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  • Women Making a Difference
    Digwyddiad NFWI Cymru
    October 2nd 2008

    Thank you so much for the invitation to speak to you today. I will start my speech in Welsh.

    Rydw i'n hapus iawn i fod yma yn siarad i chi heddiw. Mae prosiect 'Merched yn gwneud gwahaniaeth' yn wych a hoffwn ddysgu mwy am beth mae'r 200 o ferched sydd wedi cymeryd rhan yn y prosiect yn gwneud nawr i ddefnyddio eu sgiliau newydd.

    Bydd y rhaglen addysgiadol, effeithiol yma yn gwneud gwahaniaeth uniongyrchol i bob un o'r mewnyod sydd wedi cymeryd rhan, ond yr un mor bwysig, bydd yn gwneud gwahaniaeth mawr i Gymru gyfan.

    Mae Sefydliad y Merched wedi bod yn allweddol yn y cynllun yma ac mae gen i atogfion melys iawn o'r blynyddoedd a dreuliais i yn gweithio i fudiad mor gyffrous a dylanwadol. Rwy'n cofio mor glir y diwrnod es i am y cyfweliad am y swydd o Swyddog Materion Cyhoeddus gyda'r mudiad ym 1989. Roedd y cyfweliad yng nghanol ymgyrch yr etholiad Ewropeaidd, a fi yn sefyll fel ymgeisydd Ewropeaidd am y tro cyntaf, heb lawer o obaith o ennill bryd hynny. Roeddwn i'n llythrennol wedi tynnu fy roset bant cyn mynd mewn i'r cyfweliad. Doedd dim llawer o obaith gdya fi am gael y swydd ychwaith, o ystyried fyd mod i mor weithgar yn wleidyddol. Ond roedd y mudiad nid yn unig wedi cynnig y swydd i mi ond wedi croesawu'r ffaith fy mod yn fenyw ifanc oedd eisiau gwneud gwahaniaeth.

    Dysgais gymaint o'm cyfnod gyda Sefydliad y Merched. Fe welais i gryfder a thalentau menywod yng Nghymru a'r ffordd roeddwn nhw wedi gwneud gwhaniaeth yn eu cymunedau a'u dylanwad ar bolisiau'r llywodraeth.

    Yn fy ngwaith fel Aelod o Senedd Ewrop rydw i wedi gweithio'n agos iawn gyda Sefydliad y Merched ar faterion fel REACH - y ddeddfwriaeth Ewropeaidd ar gemegion pan roedd lobi Sefydliad y Merched mor effeithiol yn dangos effaith cemegion ar ein hiechyd ni ac ar iechyd y cenedlaethau i ddod.

    A dysgu a chydweithio i fi yw'r peth pwysicaf i fenywod mewn unrhyw rol cyhoeddus. Mae llawer o bobl yn gofyn i mi pam a sut es i mewn i wleidyddiaeth yn y lle cyntaf. I fod yn hollol ones, does dim ateb syml. Doedd fy nheulu ddim yn wleidyddol, doedd fy ffrindiau ddim yn wleidyddol. Ond pan roeddwn i yn yr ysgol fe ddechreuais beoni am yr hyn roedd yn digwydd yn fy nghymuned yn y Rhondda, yng Nghymru a'r Byd. Roeddwn i'n poeni am yr amgylchedd. Rwy'n cofio gweld rhaglen ddogfen ar ymgyrch Greenpeace i drio stopio lladd morfilod ac ysgrifennais at "Jim'll Fix it" i ofyn i fynd mas ar y llong Rainbow Warrior gyda Greenpeace. Chefais i ddim ateb!

    Pan es i'r brifysgol fe ymunais i ‚ Phlaid Cymru a roeddwn i'n rhan o'r ymgyrch yn erbyn claddio gwastraff niwcliar yng nghanolbarth Cymru. Fe dreuliais gormod o amser ar ymgyrchu a dim digon ar fy ngwaith coleg! Ond er gwaethaf fy nheimladau cryf, roedd yn ferch swil iawn. Roeddwn yn edmygu'r bobl 'cryf' - fel roeddwn i'n dehongli 'cryf' ar y pryd - a dynion gan amlaf - oedd yn gallu codi mewn cyfarfodydd cyhoeddus a dweud eu barn.

    Ar ol coleg, fe es i nol i'r Rhondda ac fe ddes i'n fwy gweithfar yn y mudiad heddwch a Phlaid Cymru ar lefel lleol. Roeddwn i'n ymgeisydd i'r cyngor lleol sawl gwaith ac yn cael y profiad yn un anodd iawn i ddechrau. Roedd rhaid i mi nocio ar ddrysau a gofyn i bobl bleidleisio drosof. Ond gyda phrofiad fe ddaeth yn haws ac yn y diwedd trwy magu hyder yn fi fy hun fy mod i'n gallu gwneud y gwaith cystal neu'n well, fe ddechreuodd pobl ymddiried ynof. Fe enillais sedd ar gyngor y Rhondda ym 1992.

    Roeddwn i'n gynghorydd am saith mlynedd ac fe ddysgais i yn gyflym bod gwrando ar bobl a sefyll lan dros bobl sydd wedi eich ethol yn llawer bwysicach na chreu argraff ar eich cyd-gynghorwyr. Gwasanaethu'r bobl rydych chi'n eu cynrychioli sydd yn bwysig. A dyna beth mae pobl yn gwerthfawrogi. Fyddwch chi byth yn gallu plesio pawb ond ydy pobl yn gwybod eich bod chi'n gwneud eich gorau drostynt mae nhw'n eich parchu chi am hynny ac yn rhoi cefnogaeth i chi.

    I fi, daeth gwleidyddiaeth yn ran canolog o'm mywyd. Ac roedd Adran Menywod Plaid Cymru yn gymorth mawr i mi. Roedd profiad a chefnogaeth anhygeol menywod mwy profiadol mor bwysig. Ac rwyf fi nawr yn trio cynnig yr un cymorth a chefnogaeth i fenywod ifanc yn y blaid - yn eu helpu nhw i ddysgu ac yn eu annog nhw i gyrraedd yn bellach.

    Ar ol gorffen gyda Sefydliad y Merched, bues i'n gweithio i CHILD, y Rhwydwaith Anffrwythlondeb Cenedlaethol. Roedd hyn hefyd yn bwysig i mi. Roeddwn i wedi bod trwy'r boen o fethu cael plant fy hun ac roedd hyn yn gyfle i mi helpu pobl eraill yn yr un sefyllfa. Rwy'n dal i weithio i godi ymwybyddiaeth ar hyn yn Senedd Ewrop.

    Fe ges i f'ethol i Senedd Ewrop yn 1999. Roedd rhaid i mi fynd drwy'r broses anodd iawn o gael fy newis fel rhif un ar restr Plaid Cymru. Ond fe lwyddais.

    A nawr yn fy ngwaith fel ASE, rwy'n rhannu fy amser rhwng Cymru a'r Senedd ym Mrwsel a Strasbourg - teithio nol ac ymlaen bob wythnos. Rydw i'n aelod o bwyllgorau ar yr amgylchedd, iechyd, merched a phwyllgor gyda awdurdod Palesteina. Mae gyda fi bortffolio eang iawn sydd yn gwneud fy ngwaith yn ddiddorol iawn!

    Yn draddodiadol, mae'r Undeb Ewropeaidd wedi bod ar flaen y gad o ran deddfwriaeth ar gyfartaledd - yn enwedig rhwng dynion a merched. Rydw i wedi bod yn aelod o'r Pwyllgor ar Hawliau Merched a Chyfartaledd rhwng y Rhywiau yn y Senedd ers i mi gael fy ethol ym 1999. Mae'r pwyllgor yn gyfrifol am hyrwyddo ac amddiffyn hawliau merched yn yr UE; gweithio i hyrwyddo hawliau merched mewn gwledydd trydydd byd; polisiau cyfleoedd cyfartal gan gynnwys yn y gweithle, cael gwared ar bob math o anffafriaeth wedi'i selio ar rhyw a chyflwyno datblygiadau pellach yn y sector gyhoeddus.

    Er bod pawb yn cytuno ‚ chyfartaledd mewn egwyddor rydyn ni wedi gorfod brwydro sawl gwiath i gadw'r pwyllgor yma yn y Senedd. Tra ein bod yn dadlau dros "mainstreaming" mae rhai yn defnyddio hynny fel esgus i gael gwared ‚'r pwyllgor menywod yn llwyr. Rydym ni wedi ennill y ddadl hyd yn hyn ond ar ol etholiad Ewropeaidd fis Mehefin nesaf, bydd rhaid gwynebu'r un frwydr eto mae'n siwr.

    Rydw i'n bersonol wedi bod yn dilyn adroddiadau ar y pwyllgor, ar asnachu merched, ac wedi ymweld ‚ lloches yn Antwerp sy'n cynnig cefnogaeth i'r merched sy'n dioddef o hyn. Yn anffodus does dim amser heddiw i ehangu ar bopeth mae'r pwyllgor yn ei wneud ond fe wnaf i gyffwrdd yn fyr ar un o'r materion rydym yn trafod ar hyn o bryd yn y pwyllgor sef adroddiad ar y cyfartaledd rhwng dynion a merched yn 2008 parthed swyddi o ansawdd.

    It is essential that we keep the women's rights and gender equality committee in the Parliament to keep up the pressure for better polocoes but also as a forum and a network for women members of Parliament.

    In 2000, the Lisbon strategy, the new employment and growth strategy for Europe was launched. One aim was to increase the proportion of women in employment to over 60% by 2010, against an overall employment rate of 70%. One of the main objectives was "more and better jobs". And of course we need to work to improve this "quality" aspect of work and equality. We know all too well the problems relating to women at work.

    Recent figures show that there has been a sharp drop in the employment rate for women with young children while the rate for men in the same situation is rising. Temporary employment contracts are also more common for women - 15% of all employed women in Europe are on temporary contracts compared to 14% of men. Yet young women in Europe have better success rates at school and university - 59% of university students are female.

    Equal pay for work of equal value is a basic principle, but despite this, women continue to earn less than men. Equal pay for work of equal value was introduced 30 years ago, but women in Europe still earn on average 15% less than men, a figure that has remained steady since 2003. It is even up to 33% difference in some Member States. And the gap is even greater in the private sector than in the public sector.

    Women's income is the key to their economic autonomy and to greater equality between women and men in society as a whole. Compared with 8% of men, 31% of women have a part time job, that's a choice, but a situation often forced on them by a lack of affordable childcare facilities. This 'enforced' part-time work places women among the poorest workers. So the Women's committee has called for wage audits, better parental leave, and rights.

    On International Women's Day this year, I along with other women politicians called on the European Union to appoint an envoy for women to make sure every policy decision takes into account womenís rights.

    Studies show that when women are able to make decisions for their own lives the foundation for economic recovery is laid. Yet the political will to seriously advance equal rights is lacking and the European Union must not accept this situation, within its own borders or beyond.

    The appointment of a European envoy on womenís rights would make a difference. This senior diplomat could ensure that policy decisions are right for women. They could present proposals to the Council of Ministers and the European Commission and be held accountable by the European Parliament. They could spur on national governments to live up to their Millennium commitments. But foremost, they could ensure that Europe becomes accessible for women worldwide struggling to improve their social and economic situation and that of their community.

    Women play a key role in the struggle against poverty, yet their capabilities are unused. According to the United Nations, the fight against hunger and poverty will be lost if the international community fails to strengthen womenís rights. In many countries they have low social status and unequal access to education, jobs and property. A shocking fact is that some 750 million women live on less than one dollar a day.

    Only last month, I took part in a seminar hosted by Oxfam as part of 'sisters on the planet campaign'. The Oxfam report showed that women in developing countries are under particular threat from the consequences of climate change because of their role as main family carers and their greater reliance on natural resources like rivers and forests to do that job.

    Their position is made worse by restricted access to money, physical assets like land and machinery, education and public information, as well as women's lower social status and limited involvement in decision-making. This is the affect of climate change now - not something way into the future. I watched the film showing women in Bangladesh and Uganda walking further and further to find fire wood or land that could grow crops. Our problems in Wales are very different thankfully, but nevertheless real.

    A few months ago, I invited the Federation of Women's institutes to the Parliament to present evidence on the situation of women in rural areas. It was a pleasure to welcome Marylyn Haines and Rhian Connick to the regional development committee where they talked about the lack of work, low incomes, and lack of childcare facilities in rural communities.

    But it is very difficult to influence decisions if women are left out of crucial discussions and decision-making. Structures for gender mainstreaming and ensuring compliance must be in place. It is essential that we keep the Women's Rights and Equality Committee in the Parliament to keep up the pressure for better policies but also to be a forum and network for women members of Parliament.

    At the European level, around 33% of the members in the Parliament are women. And across Europe the situation varies. While women make up 40% of the Swedish and Finnish parliament, 35% in Belgium, Spain, Denmark, and the Netherlands, the proportions in other Member States are less encouraging. In Greece, Ireland, Cyprus, Slovenia, Romania, Hungary, and France, women make up less than 15% of the parliament and less than 10% in Malta. At local level, the situation is almost as discouraging. Currently only 29.8% of local councillors are women and although we are proud that Wales is leading the world in gender equality in our National Assembly, we certainly don't shout this loudly enough.

    In the 21st Century this should be normal but it's not. On average in politics, women hold about a fifth of elected positions. And although the number of women in administration is high, sometimes higher than men, most of the top decision-making posts are held by men. The European Commission's percentage of female staff is 52.2% while the number of female Commissioners is 9, compared to 18 male Commissioners.

    Again, that is why there is a Women's Rights and Equal Opportunities Committee in the European Parliament which is constantly assessing the situation, pushing for better policies and demanding real action.

    In 2009, we will elect a new European Parliament. We will appoint a new European Commission led by its president, and a new president for the European Parliament. How many of the new Members of the European Parliament will be women, and will both of the top EU leaders wear a suit and tie?

    2009 is an excellent opportunity for the European Union to become more democratic. A modern democracy requires gender equality; the equal representation of women and men in the making of decisions that affect all our lives.

    The talents, the ideas, the political commitment and the energies of women are vast resources for European society. I know what being strong really means, it's not the loudest voice or the one you hear the most often, it's the one that speaks the most sense.

    We can't lose the momentum in this fight against inequality. We need strong and effective action to move the agenda forward for real and lasting equality across Europe. I believe that in the past the European Union has been the world champion against discrimination and for laws on equality. It has to strengthen this role and to do that it has to show courage and determination.

    Recently, I joined the European Women's Lobby to call for all decision-makers, individuals and organisations interested in the promotion of democracy and justice to support a campaign for immediate and long-term measures to ensure gender equality at both European and national levels to improve the functioning and quality of our political systems.

    We have called upon:

    * All European and national political parties to act immediately to ensure the realisation of gender equality in their nomination procedure ahead of the election of the European Parliament in June 2009 Ė for example through their electoral lists and in the drafting of their programmes.

    * Women and men in Europe to seize the current opportunity to speak up and cast their vote in 2009 with a view to advancing democracy, gender equality and justice.

    * The EU Member States to fulfil their commitments to democracy and gender equality by ensuring the equal representation of women among the top jobs at EU level to be appointed in 2009.

    I am also a member of the inter-institutional network of women, which includes high profile women like Margot Wallstrom, the European Commissioner for Communication. It was felt that if women across the EU institutions, MEPs, Commissioners and national Ministers were seen to be acting together, cross party, it could be seen as a critical signal to influence both the outcome in respect of any top appointments. It will hopefully also mobilise our political parties and national governments to improve the turn-out of women at the next European elections in June 2009.

    For my part, I will do everything in my power to keep on pressurise governments, and the EU, to put in place measures to prevent violence, to end discrimination, to provide good quality women support services, and to ensure women have effective legal protection.

    As an MEP, I can do that European level, within my party, with the organisations I work with in Wales and within my own community. Because this work has to happen at all levels. And nothing is more important than the work you have been doing in the "Women Making a Difference" project. Because we are all working together in this and together we will make a difference.

    Jill Evans ASE

    Photo: Jill Evans