This interview with PES Group member Tom Jungen, mayor of Roeser in Luxembourg, is part of our #SafePlace4Women campaign and of our series “#ProgressiveLocalStories”, aimed at raising awareness on the many positive initiatives implemented by progressive cities and regions in Europe when it comes to promoting a social, fair and sustainable Europe.
Why is Roeser at the forefront of combating violence against women?
We have earned the right to be a leader among those municipalities that have already achieved this goal, as violence against women occurs everywhere and sadly still far too much. Unfortunately, there are no reliable figures for my municipality of 6 700 people, south of Luxembourg City. However, I am sure that this unacceptable social problem, which is still far too prevalent, exists here too. The adoption of this declaration is another important step in this direction.
What specific steps have you successfully taken to make your municipality a safe place for women?
In November 2021, Roeser municipal council decided to adopt the CEMR's European Charter for equality of women and men in local life. Several committees (equality, social affairs, youth) have been set up as a result, with the support of an external expert, in order to develop a local gender action plan, with one of the priorities being tackling gender-based violence against women. The final action plan was presented to and approved by the municipal council in February 2023, meaning that practical steps can now be taken to implement it. At the same time, Roeser was one of the first municipalities to sign a convention (MEGA+) with the Ministry of Gender Equality in 2022. Last year's focus was violence against women. One specific measure was to use theatre to portray small everyday acts of violence in order to bring the issue directly to an adult audience. This was then discussed together with the audience and experts from private organisations, such as women's shelters, but also the police and the judiciary. The spontaneous comments from the room were particularly moving, especially the individual accounts from women who had been victims of domestic violence. Another project involved small workshops in the municipality's primary schools, where, together with staff and advisers from the Ministry of Equality, the issue of violence and the fight against existing stereotypes, was discussed with and taught to school children in a child-friendly way.
Roeser has just adopted a declaration undertaking to make the municipality a #SafePlace4Women. What concrete steps do you plan to take?
Above all, this declaration is intended to be a clear commitment from locally elected representatives that there is no place for violence in our community in general, and especially against women. This is why we will renew and, if possible, extend our cooperation with the Ministry this year too. The first practical steps we will take are to look, together with relevant organisations, at how and under what conditions we can also provide safe housing for institutions working with women who have had to temporarily leave their homes, even though Luxembourg provides a clear legal guarantee that the perpetrator, not the victim, is the one who has to leave the home for at least a limited period of time. Nevertheless, there are cases where women, alone or with their children, need to be accommodated safely, where they can find protection from a violent partner, which in the vast majority of cases are men. We also want to involve the police in these discussions, who are a privileged partner and stakeholder in the field of violence and prevention. We are also keen to train our staff in a wide range of services on how to act correctly if they witness violence or if a woman confides in them. Of course, we are not just talking about social workers, people working at local community centres and nursery teachers. They can also be staff from a water company, for example, who go to a house to replace the water meter.
Cet après-midi, le conseil communal de Roeser a adopté, sur base d‘une initiative du LSAP, une résolution déclarant la Commune de Roeser lieu sûr pour les femmes. A la base, cette résolution est le résultat d’une initiative du @PES_CoR @PESWomen #safeplace4women pic.twitter.com/a3am6IRIdH
— Tom Jungen (@TomJlux) March 27, 2023
How can the European Union help to make Roeser a safe place for women?
The European Union is often accused of not being socially active enough, which to some extent is true. However, there are a number of social rights in each Member State that would not exist without the European Union. For example, the right to parental leave following the birth of a child, in other words the time that the mother and/or father, but also two mothers or fathers, can spend together with the child after maternity/adoption leave. The same is also true of a wide range of today's fundamental rights for citizens of the Union, especially the rights of many people belonging to a minority.
The Commission's current priorities for 2019-2024, in particular reducing inequalities and respecting fundamental rights and the rule of law as a pillar of equality, tolerance and social justice, already provide for a number of further improvements. However, I'd also like to highlight the results or recent progress under the Commissioner for gender equality Helena Dalli. This includes the development of a European gender equality strategy to remove barriers for women, including gender mainstreaming and equality in the workplace with mandatory pay transparency; ensuring full implementation of the directive on work-life balance; strengthening the EU response to gender-based violence and consolidating the victims' directive; and considering whether to include "violence against women" in the list of EU crimes.
This municipal initiative fully supports the corresponding European equality policy in the fight against conservative forces that regularly try to turn back the wheel of history.