"The traditional role of women in Moldova has not changed"
3 September 2015
Behind a successful man stands a strong woman, says an old saying. But what if the woman should take a step forward and would not sit behind, but in the same row with the man? It sounds simple, but in reality, it is a long process and requires a change of mentality at both. Therefore, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women in Moldova) aims to promote women in decision-making positions. Recently, in Moldova came for the second time, in a working visit, the Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia at UN Women, Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir, with whom I had the pleasure to talk about the organization's mission and role of women in our country.
- Mrs. Ingibjorg, what are the challenges faced by UN Women in Moldova?
- One of the main challenges in our work, generally, is political instability in the country. We look at things in the perspective of 5-10 years, that`s why our projects doesn’t have immediate results. It's very difficult to operate in a situation where political crises occur. But, in general, in Moldova, when it comes to gender equality, we see the same problem as in other countries in the region: low participation rate of women in politics. Wherever are taken important decisions, both in Parliament and Government, women are less numerous. We also see a problem in the labor market: women are poorly paid and do not have opportunities to develop their capacities. Here, as in other countries, mothers do not have facilities in the workplace and violence against women is widespread in Moldova. There are many areas and directions in which we must work.
- UN Women promotes the idea that women should constitute at least 30% of the officials in an institution. Why is it so important this share?
- Our slogan is, actually, 50 to 50. We care to achieve an equal number of women and men in all institutions where decisions are made, either in parliament or in the government or the boards of any big company. I worked in politics for more than 30 years and I have seen many times that even in an institution is working a woman or two they have no influence. It is needed a critical mass, in order to have an impact. But since our goal can`t be achieved overnight, we plan for beginning to reach the 30% threshold, which is a weight that can influence how decisions are taken.
You may ask me why we need an equal number of women and men. The reason is that the experience, knowledge and visions of women and men are different. Women and men are different, but should be equal in their rights. Therefore, is needed the perspective of both for a good and balanced decision. Because we can`t consider only what thinks a half of humanity.
- Many women from Moldova are working abroad, leaving children on the responsibility of men. Don’t you think that their role has changed?
- Women who are working abroad, usually, are taking care of someone`s children or home. They still are not getting out of their traditional role. The caregivers of their children are not only spouses, but also grandmothers, sisters etc. I mean that migration didn’t cause much changing in their roles. My opinion is that this situation must look different. Moldovan women are as active as men in the labor market, they provide income and involve increasingly more often in activities outside the family. On the other side, men are not so much involved in childcare or activities within the family. I think that there must be a balance, then will benefit both sides.
- What mechanisms use UN Women to improve women's economic situation?
- We have many programs for economic empowerment of women, such as promoting women entrepreneurship. Another program would be to promote active women in politics. We also work with the government to inform about the importance of women participation in the labor market, the importance of reducing the gaps between wages etc. For this, we supported the Government to challenge the costly image of women in the labor market through assisting with the amendment of the labor code, provided support in improving the access to public services through one-stop-shops models, which are successfully operation in the districts of Moldova, providing training and information on the rights of women in the labor area jointly with our partners, such as ILO. We are working closely with media organizations to improve the image of women in the social, economic and political fields.
- There are results?
- As I said above, the results appear later, because these are long-term projects. But there are also immediate results. At the last general local elections, two Romani women has been elected in the local councils. I think this is a success.
- I think that women already play an important role in many institutions. What are the obstacles that they must overcome?
- It is true, there is been made some progress in Moldova. After the last general election I noticed that the percentage of women in Parliament increased by 2%. Developments are, but they are insignificant anyway. We need more women in decision-making bodies. The obstacles are specific to both Moldova and many other countries. The barriers are related, primarily, to the mentality. Many women are not ready to cast their vote for women. Also, some women do not see themselves in the role of politicians. One reason could be that they don’t have role-models. Men, in turn, are not ready to give up power in favor of women. There are stereotypes about the roles of the both sexes. I can provide an example from my personal experience. In 1994, I ran as mayor of Reykjavik, Iceland's capital. It was something incredible, because I'd never seen by then women mayors in cities, I was desperate just thinking about it, but then I decided that I must have the courage to take this step. Somebody had to do it anyway. I did it, I succeeded and I must admit that I was a pretty good mayor, because I was re-elected twice for the post. Then I understood that voters are not against women in key positions, they understood that they found a support in me. After I was elected, we introduced a policy to recruit more women to senior management positions in city hall, because they were very few. When I left office 9 years later we had almost 50/50 men and women. So, it takes courage to see yourself in a role that no woman ever played. It's not easy, but is not impossible.
- You have been a founding member of the Alliance of Women in Iceland. It was easy to convince Icelanders people that women can play an important role in the life of their country?
- No. Women gained the right to vote in Iceland in 1915. When I got involved in politics in 1983, women represented only 5% of MPs. Can you imagine, such a long time has passed, and we only reached 5%. Then we decided that we must put an end to this situation, because we were not going to wait another 70 years. With a group of women I founded a party led by women and I was first elected as member of the city council and then as member of Parliament. In the first Parliamentary elections we got 12% of the votes and the percentage of women increased from 5 to 15 % over night. After this Other parties understood that they must do something, in order to not lose women voters , and have begun to nominate women candidates for some of the top seats on their lists. It was a very fast process. Eventually, it reached a balanced number of women and men in the Icelandic parliament. The conclusion is that women voters must give a strong signal to the politicians that they don’t accept any longer to be excluded and that they can make a difference with their votes.
Ion Macovei, journalist at the TIMPUL newspaper (Times), Kishinev, Republic of Moldova
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