Why this story matters:
This year's Women's Day took place under particular circumstances. The "Women's Advocacy 2.0" referendum will be launched soon and, although it has already collected more than 200,000 declarations of support, the Minister for Women herself has announced that she will not sign it. Nor will her government colleagues.
Her declarations have inspired both protests and constructive acitivism. It seems that the more the government abstains from action, the more involved citizens become.
At the moment, strong civil engagement can be observed across Europe and, in a bittersweet way, it is one of the few positive outcomes of the current wave of populism.
Whenever governments are lacking in some regard -- be it with respect for democracy, institutional transparency, integration politics or women's rights -- citizens have been stepping in. The Austrian government may have let us down, but the Austrian people have not.
Details from the story:
- Some demands of the "Women's Advocacy 2.0" petition: addressing sexism in the representation of women in media and culture, poverty reduction, 30-hour work weeks, gender quotas and full-time free childcare after maternity leave.
- The Federal Minister for Women, Families and Youth, Juliane Bogner-Strauß of the ÖVP, wants to keep the ministry's budget around 10 million euros.
- Her focus is mostly on the family agenda -- she has proposed the so-called "family bonus" (tax cuts for families). The fight against domestic violence is also a key issue for her.
- Although she considers the women's petition important, Bogner-Strauß refuses to sign it. She is against the 30-hour work week and rejects a rigid gender quota, claiming that "it is exaggerated due to industry differences." As for other matters, such as the right to free childcare, she advocates moderate progress.
- When it comes to closing the income gap, she proposes the standardization of compulsory income reports. She is also convinced that if women were made aware of these reports, they would benefit in salary negotiations.