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“Women Struggle for Equality Mainly Inside the Political Parties”

Are there any signs of discrimination towards women in Sweden, which is considered to be one of the feminist countries? WomenNet.am approached with this question to the Swedish parliament member Alexandra Wolker, who was recently visiting Armenia as a member of the WINNET Europe delegation. The aim of the visit was to enlarge the cooperation with their partner WINNET Armenia Women Resource Centers’ network.

-I think feminism has not win in any country yet, as the world continues to be led by men, their rules are still dominant. As for Sweden, it has passed a long way and we have struggled a lot to have the result that we have now. The fact, that we have an equal representation in the Swedish parliament now,50/50, is the result of work and struggle of all those women. We have also reached the level, where such issues have become topical for the government, which considers itself to be feminist, making the issue of gender equality one of the priorities in its agenda. In Sweden, the protection and involvement of citizens is a top priority. Although we are in a leading position from the viewpoint of gender equality, we still have many problems and work to do. The civil society has an important role to play in these issues. We all need to work together and that work should be continuous. If we want our country to be strong and developed, we are obligated to prioritize gender equality, so that everyone can have equal opportunities. By doing so, we will also promote the development of the economy. We need to understand, that nowadays men have much more resources than women do, so we need to do so that all those resources are distributed evenly. We should see that there is a problem of people with low income, where women are the majority. We have also the issue of single parents, where also women are the majority.

-How and why have you decided to enter politics?

-The gender issues have become the main reason why I have decided to become a politician. Every day I observed how women were supposed to work more than men, put more efforts in order to be respected. And it was very important for me to find the organization, where everyone would share my ideas. Our Social-Democratic party is a left-wing party and we find that politics is responsible for men and women to be equally represented in all spheres. There are parties, which think, that people should have a right to freely elect and the politics should not enter their lives. This is, where, in my opinion, contradictions exist, which create a basis for discrimination.

Our party has been established on the basis of professional unions to demand better working conditions, on the basis of protection of the rights of all workers. We have a civil society, which is already a well-established institution, and when the political organization addresses the government or parliament, they take into account those organizations and their suggestions. There is a requirement from the state as well. It requires the political bodies to pay a lot of attention to the civil society.

-Are you a member of the Defence Committee of the Parliament, which is considered to be a sphere of men…?

– There are twenty of us, five of which are women. I think that we are able to influence the decision-making process. In reality we have a problem of equal gender representation at the level of the committees. It is a result of the fact that we have some spheres such as healthcare, social issues, where women are the majority, and we have some spheres, such as defence, taxation, where men are the majority.

-How is the issue of combining the family, children with the political career being solved forfemale members of the parliament?

Here I don’t see a difference between men and women MPs. The approach is the same for any parent. Of course, we have a certain fixed period of time, which gives the parents (both men and women) an opportunity to take a leave to take care of their children. I have a friend, who is a man and has taken a six-month leave. The issue of the leave depends on who earns more in the family. The working atmosphere is also very important and how your colleagues treat you.

– What can you say about the gender quotas which should promote the equal gender representation in the parliament?

I positively consider the gender quota system. In our party, every next member in the proportional list should be a representative of the opposite gender, thus we can have a 50-50 representation. There is no general decision, each party decides how to be represented, but there are some discussions to make that provision a legal requirement for big parties.

The requirement of 50-50 representation in our party has been fixed in its statute, and that is the result of work and efforts of women of the party. As women constitute half of the electorate, they should be represented equally in the parliament as well. That is why we should cooperate and support each other, because only in this case we can become stronger. Women should not compete with each other, they should co-operate.

 

-In your opinion, how realistic is it to reach the recent aim of Beijing+20, i.e. to reach gender equality until 2030?

-There are two questions connected with this issue: whether I believe, whether this is realistic. In both cases my answer is “yes”. If we unite and use all our resources together, then yes, we can reach a result within a short period of time. However, the 50 percent of our population that are women should demand their rights, work together to reach that result.

The main problem, in my opinion, is that women usually don’t work with each other. If we have women ministers, presidents, business leaders, women do not always support each other, so we need to work together, to reach a quick result.

The Swedish example shows that we can reach changes within a short period of time. If we say that it is possible and think so, then everything is very realistic. In Sweden we had a quite different government in late 80s and early 90s. Even three years ago we could not imagine that 50-50 would be possible. We organized a women movement with strong leaders. In my party we had the same: if the women of our party had not united and demanded equal representation, they would not have what they have today. The society itself influences this decision; otherwise the party may have problems among women voters. The parties, which are more conservative, are changing in that regard as well. Different parties work with different mechanisms. If our each next member is from the opposite gender, the right-wing party has a different approach. But they also have a 50-50 representation in the parliament. As a result, there are 48% of women in the parliament today.

What is most important is that there is a co-operation between women both in the parliament and in the parties. I consider the work done inside the party more important, as the main struggle for equality is happening there.

By Tamara Hovnatanyan

 

Translated by Sevak Aslanyan (intern)

 

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