International Women’s Day

Women play an indispensable role in all societies

International Women’s Day

Women play an indispensable role in all societies

Interview with Karen De Sutter, Acting Chief Executive Officer, Auxiliary Unemployment Benefits Fund (Caisse auxiliaire de paiement des allocations de chômage – CAPAC), Belgium, in connection with International Women's Day on 8 March 2022.

Karen de Sutter

How do you see the role of social security in promoting gender equality and empowering women in society?

Social security is a prerequisite for prosperity. Solidarity between rich and poor, between young and old, between healthy and needy is the key and cornerstone of equality and progress. This solidarity makes no distinction and guarantees the protection of all. It automatically contributes to gender equality. And this is necessary because, even today, society is not free of inequalities between men and women in terms of opportunities and remuneration, but also in terms of the roles women are expected to play, which often make it more difficult for them to be considered as equals.

While social security provides support, protection and equality, society still needs to break down barriers to make gender equality a reality and ensure that women have equal opportunities.

Have you seen any changes in gender equality since the start of the pandemic and what role do you think social security has played in reducing the economic and social impact of the pandemic on women?

The coronavirus has had a huge impact on our lives. However, we take for granted the extent to which our social security system allows us, despite this unprecedented crisis, to have little to worry about, for example, the affordability of care. Many citizens who have become partially or totally unemployed do not have to worry about their income.

The coronavirus crisis has once again confirmed the importance of social security for our society. A social security system that, through solidarity, provides a safety net for all those who need it - regardless of gender, age, status or origin – and has a moderating effect on economic shocks. For example, temporary measures have meant that employers have not had to resort to redundancies and many people have been able to keep their jobs through the provision of benefits.

The pandemic also excluded women from employment. Social security ensures equality of support and provides protection so that basic needs can continue to be met and there is no inequality. Social security is undeniably important in ensuring this equality.

As the head of a major social security organisation, what is your message to the global social security community on International Women's Day?

Gender equality is mainly based on power. Today, power is largely determined by men. Women are still severely under-represented in leadership and management positions, which gives them limited influence on policy. In addition, women are at the greatest risk of poverty and violence. Nevertheless, women play an indispensable role in all societies, including unpaid and essential care work. International Women's Day is therefore an ideal opportunity to thank all women and to give them the attention and respect they deserve.

Today we honour women around the world, but Gloria Steinem put it very well: "The history of women's struggle for equality does not belong to one feminist or one organisation, but is part of the collective effort of all those who care about human rights".