A Report on the Round Table: Women in the Society, Politics and Family
Thursday 14th May 2009, House of Public Organizations (NGO committee)
Readers may wonder at the words “gender profile of elections”. Some of them may have never heard about this problem. Neither had I. As a member of the Friendship Force I was invited to the meeting with women organizations, and so I could learn what gender equality means. A lively and interesting round-table debate took place in the Moscow House of Public Organizations (NGO committee) on the theme of women’s participation in political and public life. Discussion was conducted by Nataliya Bychkova – a member of the Public Relations Committee of Moscow City Government, and provided a valuable and rare opportunity for participants to meet a delegation of Women Voters League from Washington D.C., USA. The League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan political organization, encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.
A delegation of members and staff of the League of Women Voters arrived in Russia on May 12, 2009. The League worked with Friendship Force International, which focuses on cultural exchanges, in organizing this citizen exchange to Russia.
The Round Table was attended by more than 35 participants, including the Consortium of Women’s Non-governmental Associations of Russia (Elena Yershova). The Round Table was organized by Frienship Force International (Nataliya Guskova, Board Chair of the Friendship Force of Moscow), in collaboration with the Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Science (Svetlana Aivazova) and was hosted by the House of Public Organizations (NGO committee). The Round Table was supported by the Department of Foreign Economic and International Relations of the city of Moscow, providing opportunities for a League of Women Voters` delegation to participate in a round table with women’s organizations. There was a lively discussion about the different avenues through which women can access political life in Russia and how it compared to the work of women’s groups in the U.S.
Svetlana Aivazova spoke first, outlining what she believes to be the main obstacles facing women in politics. These included the “glass ceiling” effect – on paper, men and women have equal rights with regards to political participation, but in reality, women are never able to achieve the same prominence as men. Svetlana Aivazova also mentioned the legacy of Russian attitudes to women’s political participation, whereby women were only ever afforded a symbolic role, and the lack of support that female politicians receive from female.
Alexandra Achirova (member of the Public Relations Committee of the State Duma) stated that politics in Russia is essentially a male business and that women who get into politics themselves have to acquire a masculine attitude, a view that was shared by many of the participants.
Discussion then moved on to the advantages of women playing a more prominent role in politics. During this meeting the delegates had the opportunity to discuss elections processes and women running for elected office. The discussion invited interesting comparisons between the experience of Russian and American women and men who seek elected office.
“We appreciate this opportunity to travel to Russia to learn and discuss current issues about its democracy, particularly as it impacts women and elections,” said Zaida Arguedas, Senior Director of Global Democracy Programs. “Since 1999 the League has been working with Russian partners and this exchange allows us to expand our work in the region.”
Participants could discuss also problems of Health Care, Global Climate Change, and Voting Rights.
After the round table the entire group participated in a reception and concert of folk music. Members of the League’s delegation all participated by playing traditional Russian instruments.