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Women in Greece call for a stronger voice in the newly elected parliament

23 April 2012 / 22:04:44  GRReporter
6745 reads

Victoria Mindova

Many Greeks believe that post-war politics has been a striking failure in the last two years no matter which party line they support. Distressed and disappointed with the current political system, they must elect new politicians to drag the cart out of the mire. In Greece the work of a deputy is known as a man's job - a view that the Political Union of Women in Greece wants to change. On this occasion, the Union organized a presentation of the women running in this year’s election campaign. GRReporter attended the event and highlighted some of the views expressed by women in politics.

"This year, there is an increase in the number of nominations of women. The question is whether these nominations are the result of real progress in achieving equality or if women are the "easy solution" in the desire of political parties to show they have been renewed," said Maria Stratigaki, who heads the Gender Equality Department.

Theta Diamantoupoulou who is the deputy chairman of the Political Union of Women in Greece and in charge of the politics of social responsibility at New Democracy said that the presence of women in parliament and in the managing bodies of the state is important, but not at any price. The point is for their election to be based on the criteria that apply to men. "Given that 61% of women in Greece are university graduates, I can say it is a significant loss if they are not involved in the decision-making centres of the state." She stresses that there are many successful women in the field of science and entrepreneurship, who are able to contribute to improving the environment.

The young PASOK deputy Catherine Diamantapoulou, in turn, is firm that the stronger presence of women in the new National Assembly will significantly contribute to the faster recovery of the country and will improve the face of the political class in Greece. According to her, there are three main reasons why women are needed in political life. "There should be more women in the next parliament, because we take responsible decisions in times of crisis more easily, we have a strong sense of justice and compassion (which is very important in the present situation) and last, but not least, the data show that women rarely succumb to corrupt practices."

Among the women nominated for the election race was the member and representative of the far-right LAOS Dimitra Arapoglou. Her main goal as a national representative is to protect the interests of disadvantaged people. Arapoglou is the only deaf-and-dumb member of the Greek parliament. With the help of her translator, she said for the readers of GRReporter, "There are members of parliament who do not treat me as their equal. Not just because I am a woman, but also because I am a disabled person. That would not stop me." Arapoglou explains that she is keen to help people with disabilities, who need protection from the law, the state and the social structures. Asked whether she is supported by her colleagues from the parliamentary group of LAOS, the nominated deputy replied negatively. Comments like, "How can a deaf person speak" are often heard about her but she stresses that there is always a way for your voice to be heard. Dimitra Arapoglou will run again and wants to encourage other people with disabilities to become more active in political and public life. "We are equal to all other citizens; we have the same rights and the same obligations. We have not seen the light of day in vain. People with disabilities cannot always be on the periphery of social and political life. We have jobs, ideas and ambitions. We can be useful to society, but should be given a chance."

The difficulties Dimitra Arapoglou has faced in political life have not made her give up. Although she does not have the support of her parliamentary group, she said she cannot run as an independent deputy, because she cannot afford the costs of campaigning. The problem appears to be common for most nominated women, who may not fully agree with the party line of a political force. "Campaigns require a lot of money," says the Secretary of the Political Union of Women, Zefi Damanda, who is a representative of PASOK, but will not run in these elections. She explains that the time for election campaigning is too short to allow her, as a politically active woman, to fight her opponent for the votes of citizens in her area.

Eugenia Choumani is in charge of social policy issues at New Democracy and she is clear that Greece needs a new road. She believes that women are more willing to give the country a new alternative. "The most important thing is to start with the issues of transparency that Greek politics has been lacking so far. A politician is now obliged to defend the state and the citizens." Choumani did not fail to note that serious attention should be paid to social policy, which is the first to suffer in times of recession. "The crisis might have obsessed us but we should not leave people to the mercy of fate."

The gender equality benchmark shows that Greece is 26th among the 27 European Union countries regarding women's participation in politics. In the same ranking at a global level, Greece is 93rd among 130 countries. Women-deputies in the Greek parliament are less than 17% of all deputies and in the European Parliament - women take 32% of the seats.

Tags: PoliticsWomenEqualityGreek elections 2012Political Union of Women
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