Women underrepresented in virtually all facets of public life in the region

Society; Photo: Pixabay

2017 is one of the most significant years in decades concerning the advancement of women’s issues and women’s causes, a new publication by Friedrich Ebert Stiftung asserts, thus making mention of the #MeToo campaign. However, according to its authors, larger progress is still missing in Southeast Europe.

“The pay gap between men and women in the region is pronounced, and arguably worse than the spotty official data suggests, there are few meaningful legal protections against harassment and assault, sexual violence and domestic abuse rates are on the increase, and women are chronically underrepresented in virtually all facets of public life, including in the region’s EU member states”, the publication reads.

In the briefing titled “Political Trends & Dynamics: Gender Politics in Southeast Europe” the state of women’s rights in the region of Southeast Europe is analysed, along with the political, economic and social equality of women in the region, their role in decision-making processes and the link between the Euro-Atlantic order and gender politics. Whereas the region made a considerable progress in relation to women’s standing in society during the socialist period, albeit within the context of an authoritarian regime, the overall social position of women in the region has stagnated or even regressed in comparison to Western Europe in the post-Cold War period, the publication stresses.

Although in Southeast Europe we have been faced with an increase in women’s representation in political decision-making, this may be misleading. Notwithstanding the fact that several countries in the region had or still have female presidents and prime ministers, financial, defense, interior, and foreign affairs ministers, Mija Javornik, Member of the Bureau of PES Women, writes that the new elections do not necessarily bring more women to real power positions, or in case this happens, it is only to show that they do not even try to engage in transformative politics.

A special section in the briefing pertains to the analysis of current political trends and dynamics in Southeast Europe. It refers to the current security-related challenges in the region, bilateral disputes, the corollaries of the recent elections in Cyprus and the upcoming ones in Montenegro, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, the instabilities in the governments in some of the countries of the region, the democratic backsliding and the lack of media freedoms, and the issues of all-pervading corruption and the lack of the rule of law.

Lastly, two interviews were conducted on the women’s role in politics with Ivana Jordanovska, Member of Foreign Policy Department, the Government of Macedonia, and Anna Karamanou, Vice President of the Political Association of Greek Women and Former President of the European Parliament Committee.

Karamanou sees a connection between the phenomenon of gender wage gap and social habits, Balkan/Patriarchal/Mediterranean culture and history, including the Ottoman legacy.

“In my estimation, devaluation of women’s work, domestic division of labour, the dichotomy between productive and reproductive labour, gender hierarchies, patriarchal structures and pre-entry discrimination, largely explain the disadvantaged position in the labour market and the growing feminization of poverty, the SEE countries”, Karamanou asserts.

According to Jordanovska, women are yet to achieve serious political weight in Southeast Europe.

“As for the numbers, there are more women in decision-making posts than there used to be. However, we mustn’t be satisfied by this. Many key political posts in all of these countries have never been filled by women,” notes Jordanovska.

In addition, she warns that one should not believe that Euro-Atlantic integration will magically solve all the pending problems, as the greater gender equality is not guaranteed in the EU or NATO.

“The steps that need to be taken, in regards to policies and awareness-raising, must be done within the country… We must do our own work, in our own countries,” Jordanovska concluded.