAleese Women in Leadership Lecture Series at Dublin City University, President of Malta, H.E. Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca, highlighted the importance of gender equality, women in leadership, and the participation of youth in political life.
In her address, the President said “Professor McAleese and myself are in a small minority of women who have experienced the life of being a President of a European country. Although we come from different regions of Europe, I am convinced that we have both faced similar experiences due to the fact that we are women, in a role that has been traditionally perceived to be for men.”
The President urged the importance of youth participation in political life, of both young girls and boys, to help combat negative gender stereotypism, and to provide positive and relevant perspectives for an ever-changing world.
Gender equality was also at the heart of her address. “If we do not recognise the rights of women, especially women who are experiencing discrimination, oppression, and injustices, there cannot be a serious commitment to human dignity and wellbeing,” said the President. “It is evident that we are at a most precarious period of time in the history of our planet. Environmental degradation, social tensions, and violent conflicts are threatening our world, and are becoming the order of the day.”
For this reason, she stressed the urgent need “to empower our girls and our boys, to be activists, for the much needed positive change in our societies. We need our girls and women to equally join forces with men and boys, in the leadership of our communities and societies.”
President Coleiro Preca said achieving gender equality is a solid commitment made by all governments in 2015 to implement the UN’s Agenda 2030 and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG number 5, which talks about the importance of gender equality, equity, and empowerment, and a sustainable investment in the potential of all children.
“Unfortunately, even in the European Union, there are unacceptable disparities between women and men,” she said, adding that although women have the legislative rights to equality, empowerment, and safety, for many women in the EU, these rights have not yet been translated into practical improvements in their daily lives.
In order to address gender discrimination and the many concerns tied to it, President Coleiro Preca believes there’s a need to “first of all, overcome dangerous and discriminatory mentalities, while also working harder to encourage and support young women to believe in themselves, and to take up leadership roles.” She said. “We need to do more to change underlying prejudice and attitudes, within our families, communities, and society.”