International Women’s Day

Achieving gender equality is more vital than ever

International Women’s Day

Achieving gender equality is more vital than ever

Interview with Elena Ţîbîrnă, Director General, National Office of Social Insurance, Moldova, in connection with International Women's Day on 8 March 2024.

Elena Ţîbîrnă

In your view what are the most important barriers to gender equality today?

Over the last four years, holding the leadership position of the National Office of Social Insurance of the Republic of Moldova, I have had the privilege of exploring the factors to advance gender equality in unique ways. The constant issues are why women join the workplace, why they stay in a job, and why they leave. Some of the most common barriers include:

Unequal pay: The gender pay gap is a global problem. In 2023, the World Economic Forum found that the global gender pay gap is 23 per cent. This means that women must still work extra each year to earn the same amount of money as men. This gender pay gap is a significant barrier to women’s economic empowerment and can make it difficult for women to support themselves and their families.

Unsupportive work environments: Violence against women in the workplace, including sexual harassment, sexual assault and physical violence, is a pervasive problem that affects women of all ages, backgrounds and income levels. It can have a devastating impact on women’s physical and mental health, their careers and their lives. The Republic of Moldova has ratified the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, and adopted laws and provisions to address violence against women in the workplace.

Lack of opportunities for advancement: Women are underrepresented in leadership positions in public and private sectors, and many women leave their jobs because they feel stuck in dead-end positions. Nevertheless, Moldovans elected their first female President in 2020, and a record 4 in 10 members of parliament elected in 2021 were women. In local government, 22 per cent were women in 2019. Laws and policies are progressively amended to remove barriers to women’s labour force participation. Despite this progress, gender inequalities persist, due to gender stereotypes, few role models, work-life balance challenges and unconscious bias.

Work-life balance issues: Globally, women are often responsible for most unpaid care work, such as cooking, cleaning and childcare. This is often seen as a woman’s “natural” role and it can be difficult for women to break away from these expectations. It can limit their opportunities for education and employment and contribute to stress and burnout. It can also make it difficult for women to participate in public life.

When you hear the theme of this year “Investing in women”, what possible measures come to your mind to accelerate progress?

In a world facing multiple crises that are putting immense pressure on communities, achieving gender equality is more vital than ever. Gender equality remains the greatest human rights challenge. Investing in women is a human rights imperative and cornerstone for building inclusive societies. Progress for women benefits us all. The current economic system exacerbates poverty, inequality, and environmental degradation, disproportionately affecting women and marginalized groups. Advocates for alternative economic models propose a shift towards a green economy and care society that amplifies women’s voices. Austerity negatively impacts women and crowds out public spending on essential public services and social protection.

How can the social security system of your country strengthen its enabling role for gender equality?

In the Republic of Moldova, considerable progress has been made in recent years to advance gender equality. Women have gradually but steadily increased their representation in leadership and decision-making processes, including from the most marginalized and vulnerable groups. Women from vulnerable groups, such as Roma and rural communities, and women with disabilities, have even lower employment rates, due to discrimination and exclusion. In 2021, the employment rate for women was just 34.4 per cent, compared to 44.7 per cent for men. For women aged 25–49 with at least one child aged 16 years and younger, the employment rate was 47.3 per cent in 2020, while for women without children it reached 60.5 per cent.

Pre-existing gender inequalities were exacerbated first by COVID-19 and then by the economic, energy and refugee crisis resulting from the war in Ukraine. Most refugee women, far from their family and social connections, face gender specific risks of gender-based violence, human trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse.

Recent reforms will contribute to equalizing state pension outcomes for women and men. In particular, the provisions from 2017 are expected to lead the pension age as necessary condition for pension establishment to be equal for men and women by 2028. Overall, career-length requirements for women and women will be unified to 34 years of contribution, starting from 1 July 2024.

What is your message to all ISSA members on International Women’s Day?

Dear colleagues, congratulations on International Women’s Day! Let this holiday be filled only with joyful emotions, bouquets of flowers and sunny warmth! I wish to all ladies excellent mood, harmony and love in their hearts! Happy Women’s Day!