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Press briefing by President of the Government of Spain at event to celebrate International Women's Day

Madrid, Monday 8 March 2021

Dear Irene, dear minister, dear government delegates, State secretary and director-general, I wanted to begin by congratulating you on the celebration of 8 March, which also applies, as mentioned by the Minister for Equality, to all the female workers at the Ministry of Equality. And also to all the female journalists who will allow us to convey such an important message at such an emblematic event for Spanish democracy as the one being held here today by the Ministry of Equality, the Government of Spain, in favour of all female workers; in favour, in short, of International Women's Day on 8 March.

113 years ago today, 129 women died in a fire in a cotton factory in New York fighting for equality. Those 129 women was calling for a reduction in the working day to 10 hours, for their wage to be the same as for men for doing the same activity and for an improvement in their tough working conditions.

What is clear, dear minister, dear friends, is that the feminist struggle has achieved a host of achievements since then. But the world for a great many women remains that cotton factory in 1908, as we have borne witness to in the videos that you have produced at the Ministry of Equality.

The reasons why those women lost their lives are the reasons why we are here today. Today is 8 March - the day of the working woman. Hence, it is the day of the free woman. But the fight, the celebration of and the reasons behind this force of change that feminism represents have no date and exist each day this year, next year and the year after, and so on, and they must be the reason for the fight for and celebration of feminism, which is a movement that calls on all of us, men and women alike, to search for equality. And in this regard, dear minister, as Irene would say, my voice as President of the Government of Spain, of a progressive coalition government, which defines itself as a feminist government and also, if you will allow me, as a citizen, who is here to join in the clamour in the struggle for equality, in the emotion of a cause that is fair, which is the cause of feminism.

Feminism is a group struggle, not just a fight by women, but a fight by and for women, which must be a struggle we all take on, particularly all men. There can be no doubts about this. We are talking about human rights in this struggle; moreover, no-one is surplus to requirements. Every man and woman is welcome.

Societies will only improve with feminism, along with systems and ways of life, as we have borne witness to here, because this great transformation, which is necessary, which is inescapable, which is pressing, which is imperative, is the only way possible towards a fair future and a better future.

My voice, my words, dear minister, are here to unreservedly sign up, unreservedly and unwaveringly in the fight against privilege, against all forms of privilege, but above all, against those privileges which are sometimes invisibly disguised as a lack of opportunities that men have over women in our societies. These privileges are a scourge that only cause violence, inequality and injustice. And we must all, men and women alike, be aware that in this great transformation, in this movement for equality that feminism represents, in this century of women, because the 21st Century is the century of women, there is no alternative or any halfway.

Article 1 of the Declaration of the Universal Rights of Man states that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and in rights. This mandate calls on all of us, men and women alike, on all people, on institutions, on the almost 200 countries that make up the United Nations. On the 27 Member States of the European Union, and hence on the Government of Spain and on all our public authorities, from the smallest local council in our country to the Government of Spain. That is why, as I said before, this progressive coalition government is a feminist government, because we are aware that a debt and a challenge exist, however democratic we may be. Which is that half of our society has their liberty cut back or taken away, their equality, their dignity for the simple fact of being women. Chauvinism, as the Minister for Equality said before, is a structural inequality that demands resounding and cross-cutting measures in all areas and in all the resources, or better put, with all the resources available.

And in this regard, it is clear that our government action also coincides with the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda, with the equality strategies of the European Union. We are, and I want to hail this, the first government that integrates the gender equality perspective in our political agenda.

Gender equality is one of the four major transformations we are pushing through, along with digitalisation, the ecological transition, and social and territorial cohesion.

It has its own institution, of course, which is why a Ministry of Equality was expressly set up, but this also permeates all the other transformations and public initiatives we are heading up from each and every department of the Government of Spain.

It is not only defined by equality laws and measures on equality, but also in economic policies, environmental and education policies, as the Minister for Equality said before, in each and every public policy action approved by the Council of Ministers, where the gender perspective is always present.

And these are not just words. Just look at the facts. We can talk about the commitments we have upheld. We can talk about measures and resources, as the Minister for Equality said before. The National Budget for 2021 is the first ever budget with a gender perspective. The Economic Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan, as you know, that this vehicle represents, will channel 140 billion euros to transform and create opportunities and prosperity in our country, and identify gender equality as one of the priority lines of action. We have recovered the Ministry of Equality.

We have allocated a record item of 403 million euros to this, with a 157% increase on the previous Budget.

We have taken a giant leap in institutional parity. We have three female vice-presidents of the government, eight female ministers, so this government has parity, as half of its members are women. The Upper and Lower Houses of Parliament are headed up by women. Our Parliament is one of the parliaments with the greatest parity in the world. For the first time, a women heads up the centenary organisation that is the Guardia Civil.

We have approved the Third Central Government Gender Equality Plan and we could give a long list of things that this progressive coalition government has pushed through in mid-pandemic.

We have also sought to strengthen and set up very important equality bodies for the feminism movement, as the minister is well aware. There you have the Women's Institute, the Government Delegation to Combat Gender-based Violence, the State Secretariat for Equality, the Observatory for Women in Science and Innovation, which is so important in this digitalisation transformation we are suffering from, the Gender Equality Observatory in Culture, the Ambassador on Special Mission for Gender Equality and a long list more. These are not only policies, but also institutional tools we are designing and that we aspire to maintain over the course of the coming years.

At a time of health, economic and social crisis, as we have seen referred to in the videos, and we will all remember this, in just a few days we will celebrate, to put it that way, the anniversary of the approval of the state of emergency, during which time we have become aware that the gender gap has become wider than ever. The minister and I have spoken a great deal about this, we have spoken a great deal about this at the Council of Ministers, when we have had to take some very tough decisions, such as telling our people that they had to stay at home precisely to protect public health and the lives of our fellow countrymen, of the men and women of our country. And we had it very clear that by speaking of a lockdown we had to pay close attention to those women who are victims of gender-based violence. Today there has been a new case which I was told about by my colleagues just before arriving here. A new case of gender-based violence; fortunately, the women has survived thanks to the support and solidarity of her neighbours who witnessed this attack. And in these circumstances, the response can only be to precisely speed up the feminist agenda. I believe it is very important to underline this, minster, as you did in your speech, and approve laws and pass initiatives that resolve the problems of the structural funds, and also pressing, and not just urgent, problems; the pressing problems, in short, the real problems facing women in our country.

That is why we have pushed through such an important royal decree as the one on equal pay between men and women, because the wage gap remains one of the main injustices suffered by 51% of Spanish society - women.

We have brought paternity and maternity leave in line, which in 2021 amounts to 16 weeks, with an investment of some 300 million euros. This is so important, precisely to guarantee these equal opportunities between men and women at work.

We have raised the minimum wage over the course of these last three years like no other peer country. And this has meant that six in every ten women have been able to recover their purchasing power, which had been lost over the previous years under a conservative government.

We have allocated 200 million euros to the Co-responsibility Plan, which will be approved tomorrow at the Council of Ministers, with the aim of facilitating a balance for families with children under the age of 14.

We have approved the Minimum Living Income, which women primarily benefit from. This is also a resounding message to send out against one of the main forms of poverty that shames us as a society, which is the childhood poverty of boys and girls.

We are fostering equal treatment and opportunities at work with the Remote Working Act and with the regularisation of some 15,000 domestic workers.

And as regards male violence, we have strengthened the State Pact against Gender-based Violence and have provided regional governments with additional financing to implement this at a regional and local level.

Because these public authorities are very important in combating and preventing gender-based violence.

We have also introduced a specific gender-based violence SOS button to the AlertCops application of the police, and a new Education Act - the LOMLOE -a commitment to a model of inclusive, non-sexist, personalised, skill-based, sustainable and digitalised education, which emphasises the promotion of scientific and technological professions for girls and the young people in our country, which remains one of the main challenges we face.

In short, what I want to say by this is that we are working, we are making progress, that words are clearly necessary, because the cause of feminism pushes on through the power of persuasion, but these words also clearly need to be followed by actions. And this is a government that, in mid-pandemic, has not given ground or slowed down, but, on the contrary, it has stepped up the fight for real and effective equality between men and women. This is a government for which equality, as well as words and messages, also means action. I repeat this, equality means action. We believe in action and are working to this end.

Minister, friends gathered here, through the Government of Spain and specifically the Ministry of Equality, the public institutions, associations, education centres, workplaces and homes, our country is making unstoppable progress and it is doing so towards real and effective equality between men and women, And this is not a message of complacency; it is a message vindicating everything that we have done over the course of these long and intense months of the pandemic; Minister Montero is well aware of this, but, above all, of vindicating everything that we are going to do. We know that there is a great deal of work still to be done.

If there is something we must not fail in, if there is something where we must elevate our perspective and break down traditional structures, the prejudices that still survive then it is in the feminist struggle, because everything is at stake in this struggle. That is what I believe. Progress is at stake, our decency as a country and even economic growth.

Women suffer from multiple forms of discrimination that have been referred to by the speakers here who have preceded me. On top of gender discrimination, many other forms of discrimination exist regarding skin colour, socio-economic situation, age, sexual orientation, disability, a long list… That is why feminism cross-cuts everything; that is why it forges fairer societies for everyone, because equality does away with imbalances.

This fight, which is a transforming fight, focuses on the economy of tasks, because we cannot aspire to an equal world, as we saw, for example, in one of the videos where it seems that this inequality in the co-responsibility of housework, of family tasks is a daily event. Well no, domestic tasks cannot be left for women alone.

This transforming task also focuses on violence, because the times are over in which the violence women were subjected to for being women - physical, psychological and sexual violence - can be hidden behind a wall of silence and impunity. That is why, minister, I am convinced that we will very shortly be able to definitively approve this law whereby "yes means yes", but only when that is true.

And this transforming fight, moreover, also focuses on racism, on homophobia, on transphobia, on the exploitation and oppression of gender, on the structural poverty that millions and millions of women suffer from because they don't have the same opportunities as men.

This feminist fight, which is a transforming fight, must be unstoppable and we must also unreservedly support it, because it is our fight. This is for all men and women. We must unite our voices in this clamour and we must also do this in a unanimous and firm fashion, because there is not just still a long way to go and a great many men and women waiting expectantly for us to make progress, but there are also those who wish to turn us back down that part of the path we have already travelled.

Look, the crisis caused by COVID-19 has once again shown us, as we have been told, that the crisis falls much more heavily and violently on women. The gaps have become wider, the inequalities that already existed prior to the emergency caused by this health, economic and social crisis have grown even more.

And furthermore, we must not forget another terrible threat, which is the re-emergence of the far-right with its discourse of hatred and stark chauvinism. The far-right is not a force of resistance to feminism, but a force to turn it back.

It is not limited to stopping progress; it proposes a complete volte-face, back to the times of the inferiority of women, to the times of submission to fathers, husbands and bosses. The far-right feels nostalgia for times in which it was within the grasp of men to do and undo, at their whim, the lives of women. And women were at their disposition as if they were a free service, as if they were subordinates, as if they were an object of sexual pleasure.

Look, we are about to celebrate the 20th anniversary in just a few days of the day on which a young local councillor in the city of Ponferrada appeared before the media, we all remember this and dared to publicly report the repugnant harassment she had been subjected to by her boss. And in thinking about this documentary given over to Nevenka that has just come out, we are helping in this fight and against the absolute power of her harasser, in this fight against the complicity of her colleagues in the municipal team, in her fight against the prejudices of many neighbours and even in her fight against the Public Prosecutor's Office, which attacked the victim and not the criminal.

Spanish society has managed to change a great deal in these last two decades; just watch the series to confirm this. But there are still far too many women that have to put up with harassment in the workplace. There are still too many women who are relegated in their profession for the mere fact of being women. There are still too many women who cross the street at night afraid and there are still too many women who start to shake when their partners raise their voice.

The causes of all these women are the causes of this progressive coalition government, and I would even dare to say of a growing majority of Spanish society, and the injustice they suffer form is so shameful that we can only eradicate it with the unity of everyone. That is why the feminist flag is the flag of unity, above anything else.

Our decisive message on this 8 March is to protect and progress, because we must make progress and also defend what has been achieved. And, by the way, the best way to protect the rights achieved is to win new rights.

The way not to go backwards is by resisting and continuing to push forward. So, we are not going to take any steps backwards; quite the opposite, we are going to take a great many steps forward in this term of office, from now until 2023, complying with our agenda, ignoring the background noise, unity by action, because here, in this government, equality, as I said before, is a given fact.

Let's do this for a great many women who have gone before us, who the Minister for Equality, Minister Montero, mentioned before. Let's do this for Berta Cáceres - the environmental activist from Honduras - who was murdered at the hands of a paid killer. Let's do this for the young Malala, who the Taliban tried to kill for wanting to study, but who is now a Nobel Prize Winner. Let's do this for the 129 women who died in the fire in the cotton factory. Let's do this for Mari Carmen - the latest woman murdered by gender-based violence just a week ago in Torrejón de Ardoz.

For all of them, for the millions of women who suffer from any form of discrimination, oppression or humiliation. For all of them, for all these women, let's keep our voices raised and call for more feminism than ever before, because there is no other future than equality between men and women. There's no greater victory than real and effective equality between men and women, between human beings.

We are inspired by young people from all around the world, who head up the movements against the climate emergency that we saw every Friday, demonstrating in cities all around the world. We are inspired by the women in white taking to the streets in the East and calling for democracy and liberty in their countries. We are inspired by the young people who head up Black Lives Matter in the West and the women who walk to work to run small businesses in rural Spain, and by female scientists who photograph black holes in outer space. We are inspired by women who have taken over the baton from many other women who paved the way, as Minister Montero mentioned before: Clara Campoamor, Rosa Parks, Dolores Ibárruri, Angela Davis, Marsha Pete Johnson, Domitila Barrios, and the list goes on.

We are here making our claim today for all of them and for all women and we do this with joy on this 8 March. For all of them and for the whole of society we will continue to work for a world free of chauvinism. And in this just purpose we must all get involved, men and women alike, particularly men because women are inherently involved.

I will conclude by thanking the Ministry of Equality and, above all, the Minister for Equality, Irene Montero, for this emblematic and touching event and also for her work heading up this very important ministerial department for our democracy. Because this is the Spain we want, at the end of the day, a Spain that has a feminist democracy and that leaves no woman behind.

Thank you very much minister, and thank you all very much.

(Transcript edited by the State Secretariat for Communication)

Non official translation