Female Politicians Encouraged to Take Over Orban’s Illiberal Regime

The number of women in politics is still low in East-European countries. Women face more challenges in politics than men. The Indítsuk Be Magyarországot Foundation (connected to Momentum Movement) wants to fight this by its new project called Hungarian Women’s Academy , which wants to motivate women to engage in politics.

Women’s participation in public life tends to be pyramid-shaped: the more we move toward smaller settlements, the more female politicians we meet.  This implies that women have the same political ambitions as men, but somehow only a few female leaders make it to the top. Women in politics face resistance, discrimination, social stereotypes and double standards. They face myriad challenges in politics.  Female politicians are judged by how they look and how they are dressed, more than their ideas, but when they do express their views and opinions, they are held to a much higher standard than men do.

The proportion of women in parliament in all post-sovjet countries are around 10-20%. In Hungary it is 12.2%, in Slovakia it is 20.7% and in Romania it is 19.8%. While the trend in most countries around the world is to see an increase in the proportion of women in parliaments, Hungary has fallen from 66th to 149th in 20 years, according to IPU figures.

Hungary is considered to be a conservative country when it comes to gender roles. Moreover, the public rhetoric in the country made family and child-rearing at the top of the list of women’s tasks, politics is a field for strong males according to the governing party. Despite a positive shift in the Hungarian society regarding the political role of women in recent years (Momentum had two female candidates on their European Parliamentary list,  also Democratic Coalition had a female lead candidate on the EP elections), the share of women in politics has not changed radically since the regime change. Currently there are no quotas or anything else that would empower females to take a step forward and become the leaders they could be.  That is one of the reasons why female empowerment has become a priority for Indítsuk Be Magyarországot Foundation. As a result the Foundation has decided to launch its own Women’s Academy which is the very first one in the region that aims to empower its participants to lead in making a change in Hungarian politics.

By educating, supporting and empowering females the Hungarian society gets closer to equality and motivates women leaders to start their grassroot movements as the true engines of changes. Furthermore by promising a new, fresh political culture, female politicians and role models could be one of the biggest threats to Orban’s illiberal and unequal regime.

Anikó Paróczai is the Director of the International Office of the liberal party Momentum and a member of the local council in the 19th district Budapest. Before going into politics, Anikó was a civil rights activist, fighting for equal education for all and the rights of the youth. She participated in the German Federal Elections as an International Election Observer Coordinator, and led the European Citizens Initiative “More Education!” in Hungary in 2017.

Hungarian Women’s Academy is a project launched by the Indítsuk Be Magyarországot Foundation and supported by Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom. This project aims to educate and empower women to get engaged in politics. Among its goals belong the rise in the number of women elected in Hungary or connecting active female participants in politics.

Indítsuk Be Magyarországot Foundation is the party foundation of Momentum Movement, it was founded at the end of 2018. Ever since the foundation is working on issues that are crucial in the Hungarian society, like civic participation, media freedom, anti corruption and equality.

Eva Diaz: Women Make the World Go Round

The #FemaleForward online campaign highlights women’s achievements that show how businesses and communities thrive when women take on bigger roles. One of our ambassadors is Eva Díaz from Spain.

Trained in Mechanical Engineering and with more than 20 years of experience in senior management, Eva is currently the CEO of Appogeo Digital, a Spanish Capital Company that develops mobility solutions. Born in 1962, she completed her gender identity transition process in 2015, being able to maintain her professional and personal activities during this process and becoming a role model for a new type of leadership. As a member of Ciudadanos, Spain’s liberal party and REDI, Network of Companies for Diversity and Equality, Eva actively promotes diversity, female empowerment and entrepreneurship as well as gender equality. Particularly the gender pay gap, which is still existent in almost all European countries, worries her:

“Spain is moving forward, but not in a structured way and without addressing the root causes of the problem.”

Spain has a modern legislation, but lacks a targeted strategy to overcome latent prejudices, customs and cultural traditions deeply rooted in society. Too often feminism is misused for political campaigning, although it is high time for taking real action: The rapid and highly complex digital transformation calls for a new, more feminine kind of leadership. Eva believes that “the integrative vision that women have through education and the ability to listen and generate networks” aligns with the digitally connected world. Digital strategy is equivalent to a collaboration and networks strategy to make successful decisions, it is essential take all players into consideration, the customer, the experts, and the environment. This must not be a uniquely feminine trait, but good leaders surely are both: willing to listen and ready to take well thought out steps and decisive action at the same time.

The basis for change is education. Knowledge is the key to self-determination and empowerment. Freedom one can say, comes about after a long and often not uncomplicated process of character formation.

“I believe that the woman that I am now is the combination of my professional experience, my personal gender transition process and an education based on personal effort and the struggle to achieve my goals”

says Eva. “My education taught me to get the most out of myself that I could become regardless of the barriers, my transition process has shown me that dreams are possible and above all it has taught me to commit to others and my profession has given me the ability to see the future with perspective and to meet and learn from great professionals.” Besides education, communication, like the FNF FemaleForward campaign, are of utter importance, according to Eva: “Making visible those women in main roles in their professional areas is absolutely basic to promote, in our young girls, the idea that, as a woman, they can get any dream they wish. To believe in yourself is key”.

Five years of the European Women’s Academy

Liberals Transform the Political Landscape for Women

When the first participants successfully completed the European Women’s Academy in 2016, just 26,8% of the parliamentary seats in Europe were held by women. In recent years, the political representation of women in European parliaments has steadily improved. Together with its partners at the ALDE Party and the European Liberal Forum, the Friedrich Naumann Foundation has been working for years to empower women in politics. The results speak for themselves.

Continue reading

Pride Not Prejudice: Women Leaders in Latvia Discuss Gender Equality and their Experience as Politicians

Find the original article by Latvijas attīstībai here.

“It almost seems that society is becoming unbearably more traditional and you can’t even call it an honorable conservatism. It’s just prejudice as a political affinity. ”

—Iveta Ratinīka

On the evening of 23rd of September, a panel discussion was held at Birojnīca (Riga, Latvia)where ambitious women—who have, in fact, proved that a woman’s place is precisely where she intends to be—shared their stories about perseverance, courage, and fight against prejudice. The discussion was organized by a political party Latvijas attīstībai and Friedrich Naumann Foundation Europe.

The panel consisted of Dace Rukšāne-Ščipčinska, a published author and a member of Latvian parliament; Baiba Bļodniece, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of Defence; Iveta Ratinīka, a member of the Riga City Council, a poet and a well-known teacher; Anda Ķīvīte-Urtāne, leading researcher at the Rīga Stradiņš University (RSU) Institute of Public Health and a lecturer at the RSU Public Health and Epidemiology department.

The discussion, moderated by Dace Bargā, was a part of the international campaign #FemaleForwardInternational which aims to tell stories about courageous women around the world, encouraging people to step out of and see further than the traditional notions about gender roles. 

Taking off the glasses that somehow make you see the world as sensible, comprehensible, and easily understandable is not as simple a task one might believe at first though. It is no secret that dualism largely guides our relationships with fellow members of society and the environment we live in. Black and white, good and evil, man and woman. However, we must remember that not all that glitters is gold and the devil is not so black as he is painted. It is not hard to imagine that opportunities would reveal themselves when the two opposites meet halfway.

The panelists emphasized this existing (dis-)order in relation to gender roles and discussed the conventional “a woman’s place is at home” idea with which they themselves have encountered during their career. For example, Baiba Bļodniece shared her observations about the resentful attitude toward women who aspire to achieve something regardless of the industry they work in:

If women want to become successful in their professional life, they are automatically perceived as hyenas. Agressive. Evil. Solely because they have the ambition to prove something. There is no middle ground.

Interestingly enough, this negative connotation is mostly prescribed to women who relentlessly march toward their goals. Men in the same position are praised and proudly called business sharks. Touching upon the politics in Latvia, Iveta Ratīnika stressed the women’s stereotypical social role stemming from the seemingly primary biological task:

If you have a uterus and breasts, then you rather have to focus on using the respective organs, than trying to crawl your way into politics.

The belief that the main (and oftentimes the only) role for women is being a mother is a tale as old as time, but it does not have a place in a modern society. Every woman has to have a chance to choose her calling without being judged. Especially, being judged by other women. Therefore, the panelists emphasized that women should support each other, not put each other down.

“Policy-making is meaningful only if the representation of men and women in politics is in balance. Societies where women are actively involved in politics are much more empathetic.”

—Baiba Bļodniece

And it’s not only about gender equality and representation in government, but in civic society, too. Ratinīka believes that we, Latvians, are a nation with a relatively low civic involvement. We don’t care about laws. We think politics is something that’s far away and out of reach—it doesn’t concern us and is made for old, grey-haired men. However, alienation from politics can have unpleasant consequences. It may seem that day by day nothing changes yet suddenly we wake up and everything is entirely different. It is vital to contribute to shaping our future so we are not ashamed of it when it knocks on our door.

Dace Rukšāne-Ščipčinska added that it’s important to talk about unpopular ideas as it is a means of broadening our point of view and switching on our critical thinking. That’s exactly why she hasn’t shied away from speaking openly about sex and sexuality back in the day when many saw this as a taboo. Historically, female sexuality has been silenced and suppressed in public discourse, hence Rukšāne-Ščipčinska humbly agrees that she is, in fact one of the first Latvian authors who proudly addressed the topic and brought it to daylight simply to raise awareness that sex is not always about procreation, but about pleasure, too.

“I wasn’t like I was courageous on purpose.”

Dace Rukšāne-Ščipčinska

She says that for the same reasons she started talking about mental health and depression-related issues publicly a few years ago. Yet still today, people lack the understanding of what it really is, what it means, and what effect does it have on public health as a whole—not to mention the effect on the lives of those suffering from psycho-emotional disorders.

In addition, critical thinking is one of the most important tools that are at civic society’s disposal—to question and to analyze is to keep accountable. It is of particular importance knowing how easily is to get lost in this disinformation era we currently live in.

“Evidence-based policy-making is one of the basic principles to follow if we aspire to free ourselves from prejudice and achieve gender equality.”

—Anda Ķīvīte-Urtāne

Yes, we are moving forward and the voice of women is becoming ever more louder, but the noise itself is not enough—we don’t need to just hear it, but listen to it, too. In order to fulfil this resolution, we must rid ourselves from the burden of prejudice that, without a doubt, hinders the birth of a meaningful dialogue. And, like with any other obstacle, first we must recognize that prejudice indeed exists and that it prevents us from becoming a society in which everyone has equal opportunities to realize their full potential and lead a dignified life. And gender should never be a limitation.

Yes,we are moving forward, but there is still a long way to go.

“We don’t want to be the same. We want to be equal.”

—Anda Ķīvīte-Urtāne

Mr. Ziobro and “Gender Gibberish”

Guest contribution by Milosz Hodún

Justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro has vowed to submit a motion aimed at withdrawing Poland from the Istanbul Convention, the Council of Europe´s Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. He said the Convention contains harmful, ideological elements. He also stressed that Poland is doing just fine with protection of women rights and prevention of domestic violence without the Convention. Ziobro’s deputy Marcin Romanowski added that Poland should drop out of the Istanbul Convention as soon as possible, calling the treaty “gender gibberish.”

Continue reading