I. Parliament Mechanisms for Oversight
1.1. Has parliament created mechanisms to oversee the government’s gender equality commitments? How effective have they been? What are the reasons for their successes and shortcomings, and what could be improved?
This week in Strasbourg we voted on a report which was concerned with gender mainstreaming in the European Parliament. I was happy to be able to support some key parts of this report concerning calling on the Parliament to work on specific measures to promote work life balance. This is crucial if we are to have a staff and politicians who reflect the communities we represent. It is vital that we have mums and dads and men and women with personal commitments on our staff or as elected politicians.
What could be improved? For me, there is one simple thing that would make work life balance immediately better- it is ridiculous that we travel back and forth between Brussels and Strasbourg every month. In case you are not aware: the European Parliament works on two locations: in Brussels (most of the time) and in Strasbourg (4 days in a row every month). I am lucky, my children are a bit older now and I have a supportive husband but I am aware of parents with young children who struggle to meet the demands of moving back and forth between Brussels and Strasbourg.
1.2. To what extent does parliament scrutinize the budget from a gender perspective? Are parliamentarians able to hold government to account for the extent to which expenditure has produced results for women and men?
I'm glad you asked this question. I work across a range of issues in the European Parliament and am particularly active on policy for people with disabilities, men and women, EU citizens and refugees. Gender budgeting is only a small part of making sure that a female perspective is taken into consideration when we make policy. I am cautious about establishing a fixed gender budget- what happens when other groups of people require additional policy interventions? We don't have a disability budget, a black person's budget. If legislators and policy makers are doing their job properly and impact assessments are carried out thoroughly, gender perspectives should be present in all our laws. To refer back to question 1- if we can improve work life balance so that we have more women and more mothers in the European institutions, we get a broader range of individuals working on EU law.
1.3. To what extent does parliament engage with the national reporting process on Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women? Does parliament monitor the executive’s response to recommendations by the CEDAW Committee?
I am not a member of the Women's Rights committee in the European Parliament but I understand that there are monitoring and reporting processes between the European Parliament and UN Women who oversees the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. On a personal note, I work with colleagues on the Women's Rights committee to ensure that we make policies which address "double victimisation"- women who are disabled are vulnerable to violence because of their gender and their disability. This is a big problem and I work closely with expert groups to identify how we can best tackle this.
II. Monitoring of Gender Equality
2. To what extent does parliament monitor the impact of gender equality / non-discrimination legislation after it has been adopted? Do you have concrete examples how this has been done? What is the role of parliament when legislation is not put into practice, or does not have the intended effects?
The European Commission is robust in checking that all 28 member states do transpose and implement EU law that relates to equality and non- discrimination. I'm aware, for example, that the Commission worked with a number of member states to make sure that the Directive on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings was properly implemented. This is something we take very seriously at EU level.
III. MPs Experiences in Oversight Activities
3.1. What can be done to build political will for women and men parliamentarians to engage equally in oversight of gender equality issues?
I'm not sure you necessarily have to have equal numbers of each sex to engage with equality issues. Of course it helps but it's not strictly necessary. I work with colleagues who advocate for members of their regions, no matter who they are. I'm deaf but I don't work just represent deaf people, I represent all people with disabilities. I'm female but I represent men. I'm a mother but I represent those who don't have children.
3.3. How extensively does parliament engage women’s groups outside parliament to support monitoring progress and setbacks with regard to gender equality? What the opportunities to strengthen these partnerships?
Elected politicians as well as advisers and assistants have the opportunity to speak with women's groups. We do this within our own regions and on at an international level. In March 2015, for example, I travelled to Ethiopia with 3 other female colleagues from the ECR Group to meet with female politicians and women's rights groups from all over the world. These meetings mean that we are better informed about what women want from their politicians as well as understanding better the issues that women care about.