Every day is women’s day

8 March 2021

Madrid boasts a twenty-year history of gender equality policies and commitment to a more just and equitable city model. In June 2020, Madrid has also reaffirmed its commitment to gender equality in the framework of the European Pillar of Social Rights and the Eurocities campaign ‘Inclusive Cities for All’. “It’s impossible to resume all we do,” says Ana Fernandez Izquierdo, Director General for Equality Policies and Against Gender-based Violence (image), but we will try to give you at least the highlights of Madrid’s success.

Gender is everywhere

Madrid’s work, which took place under the Strategic Plan for Gender Equality between 2018 and 2020 and will continue with 21 priorities selected at a municipal Plenary Session as a road map for 2021, has deep roots in a transversal approach. ‘Gender mainstreaming’ in public action, which incorporates the gender perspective in the planning and execution of all municipal public policies.

This principle is reflected in the management and evaluation of the municipal budgets. “In the Directorate of Equality, we analyse every budget of the municipal departments and the positive impact they have on gender,” explains Fernandez Izquierdo. In 2020, Madrid calculated that 68% of the €5,184 million budgeted for the year had positive repercussions on gender equality. This is because the expenditure and income policies of the Madrid City Council integrate the gender perspective in their preparation and execution.

‘Espacio Igualdad’: equality space in Madrid

Another example of the transversal approach in Madrid is the project ‘Madrid Ciudad Segura para Mujeres y Ninas’.  “The idea is to empower women within culture and sports, but also to take gender into consideration when thinking about mobility and urban planning,” says Fernandez Izquierdo. “Around 50 different services within the city council work on this, because every step we take in urban design or public transport is linked to gender issues.” Through the project, the city will write an action plan that will set indicators to evaluate the gender impact of the decisions the city is already taking in different sectors.

‘Gender mainstreaming’ also means that Madrid has created Gender Equality Units and collegiate bodies responsible for the supervision and control of gender equality, and the city staff receives permanent training on the issue.

Feminisation of poverty

This year the city will pay particular attention to the effects that the health crisis has had on women. While a complete report is still ongoing, a preliminary study published on the Gender Indicators System found that unemployment has hit women harder than men in Madrid, by 1.5 points, and they are less covered by unemployment benefits, 32.9% of women compared to 38.5% of men.

In such circumstances, the fight against the ‘feminisation of poverty’ carried by the city becomes ever more important. After a careful analysis of the situation and an evaluation on resources, Madrid will select actions to tackle poverty, especially linked to gender, and have some lessons to share in the future.

In the meantime, specific projects such as Digital Woman play a significant role. The project works with more than 40 women at risk of exclusion or poverty and aims to eliminate the digital divide that affects women facilitating their access to the labour market. The project, coordinated by the Madrid Employment Agency with the participation of Orange and the Quiero Trabajo Foundation, offers training on working online, but will also support women with their job search and interview process.

Work and housework distribution

Another documented issue exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis is the gendered distribution of housework. Data available on the Gender Indicators System shows that in Spain in 2016 93% of women did housework compared to 60% of men. Women are also more likely to be the ones taking care of children or older relatives in need of help.

“The first objective of the project ‘Madrid Ciudad Corresponsable’ is gender equality in the home, like chores distribution,” says Fernandez Izquierdo. “For example, last November, we launched an awareness raising campaign around equality in households.” And to make sure the burden doesn’t always fall to women, actions have to be taken also within business practices to improve work to life balance. “Businesses with more than 100 employees are obligated by the national level to develop an equality plan,” explains Ana Buñuel Heras, Advisor for Families, Equality and Social Welfare. “With ‘Madrid Ciudad Corresponsable’ we have helped more than 200 companies with their equality plans to create the conditions for their employees to find a balance between work and personal life regardless of their gender.”

Zero Violence

Since the end of 2019, Madrid signed the ‘Pact for the eradication of violence against women’ and has promoted several measures tackling different forms of violence against women. The city relies on the municipal network of resources for victims to support them in their social, psychological, legal and educational recovery. For example, in the third quarter of 2021 there will be 26 new places in semi-autonomous sheltered flats for women victims of gender violence.

While support for victims is essential, Madrid also proposes preventive measures such as ‘Madrid Violencia Cero’. The project creates and shares educational resources like videos, publications, and pedagogical guides addressed to boys and girls aiming to provoke reflection and raise awareness around sexism. to make an individual commitment to prevent and eradicate sexist violence from their environment.

In April 2018, Madrid joined the Global Program ‘Safe Cities Free from Violence against Women’ in collaboration with UN-Habitat, joining 50 other cities committed to improving diagnoses on urban security and violence against women in public space.

While confinement may have had a diminishing effect on street harassment, it has unfortunately put many more women in danger of domestic violence. “During COVID-19 sexual violence has increased in the homes, and not on the streets,” says Fernandez Izquierdo. So, the addition in late 2019 of a 24-hour Crisis Centre for the care of female victims of sexual violence has proven well-timed.

Positive reinforcement

Women appreciate that the city makes an effort to promote empowering projects too. The ‘Empoderar-t’ project, for example, both empowers women who work in the culture sector and uses culture to empower women,” says Fernandez Izquierdo.

Poster of the ‘8M. ALL WOMEN’S DAY’ campaign

The same spirit will be at the centre of this year’s International Women’s Day in Madrid. The city has launched the ‘8M. ALL WOMEN’S DAY’ campaign celebrating all kinds of everyday women. “From Carmen, from Daniela, from Evelyn or from Yanet. All of them have sustained our lives during this time. As lawyers, scientists, shop assistants, doctors, nurses, cleaners or teachers, they have worked to provide us with more equal, inclusive, safe and sustainable environments,” recites the introduction to the campaign.

Madrid will also always have spaces were women – and men – are welcome to take gender by its horns and look it right in the eyes. The city has built a network of 17 Gender Equality Spaces located in 16 of the capital’s 21 Districts. “They are empowerment spaces for women,” says Fernandez Izquierdo “spaces where women can come and discuss about women in history or about their sexuality, where they can develop their skills and talents through various activities.”

A recent addition to the Gender Equality Spaces’ activities are the ‘Masculinity’ groups, where men can also discuss gender issues and reflect on their role in questioning gendered structures. “It’s not just up to women,” says Fernandez Izquierdo, “we want new masculinities,” completes Buñuel Heras. And it is with this added ambition that Madrid celebrates Women’s Day not only on March 8, but every day with their work.


Wilma Dragonetti Eurocities Writer