#halfofit – We demand half of the Corona funds for women

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Since the Coronavirus crisis has hit, women across Europe are sustaining our society working in hospitals, childcare and supermarkets, their hard work was appreciated with applause on the balconies and public declarations, but they are still dramatically underpaid.  Women are now losing their jobs at a much faster rate than men. Many of them work in “client-facing sectors” – tourism, events, hotels, restaurants, retail trade, different forms of therapy and many others which have been particularly affected by the crisis.
In March, almost five times as many women had lost their jobs than men. On top of this, women carry out the bulk of the additional unpaid work arising from closed schools and childcare facilities, sick family members and closed canteens. In Germany, it was calculated that parents spend three hours a day homeschooling their children. In 82% of the cases “parents” meant mothers. Due to this extra amount of extra work in the home, women hardly have time to participate in the public debate anymore. An article published in the journal “Nature” and some early academic studies (4) during the COVID lockdown showed that during the Corona crisis female academics submitted only half of the research papers  to scientific journals compared to the previous period in 2019. Male colleagues submitted more compared to the same period in 2019. Women have less time than ever to invest in their careers  – while rising unemployment leaves companies ample choice in hiring among men. This will make women’s advancement to the higher echelons of decision-making even more difficult.
The Coronavirus crisis is turning into an enormous crisis for women’s income, life-long earnings, pensions, overall participation and power in society. Now is the time to turn this moment into an opportunity for the advancement of gender equality.
The European Commission and the European Council are developing a 500 billion  euro Recovery and Resilience Instrument. We support the Franco-German initiative for the planned EU reconstruction fund and wish it broad approval. This investment plan to relaunch and modernize the economy, with a priority on the digital and green transition, will shape Europe’s future by combating climate change and ushering in the green and digital transformation. This is an an absolute priority which we share, but there is on caveat: the digital and the energy sector are known to be male-dominated. Without additional measures, this economic stimulus instrument will not offer jobs for the women who are losing them – but for men. This could could turn into a redistribution programme of jobs and income being transferred from women to men. And thereby an instrument which will increase the impoverishment of women, funded by European taxpayers – half of whom are women. This is an example of unintended consequences which arise when the gender equality perspective is not involved applied at the onset of budgetary and recovery stimulus plans.

We invite you to sign and share a petition run by Alexandra Geese, Member of the European Parliament, Greens/EFA. The petition urges the European Commission and the European Council to make sure that at least half of the volume of the Recovery and Resilience Instrument is spent on women’s jobs and the advancement of women’s rights as well as equality between women and men.

Petition text

We urge the European Commission and the European Council to make sure that at least half of the volume of the Recovery and Resilience Instrument is spent on women’s jobs and the advancement of women’s rights as well as equality between women and men. It is the European institutions’ task to ensure the implementation of Art. 23 of the European Charta of Fundamental Rights: “Equality between women and men must be ensured in all areas, including employment, work and pay”.  We ask them to act in line with the European Commission Gender Equality Strategy adopted in March 2020.
We call for: 

  • Gender impact assessments and gender budgeting for all funds spent in the framework of the Recovery and Resilience Instrument
  • Investment in the care economy, developing resilient childcare services and schools that allow all parents to maintain paid jobs and a healthy life balance.
  • Development of care services from a life-cycle perspective: a Care Deal for Europe and a European project for gender-disaggregated statistics of unpaid and paid work as a basis for a new calculation of GDP
  • Obligations for companies receiving state aid or subsidies from the Recovery and Resilience Instrument to document that these funds will equally benefit employees of all genders; and especially those that have a low share of female employees and managers to hire and promote women respecting minimum quotas at management level
  •  A special fund dedicated to female-led businesses

Yellow Month

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One month a year
Scotland turns yellow.
In hedgerows,
gorse’s delicate mustard
petals, curtain-off
its evergreen thorny skeleton.
Around Tayside, the broom
sits next to the gorse,
its long-stems are dappled
with lemony coloured buds.
Upon the hill,
rapeseed swirls into
a golden canvas painted
with a farmer’s palate knife.
On my street,
the golden tree rains
butterfly blossoms,
dangling like a dew-drops.
In the gardens, and verges, and parks
patches of tulips and daffodils and dandelions
form a quilt of bright yellow.
Last year was spent behind
bus shelters, office frontages,
behind classroom windows.
Tinted green, blue, and grey,
erasing the away the yellow.
This year, I am free
to open the sash
to let in the month of yellow.

Lyric poem by Rachel Marsh, Creative Writing Teacher
Vice – President Graduated Women Scotland East

Reporter from the Romanian Lockdown Front

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As I write this, sometime near the end of April 2020, the hardest part of the coronavirus adventure is over. It’s been a tough two-month lockdown in Bucharest, Romania, and if you were to ask me more on what it really feels like, I would have a hard time finding the right answer. Life in self isolation, working from home, limiting real face to face interactions, drowning in the limited routine of each identical and symmetrical lump of 24 hours melts days into each other until you no longer recall anything except just a long, dull time that lasted from Day 1 till the final.

I am a visual artist and an entrepreneur and while the artistic part of me can be very happy all by itself, painting and figuring out colours, shapes and sometimes future projects, the entrepreneur needs constant and real feedback, meeting real people, doing things and getting things done.  It was not much I could do for my inner entrepreneur, so I took the liberty to dedicate the lockdown to my artistic projects.

When the crisis happened I was on the verge of setting down the last details for a prospected May 2020 exhibition, and as days passed on and more and more worrying news appeared I realized the May exhibition was not going to happen at all. I chose to pick up the works and store them somewhere so I didn’t see them anymore. It was not meant to be, I said to myself, and since I am a go with flow kind of person I moved on. Everything I wanted to express with my May exhibition suddenly felt out of place, no longer fitting me and certainly not fitting what happened around. I felt it was the right time to start a new project, this one entirely dedicated to the Corona pandemic: daily drawings to express the most notable feeling of the day, be it hope, sadness, plain old boredom or fear. Because the unhappiness of the present moment shall pass and since the routine of the isolation bears nothing remarkable in itself, its only vivid remains will be the fleeting memories of my emotions. I wanted to capture this and I did it.

It is my way to change a negative experience in something positive and full of hope. I am an eternal optimist and I believe in making things happen.

As a woman artist and as a woman entrepreneur, I have long learned that the only way to succeed is to adapt and see the positive in anything. I did find the positive in all this dreadful experience: I reconnected to my art, my family and close friends and once this is over, through my works, I will connect to other people, people who for the time being cannot be reached and live as isolated as I live, in their homes, with their thoughts, their hopes and anxieties.

Roxana Donaldson Cirtu
CER University Women Romania



Artists under lockdown in Austria

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Ans Wabl with Pistoletto in Citadelarte

During the lockdown caused by the pandemic, all of us experience things, which bring us to our limits. We must keep distance and long to be close. We cannot embrace our beloved ones to our hearts. In times like these, there are many moments, which jeopardise our rhythm. Our Umbrella Organisation of the Austrian Federation of University Women finds itself in a new period. The new Board has been elected and we are excited as to when the constituent assembly can take place. Yes, we are also tense.

Is the feeling of being powerless the worst thing? Through a Google alert I have learnt that the artist Michelangelo Pistoletto, 86 years old, is recovering from a Corona infection. I am appointed ambassador of the Third Paradise, a symbol created by Pistoletto, which is being realised all over the world. Knowing that earth does not forget, the artist sees himself in a big social responsibility. I felt so powerless when I put a few words of sympathy into a WhatsApp message. I was doubting. The crisis leaves its mark, does it maybe even take words? At the very same moment I received a friendly e-mail invitation from our CER to write for the UWE blog. I was happy, of course cautious, already being used to withhold my emotions. When I received a personal response from Cittadellarte, Pistoletto’s art city in Piedmont, where I travelled three times in the course of my scientific work, I was certain again. The performative power of thoughts is something to rely on. I do so. With words, we move towards each other.

Ans Wabl
President VAÖ Styria

Maria-Luise Öhl VAÖ – Vienn

I am a doctor of general medicine in private practice. I used to work in the public health system but am now retired and, because of my age, I belong to a high-risk group. That means I cannot stand in for other doctors, nor can I help out at the Red Cross. My activities as a doctor are currently limited to weekly or fortnightly calls on a few patients who are all over 90 and living at home. Between these calls I, too, am spending my days at home, with my activities limited to what is absolutely necessary. At the moment I cannot imagine that we will ever again be able to go to the theatre or to travel or welcome our children and grandchildren to our homes, without some concern. At home, I have long since done the tidying up and dusting, but nobody comes to visit and the dust settles again and again.




Coronavirus-inspired artwork by Dr. Maria-Luise Öhl, Chair of the Austrian Doctor‘s Art Association, text in English by Natalie Öhl



New normal

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I feel delighted, with some degree of trepidation, to be able to reach out to members and friends. Since the last month the normal day to day life has gone upside down to say the least. Few normal activities have gone and new ones grown, it is a crisis that has been faced by each and every person in their own way. I would like to share and reach out with positive solidarity my experiences in the last month.

A big section of my daily routine was working as a dentist that has stopped completely due to high risk of airborne infection, with a job that relies on face to face proximity working. Moving to advice over the phone is not the same I can assure you; at its best very frustrating. The profession has produced strict regulations accordingly. I found myself involved in more than one society and professional forum to try and find the best way forward. I am part of the continuous professional discussion, looking at evidence coming from national and international sources to assess how to provide emergency care locally. Having the experience of fit testing to the highly sought after FFP3 masks is quite an eye opener, it was part of volunteering to be in the emergency local hub. I do believe that going back to work will have a new normal with added layers of more definitive PPE.

Communication with the board of UWE has been more frequent, bouncing between formal and informal, that reflected on how we reach out to each other on a personal and formal level. The expanding virtual world that we live in has grown exponentially in the last month. My local Canterbury (CAWG) group has stopped meeting; I was not able to see any of them but social distancing worked to reduce or flatten the curve that we all are eager to watch on a daily basis. New normal came with new words like Zoom, Teams and Skype. I am sure once we get back to work there will be more….. I was fortunate to expand my virtual friends network, and reached out to wider European and International links; while with family and close friends, I lost the joyful social outings replaced by face time and house party! I sensed the worry in the voice of the more vulnerable sections of our society, it made me more focused on social distancing.

With reaching out to new horizons for me I joined a wider group to listen & participate in a monthly NGO Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) meeting from New York done through ZOOM (this important new word) to discuss Covid -19 and Feminist action.

The chairwoman Houry Geudelekian welcomed 284 participants. I had to scroll through the participants to see if I recognised any and to my delight Catriona Sutherland from Graduate Women Scotland was in that list. Houry reassured participants that the work continues even with lock down, namely Beijing +25. Her vice president Ivy Koek followed by introducing the speakers. The range was global, impressive and all with current work that helps in solidarity. To summarise I shall mention some with brief indication to what they discussed:

Vivek Rai UN liaison reported on rise in violence against women and the need to stay in contact with marginalized communities who might find it difficult to access a virtual space to get the support.

Marianna Leite on behalf of the alliance for gender justice emphasized the care for each other even if we don’t know them and this is so vital during this period at all levels.

Tesa Arzqueta delivered an impressive take on the response in NY city against domestic violence and the importance of what they created as a one stop shop walk in center for family justice. A question to our leaders is how much of this model is available in other cities.

Bridget Burnes (University Innovation Alliance) spoke about feminist alliances around the world and keeping the momentum going will be significant in our new normal.

Last but not least Anushka Kalyanpur, a graduate of the very first course on rapid gender analysis, gave statistics on the increase in unpaid care roles for women. Her work gave solid facts about current reduction in health care in relation to access for sexual reproduction, and the global awareness of the increase in violence against women.

The gain and the loss of this period will make up my new normal.


Aisha Alshawaf

Vice president University Women of Europe


A letter from Israel

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Who would have thought three months ago that the world could change so much. What a difficult time we are all going through.

In Israel the pandemic is relatively contained. We would do better by isolating retirement homes and have a better check on arriving passengers. Hopefully closing down the country so much will not paralyze the economy. Fortunately, in Israel most of the population respect the rules and carry out daily living according to the Corona instructions of the government.There is a considerable amount of voluntary help in the country. Voluntary workers distribute food and medication to the elderly and the needy. Some of these people also receive regular phone calls from volunteers to give them the feeling of being cared for and not forgotten. The hospitals have made it possible for family of Corona patients to be given protective garments that allows them to visit their sick relatives. Families being isolated has resulted in an increase of domestic violence here and all over the world. In some countries the violence is even doubled.

My husband and I are “socially isolated” at home. I read a lot, listen to music and watch lectures, operas and concerts. Thanks to my daughter in law I paint owls for the front office of the place where she works. To feel in my time I started an online course in calligraphy painting. I draw and enjoy my garden. I miss meeting with my dear friends. However, most of all, I miss meeting my family, children and grandchildren, we contact them using Zoom video conference. I continue to be in touch with my special dear UWE friends from Iceland, the Netherlands, Romania, France and more.I am sorry that there is a hold in strengthening and consolidating our relationship and cooperation because of the pandemic. At the that time that we signed the MOU, we thought it would help us to promote and develop women for higher position in society and equality in life.

Hopefully in the near future we will be able to meet and continue the fruitful cooperation and enjoy being together.

Thinking of you and wishing you all the best. Look after yourself.



Ora Sharon

Deputy President 

Israel Association of University Women

Free Online Training Course on the European Convention on Human Rights

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The Council of Europe has launched an updated version of its free online “Introduction to the European Convention on Human Rights”, a 5-hour interactive training course aimed at legal professionals, public authorities, civil society and students.

“Europe has the strongest system of international human rights protection anywhere in the world, thanks to the European Convention on Human Rights. For the system to fulfil its potential, we need lawyers, judges, government officials, NGOs and other professionals across Europe to learn how it functions and to use that knowledge in their daily work,” said Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić.

The updated course is part of the Council of Europe’s extensive HELP programme of Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals.

It contains modules on the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights and – for the first time – the execution of judgments from the Strasbourg court, which is essential in helping to raise human rights standards.

An initial version of the course was developed in 2016 and is now available in 17 different languages.

It has so far been followed by over 5,700 professionals and has also been included in training curricula at judiciary schools in various countries including Spain and the Republic of Moldova.

The updated course is now available in English, with several other language versions due to be released in the coming months.

The course has been partly produced with the financial support of the European Union, as part of the EU/Council of Europe “Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey II”.

The latest annual report on the execution of judgments from the European Court of Human Rights is due to be published on Wednesday 1 April.

Useful links:

Never waste a good crisis

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It’s only because the calendar tells me that it is almost the weekend that I realize the working week is over. It seems my days are all the same. I am sitting in my office overlooking my roof top garden and watch it change slowly. I see the white daffodils and then it is the pink clematis turn to bloom while the palm tree shakes in the wind. The Oleander is starting to bloom and will be white. I don’t remember ever having such an eye for the details in the small garden but since the “intelligent” lockdown ,as our prime minister calls it, I have ample opportunity to care for and observe my roof top garden. Life is slowing down and sometimes I fear it will not be long before I will give in and start to have naps in the afternoon to break the day. It reminds me of my time in Afghanistan when I was cooped up for long periods of time. Every time there was imminent danger be it from earthquakes or attacks from the Taliban the work came to a full stop. Now the culprit is a virus and any human can be a deadly vessel for the virus. Mind blowing. The upside here is ,of course, that I am with my family and the internet streaming opera, concerts, musicals and courses. I did a philosophy course on Coursera with no costs involved and I try to do yoga each day. I still haven’t touched the rowing machine… but who knows.

Being an extrovert I need to talk to people to maintain my energy levels up. So I was happy to answer the emergency call of a team in distress at work. Wonderful – I can meet people even travel to meet them. Next step is to analyse where it went wrong and more importantly advise on what steps to take to start the teamwork flowing. Cooperating is extremely difficult in “normal’ times but under stress of the lockdown we have less distractions. Email and chat can easily lead to misunderstandings and conflicts as we all know. The report will be done next week so I will be eagerly awaiting the next team in crisis. For my sake of course, not for the team!

Meantime I am happy to have a virtual drink with my friends in Ireland and Scotland, chat with Israel and have Skype dates with Romania. I am looking forward to having more of those meetings. Even though the world, as we know it, has changed UWE has still made it possible to have friends all over the globe. It is a wonderful Idea of the UWE Board to ask us to write about our weeks at home and I am looking forward to reading all the stories.

Indeed, let us keep in touch and support one another now and in the near future. When the economic crisis really hits us, as we saw in 2008, it is women that suffer the most. They will suffer not only financially but in several countries the rights of women are being trampled on and it is being done almost overnight and all in the name of the crisis. So let’s stick together, cooperate and invest in turning the crisis into positive change for all. As the saying goes:I never waste a good crisis. Stay vigilant and let us use our contacts to influence the new rules and regulations that are bound to appear after a cure is found for the virus; and make sure women’s rights are respected!

Stay safe, stay healthy all of you!


Edith Lommerse

former president UWE


We are living through history!

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The little we knew about what laid ahead for the Year 2020 when we wished Happy New Year. The Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak has been devastating, globally. With the casualties rising against an invisible enemy, war-chest opening, worrying press conferences, small businesses shuttering, and an over-extended health service, there has not been a positive news to come out of the pandemic, naturally!

There are many negatives of the current situation but looking at the positives, this shall pass soon. While practicing ‘social distancing’ we may feel stuck at home, but we are safe at home. We might feel bored or sad because we can’t see our family and friends, but the best things come from having the time and space to think and be creative. The future generation will study the time of Covid-19, learn how rainbows were a sign of hope and hear how everyone came together to cheer and clap for the amazing people who saved lives to keep the country going. A time where the world slowed down, polluted skies cleared, and animals reclaimed the spaces. A time when families spent time among themselves, met friends on screen, treasured their one-walk a day and got to know their neighbours. When schooling went online, parents became teachers and the world went a bit crazy to stockpile essentials! We are a part of history, so shall we create a time capsule?

If nothing ever changed, there’d be no butterflies! I am concerned and worried for the difficult and unprecedented times we all are facing. But, at the same time it has given me an opportunity to reflect and enjoy this unique time. A life-time opportunity, if I say so, we get once in 100 years! I am treasuring the 24/7 time with my girls and loving husband: be it home schooling, watching movies together, fun-dancing, living-room workouts with nations favourite online PE teacher, clapping for NHS every Thursday at 8 pm, trying new recipes, painting rainbows, creating tunes or making up a funny song, photographing random acts, skipping in the garden, working from home in shifts, video calling to extended family and to people we hardly had enough time to share everything before. It took a week to settle into the new routine. Interesting to hear the video chats of my 6 years old with her friend planning what games are they going to play when they meet! My younger one having no idea what is happening around and for few days after the lockdown started, she kept putting on her jacket and boots every morning pointing to the front door to go walk to school. Now, she is happy going only to the back door where we set up something new to play in the garden. I am fortunate and thankful to God for whatever I am blessed with. Many people in the world have their own struggles. To quote the British Chancellor’s concluding remarks at the press briefing when the nationwide lock down was announced by the PM (I wish him a speedy recovery): “Now, more than at any time in our history, we will be judged by our capacity for compassion. Our ability to come through this won’t just be down to what the government or businesses do but by the individual acts of kindness that we show each other.” Amidst all this, technology is playing the greatest role than ever before!

To all my friends across the globe: we have a key role to play while writing history, to make the best we possibly can, of each and every day.

Stay Safe, Stay Positive.

Together in solidarity,

Sudha Srivastava

Editor – British Federation Women Graduates


Reaching out – in solidarity

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The pandemic is a cruel time especially for the most vulnerable in our society whoever they are, particularly for bereaved families.

Today, across the globe more than half of humanity is confined, this is unheard of. Our democracies and human rights are affected, and especially the rights of vulnerable women.

We want to be united, attentive and concerned for each other and for our common future.

In particular, we need to have regard to the people who are suffering from daily violence, and especially women and children who are affected by domestic violence.

I would like to urge NFAs to lobby their governments to safeguard access to women suffering from domestic violence.

As well as ensuring support facilities for affected women and children, we also need to be aware of the need to continue to focus on prevention, including facilities for angry and violent men.

These need to be in place in every country, and therefore we would like all national associations to make a call to immediately ensure the existence of such facilities in each country.

Few interesting articles here:

Home is not a safe place for everyone (As “social distancing” is urged to contain the coronavirus outbreak , home is exactly where the danger lies for some)

The Impact of COVID-19 on ImmigrantSurvivors of Gender-Based Violence

Jess Phillips: Hotel need to house domestic violence victims during the coronavirus lockdown

We thank our Irish friends who had prepared a very interesting Meet & Greet for us, regrettably of course they had to cancel it. For the moment we are maintaining the AFFDU Centenary on September 17 and 18 and the AGM in Paris on September 19, we will open the registration if the situation allows.

We recognize that in these difficult times many of us are isolating at home, and have time on our hands. We also need to support each other, and stay in touch. Therefore we thought it would be a good idea to invite members to weekly contribute to our blog; as we are reaching out to all our members we thought a good name for this special newsletter would be ‘REACHING OUT – IN SOLIDARITY‘.

We welcome your thoughts, ideas and experiences. Feel free to send us at boarduwe@gmail.com approximately 400 words including spaces, on what you are experiencing, by means of texts, poems, paintings, or various artistic expressions. Exchanges can also take place if you wish via comments section below the article posted.

Keep safe and connected,

Dr. Anne Bergheim – Negré

President University Women of Europe