Thursday, July 1, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Women Seriously Underrepresented Among Russia’s Powers that Be, Gender Equality Groups Say

Paul Goble

Vienna, July 1 – The Russian Federation currently ranks 83rd among the countries of the world in terms of gender equality among political leaders, and in some regions, women’s activists say, there are “practically no women” in positions of power, something these groups pledge to try to change.
In the Kalmyk capital of Elista this week, these groups took part in a Conference on the Consolidation of the Women’s Movement in the post-Soviet space, a meeting at which many topics were discussed but none of which attracted more attention and concern than the need to promote greater gender equality in all sectors of society (
Natalya Manzhikova, the president of the NGO Foundation for Gender Equality, said that Russia now ranks 83rd among the countries of the world in terms of the share of women in positions of political power, a shameful record overall and one that she indicated is especially bad in some republics and regions.
In Kalmykia, she noted, “there are practically no women in the organs of power, she continued.” And until the recent appointment of a woman as finance minister, there was “not a single woman in the government of that republic.” And Marina Mukabenova, a Duma deputy from there, said that government statements about promoting women were simply “a formality.”
Olga Kovalenko, the leader of the All-Ukrainian Union of Orthodox Women, said that “women are a great force which can do a great deal but with the support of men.” Another speaker, Aleksandra Turchenkova of IRI called for the establishment in the Slavic countries of a Women’s Democratic Network (
And Irina Gudovich, the coordinator for gender politics of the Pravoye delo Party, suggested that one way forward, given the declines in representation Slavic women have suffered in parliaments since 1991, would be to allow people to indicate their preferences not just for policies but for genders as well.
Most of the Elista meeting proposals focused on the need for new laws to strengthen the family and defend the social-economic and political interests of all women in society rather than on promoting more women into the upper reaches of the political system, something speakers appear to fear is not on the immediate agenda there.
But perhaps the most intriguing suggestion in the Kalmyk capital was for women to organize an international road race “Give the Road to Women!” as a way of attracting attention to gender issues and promoting the formation of a single women’s movement organization across the post-Soviet space. The race, organizers said, will take place later this summer.

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