At the conference “Women’s movement in Belarus: challenges, achievements and perspectives” an appeal to the National Gender Politics Council under the Council of Ministers of Belarus was adopted.
The conference initiated by the “Women’s Independent Democratic Movement” (WIDM) Open Society was timed to the 20th anniversary of women’s movement in Belarus.
Women’s movement: pages in history
The beginning of the women’s movement in Belarus co-chairperson of WIDM Liudmila Petsina marked as far as the early 90s. WIDM was one of the first women’s organizations in the country formed in 1992.
Important role in the formation of the women’s movement in Belarus played the UN World Conference on the Status of Women that took place in 1995 in Beijing. It gave strong development impulse for the Belarusan women’s movement and served as a beginning of the national gender politics. And it was during the middle 90s when a lot of women’s public organizations appeared. During the late 90s – early 2000s nation-wide women’s organizations numbered more than 20 and regional women’s organizations numbered more than 40.
But in 2001 pressure was exerted not only on women’s organizations but on the civil society on the whole. Changes in legislation somewhat narrowed the possibilities of public organizations, including the women’s movement. Though there was certain thaw in 2008-2010, there were no changes in legislation.
Problems and achievements
- We are invisible for the society and we have disappeared from Mass Media, - states Liudmila Petsina. – It is impossible for the women’s organizations to hold events openly, to discuss gender problems, to speak about our activity and its results. Many women’s organizations do a lot, but the society doesn’t know anything about it.
There is a tendency of reduction in the number of women’s movement.
One of the daunting problems that women’s movement in Belarus faces is the absence of young generation in it. “One of our main problems is to draw youth to women’s movement, men as well”, - said the chairman of board “Gender Perspectives” Iryna Alkhouka. Among the weak points of women’s movement she noted the low level of organization development and management culture: “It means that there is a lack of long-term planning: in women’s organizations it is explained by the fact that they don’t know what is to come tomorrow. But it shouldn’t be that way”.
At the same time one cannot leave the achievements unnoticed: the gradual raising of store of knowledge and professional experience. The guidelines for activities are: the resistances to domestic violence, gender education, women’s leadership development, work with volunteers. “We preserve individual approach working with each particular woman individually”, - noted Iryna Alkhouka.
Despite the difficult working conditions women’s movement in Belarus influences the promotion of women’s rights and gender politics. According to Liudmila Petsina, it is because of pressure on the government bodies that the gender politics in Belarus exists and is of a systematic character.
Still, the priority of gender politics is de facto low. And it is women’s NGO that contribute to the formation of the modern gender politics in Belarus, keeping interest to this topic and creating public response, Iryna Alkhouka is sure.
From the strategy of survival to the strategy of development
For consolidation and strengthening of women’s movement influence it was long ago suggested to form common ideological and strategic platform, such becoming the National Gender Platform (NGP).
At the conference presentation of the National Gender Platform took place; Memorandum of cooperation in NGP realization was signed. Memorandum is open for signature to the organizations at one with the goals and strategies of NGP.
Besides, an appeal to the National Gender Politics Council under the Council of Ministry of Belarus was adopted. The appeal suggests introducing the basic provisions of NGP into the draft Concept guaranteeing gender equality in Belarus, as well as voices hope for equitable cooperation of civil society with state structures on creating conditions for realization of the right to live without sex discrimination.