Strong public services are good for feminism.

Coming up soon in Budapest: the PES Women´s Annual Conference and the PES Congress. I am very proud and honoured to be the candidate of SPÖ Frauen for the board of PES Women. This is my letter of motivation for the candidature for SPE/PES Women Bureau 2015-2017.

Letter of motivation

I have been a member of the SPOe Austria since 1984, where I held different functions throughout the years, but I became a feminist much earlier, when I had to chance to join a women and girls group in my neighbourhood at 14. At that time, also thanks to my encouraging and bright mother Lisl Kauer, I understood that to be born as a female person will not always help your chances in life. It can harm your integrity, violate your mind and body, it will probably keep you off and away from the important decisions and resources.

The second stream of my political socialisation has been internationalism. Not only did I work for the International Union of Socialist Youth IUSY for almost four years from 1985 -1989, I have been a sponsoring member of Südwind, an Austrian development education NGO, worked with Frauensolidarität on feminist issues and support grass roots initiatives in Africa until today. All these strenghtened my conviction that the cause of both feminism and social democracy is an international one and must also be handled on this level of the political arena. The Beijing+20 process is one of the most important for women on a global level, and I noted with great interest the engagement of SPE/PES Women in this area.

In brief: ever since I have been politically active and throughout all my professional life, I kept up the spirit of feminism and a vision of a social, just and sustainable world for all. Choosing the EU arena as a part of my professional career is in line with this, as the EU has a special role and responsibility in the world when it comes to fair and just relationships between people, continents and countries.

Today, I work as the representative of the City of Vienna in Brussels. Vienna has a strong social, democratic and gender equality tradition. All these qualities have become rarely seen or debated in the political arena of the EU. In Austria, we are convinced that the enforcement and revival of the discussion on the social agenda in Europe is the best option for women equality. The fight against violence against women, the universality of human and women rights, overcoming the gender pay gap and a clear conviction that women must have a strong say in economic and democratic life, all these unite our sister organisations within SPE/PES Women and the SPE/PES on a whole. We do have partners with the trade union movement, currently advocating for a social protection clause in the EU treaties, and with all those who reject the austerity policy of the EU as the wrong remedy for overcoming the crisis.

My personal contribution to the work of SPE/PES Women shall relate to the areas of my expertise:

1. Strong public services are good for feminism.

The EU austerity policy and moreover the diversity blindness of EU competition policy for local welfare solutions is creating more harm than good to a sound and sustainable economic recovery in Europe. The strict liberalisation momentum leads tot he undermining public services in general. And especially women do have to rely on strong public utilities, either they the majority of the workforce, or they are the biggest group of customers, or their smaller income makes them more vulnerable when it comes to liberalisation, e.g. in housing, health and education, water supply, waste management, a.s.o. The debate here must not only tackle the overall austerity policy, but also allow a reflection of the general construction of EU investment policy and framework, including the Juncker package (EFSI) and ist implication for women´s chances in the labour market.

2. We need a feminist momentum in the debate on Social Europe.

Social balance is endangered and in some places already undermined by the economic and financial crisis in the EU-28. We know from history that longterm high unemployment, youth unemployment and a general climate of despair can create the most inhuman scenarios. In all these, women rights to self-determination have come under threat. Today, it is difficult to argue for women rights and feminist policies, as most discussions focus on financial and economic issues. The social democratic family in Europe, and especially SPE/PES Women can create momentum in debate on a new social deal for Europe with regard to women rights. They are and must be seen as an integral part of that project.

3. Advocacy for a SPE/PES gender equality programme for the next European elections in 2019.

After the elections is before the elections. SPE/PES did already well in 2014 with a common candidate and a joint election programme. On the road to 2019, SPE/PES Women can make an important contribution in order to further develop this path. Why not think of a gender balanced list of candidates for major EU functions in 2019? Some steps in this direction could be: local discussions with PES-activists groups and party organisations, open gender workshops of European democracy, a gender summit of the SPE/PES party leaders, e.g.

Futhermore, SPE/PES Women can count on my social media engagement as well as on my capacities to speak English, French, Spanish, some Italian and to understand Flemish/Dutch when this is needed. I will also be happy to add meetings with women party organisations on behalf of SPE/PES women whenever possible in my business trips throughout Europe in my private time.

Of course, I will liaise most strongly with the women organisation of my party, SPÖ Frauen, and their board. I believe that my role will go both ways, and that I can contribute to the debate on European issues within SPÖ Frauen as well. As I have already had the opportunity to represent SPÖ Frauen in the Bureau of SPE/PES Women a few years earlier, I will be delighted to see friends from that time and find new ones both in the Bureau of SPE/PES Women and among the whole European socialdemocratic family.

Michaela Kauer, Brussels/Vienna, May 2015

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