Name: Lili Kourakou, President E-mail: email@example.com
Affiliate: Greek League for Women’s Rights (GLWR) E-mail: L.Women-Rights@otener.gr
Activities Report 2012-2013
1. Legislation for the elimination of discrimination against women in all sectors of political, social and economic life (IAW Action Programma-Democracy and Art. 2, 3 & 7 of CEDAW)
i. Political Life
a) Quotas system in public services councils and national and municipal elections
In September 2013 we intervened in the political scene, when the then newly appointed Secretary General for Gender Equality was reported to have taken a stand against quotas, a matter for which we strongly believe is the cornerstone for the advancement of women in political life, and for which the GLWR was in the fore-front in the fight of the Greek women’s movement to achieve. We immediately addressed a letter to the Secretary General, underlining the importance of the quotas; the letter was communicated to the competent Minister of Interior, political parties, women’s organizations, all former General Secretaries for Equality as well as to the press. The Secretary General answered by a letter saying that “it was not in her program to abolish quotas”, but saying nothing about her personal beliefs; however, no reference against quotas was made ever since.
b) Abolition or downgrading of the General Secretariat for Equality (GSGE)
As a result of the austerity measures imposed on Greece, a general restructuring of the public sector services is in process. In February 2013 the Ministry for Administrative Reform and Electronic Governance issued a draft Charter of the main functions and responsibilities of the Government, wherein the GSGE did not appear as a separate entity, but as a mere “Division for Equality and Equal Opportunities” under the Ministry of Interior. At the same time the employees of the GSGE kept issuing appeals asking our support in saving the Secretariat’s present status, and their jobs. We immediately reacted, since the GSGE is the only official institution responsible for the promotion and advancement of gender equality, and should, from the nature of its mission, be an autonomous organ with intergovernmental competence and authority, able to represent the country to international fora, the UN, Council of Europe, EU, etc. We addressed a letter to the Government (including the Prime Minister and 4 competent Ministers), co-signed by 21 other women’s organizations, in support of the present status of the Secretariat, arguing that: (i) in all countries the responsibility for gender equality is entrusted to either a separate Ministry or other strong and in any case autonomous entity as General Secretariat, Council, Authority or Mechanism. The necessary data were provided by the Marangopoulos Foundation for Human Rights, which conducted a special research for this matter. (ii) That the Committee of the CEDAW, in its concluding observations on the seventh periodic report of Greece, discussed on February 19, 2013, among others “encourages Greece to maintain and strengthen the independent status of its GSGE and provide it with adequate human, financial and technical resources for it to coordinate and work effectively for the promotion of gender equality…”. The CEDAW Committee had been informed by the GLWR of the danger of the GSGE’s downgrading.
Not hearing any encouraging news, we addressed a new letter to the same addressees, with new strong arguments. Both letters were communicated to women members of the Greek Parliament, the European Parliament, women’s sections of political parties, Unions and the media. The first good news came on March 20th, 2013, when the Deputy Minister for Interior in an official document addressed to the Parliament recognizes, among others, that “the GSGE is the only government institution for the planning, implementation, follow up and securing the enforcement of policies for the legal and substantive gender equality in all sectors of social, political and economic life of the Country and that it is the Ministry’s priority to upgrade its institutional role, and not downgrade it”. Up to the time of this writing, we have not heard anything further on the matter, either in favor or against the GSGE retaining its present status.
c) CEDAW: Intervention at the discussion of the 7th Periodic Report of Greece
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, at its meeting on 19 February 2013, considered the 7th Periodic Report of Greece on developments in the front of gender equality for the period 2008-2010. The GLWR submitted to the Committee a detailed and well documented Shadow Report, with observations per article (and cluster) of the Periodic Report on specific issues, i.e.: Elimination of discrimination, Legislative and judicial protection, special measures, social and cultural matters, violence against women (domestic violence, human trafficking), participation of women in decision making organs, equal rights, nationality, employment and social security, health and family planning, equality before the law, discrimination against women in all matters relating to marriage and family relations (surname, children born out of wedlock), and other issues. On the issue of employment and social security, our Shadow Report touched upon such important issues as the deregulation of labour relations and its prejudicial impact on women’s already weak position in the labour market, all resulting from austerity measures imposed during the last 3 years. These concerns were confirmed by decisions and reports of international and European Treaty bodies, i.e.: (i) the ILO Committee of Experts, expressing “deep concern at the drastic alterations of labour law through measures which go to the heart of labour relations, social dialogue and social peace”, underlining “the disproportionate impact of these measures on women”, commenting upon high unemployment, cuts in unemployment benefits, and many other important issues (ii) The European Committee of Social Rights, which by two decisions upheld complaints of the Greek trade unions regarding contract termination without notice and redundancy pay, the employment of workers aged 15 to 18 under “special apprenticeship contract” which excludes them from the scope of various labour law benefits, and cuts of minimum salaries and wages. These decisions condemn provisions concerning young people. As young women are disproportionately hit by the crisis, including the unemployment, they confirm the direct and indirect adverse effects of austerity legislation on women (iii) The ILO Committee on Freedom of Association, calling on Greece “to bring its labour relations system back to fundamental rights”.
The Shadow Report was co-signed by the National Council of Greek Women. It was prepared by Sofia Spiliotopoulos, member of the GLWR, representative of the latter to the “Greek National Commission for Human Rights”. From what we conclude from the Concluding Observations of the CEDAW Committee, it was taken seriously into consideration.
ii. Social life
(a) Fact-finding visit of Independent expert Mr. Cephas Lumina on effects of foreign debt and austerity measures on human rights.
From 22 to 27 April 2013, UN expert on human rights and foreign debt Mr. Cephas Lumina visited Athens, on mandate from the OHCHR, to investigate the effects of foreign debt and related austerity measures on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights. The visit involved meetings with a wide range of Government officials and agencies, as well as consultations with non-governmental organizations, academics, and others. The GLWR was invited, together with other civil society representative, to take part to a roundtable discussion, and share information about our work relating to above mentioned issues or mission objectives.
The GLWR was represented by its President Lili Kourakou, who handed over to Mr. Lumina a brief report titled: “Greece: Gender impact of austere measures” outlining the dramatic socio-economic situation, affecting all Greek citizens (drastic cuts in salaries and pensions, heavy direct and indirect taxation, massive dismissals, high unemployment, reduced social benefits, violations of Constitutional stipulations protecting fundamental rights, drastic changes of the labour law, deterioration of education and public health services, closing down of small businesses, young educated people leaving the country in search of decent occupation abroad, increasing violence and crime, already 70% of the population living below the “at risk of poverty” level, and many others), but focusing on the part of the population for whom the impact of the economic policies imposed by the loan agreements and memoranda is even worse, i.e. women, whose position is getting worse on a number of issues.
The first such issue is female unemployment, which at the time was 31.4% against a general index of 27,7% and male at 23,9%. Female long term unemployment is at 15,9%, with male at 10,4%. According to ILO, “a large part of women had joined the ranks of “discouraged” workers who are not accounted for in the statistics”. Unemployed women, not only miss out on unemployment benefits support, but also loose their financial means and become dependent on others, stay home to care for other members of the family thus turning to unpaid work, loosing health and pension insurance coverage and going back to traditional housewife duties. Salary and pension cuts deepen the feminization of poverty (women being 60% of the poor), and make things very difficult indeed for elderly women, for those who live alone and for those trying to sustain a one parent family.
The raising of pensionable age at 65 and the increase in length of service requirements will further affect women’s financial situation. Sweeping employment and social security law reforms (drastic social spending cuts and tax increases, the exponential growth of part-time and rotation work, unfair dismissals due to pregnancy or maternity leave, sexual harassment, reduction of employment in the public sector where the vast majority of workers are women, closing of small and medium sized enterprises which constitute the vast majority of female employment, disproportionately affect women as the ILO Committee of Experts pointed out. Gender equality issues, such as participation of women in decision making receive small attention and are not on the agenda. Budget cuts on care services and benefits for children, the elderly, sick and handicapped result in care being undertaken by families, particularly women. Increase of crime and violence, including domestic violence, a direct effect of economic distress, affects women heavily, since they are the majority of the victims. A further effect of economic distress is that women become more vulnerable for prostitution and trafficking. Last but not least, women’s organizations, a natural and best ally and advocate for women’s rights, are losing influence and power because of lack of financial means.
During the roundtable discussion, Ms. Kourakou referred briefly on the impact of the crisis on women, as above.
The findings from the visit will be presented in the Independent Expert’s report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in March 2014. Before leaving the country Mr. Lumina issued an “End of mission report”, whereby he stated that Greece has assumed various international obligations through ratification of a number of core international and regional human rights treaties, including the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. He made special remarks on women’s unemployment and human rights violations.
Finally, he called upon the Government and the Troika to adopt a human rights-based approach to design and implementation of the fiscal reform policies in Greece to ensure that these policies are consistent with the obligations for the promotion of economic, social and cultural rights that the country has assumed through ratification of core international human rights instruments.
(b) KE-TE-ME, our “Centre of the documentation and study of women’s problems” continues its operation. It collects, classifies and elaborates clippings with articles and news from newspapers and magazines, research papers, books, book reviews, laws, legal precedents etc. KE-TE-ME is every day at the disposal of students, researchers and any interested party at our Offices. League members work for KE-TE-ME on a voluntary basis as usual.
(c) The League appealed to the State Council against an act of the Ministry for Education, discriminating against women candidates for the post of school counselor. The State Council accepted our appeal, thus eliminating a discrimination against women.
(d) Elimination of prejudices and stereotypes
- The GLWR has obtained approval to execute a Programme on “Fighting gender stereotypes as these appear on mass media”, financed by the European Council. The Programme will be materialized in two years starting September 2013, and will extend not only to Athens but also to other major cities of the country. It provides for seminars to target groups (journalists, media owners and managers, students, interested public), as well as for the production of a printed guide on fighting gender stereotypes and other printed material useful for the purpose.
(iii)Elilmination of violence
(a) A “Free Legal Counseling and Social Support Service” is made available by the GLWR since 1980 to all women, members or non members alike. In spite of the loss suffered by the League when Elia Kolokytha, head of this service, died in January 2013, the Vice President Irene Fereti continues to operate this important function, on a weekly basis, addressing as always problems of family conflict, domestic violence, divorce, child custody, alimony and other problems involving family conflict.
(b) Protest for the mob rapes in Egypt: Following reports from Egypt of fierce violence and mob rapes against women demonstrators in Tahrir Square, during protests against an oppressive muslim regime, the GLWR issued a press release calling on the interim Government of Egypt to immediately deal with the problems and stop sexual violence. The protest was forwarded to the Government of Egypt, Greek and International Women’s Organizations and the media.
(c) Female genital mutilation (FGM): By a landmark resolution against FGM, officially passed by the UN General Assembly o n October 2012,after years of advocacy by the “Ban FGM Campaign”, an ordeal experienced by more than 3 million girls a year was condemned. The 194 Assembly members approved the resolution, considered a victory for human rights and in particular women’s and girls’ rights. Upon announcement of this significant victory at the UN, the Marangopoulos Foundation for Human Rights and the GLWR, together with Greek women’s organizations, rejoicing over this success, congratulated the African Group of Women, who saw their years of struggle against FGM vindicated.
(d) Female genital mutilation (FGM)
By a landmark resolution against FGM, officially passed by the UN General Assembly in October 2012,after years of advocacy by the “Ban FGM Campaign”, an ordeal experienced by more than 3 million girls a year was condemned. The 194 Assembly members approved the resolution, considered a victory for human rights and in particular women’s and girls’ rights. Upon announcement of this significant victory at the UN, the Marangopoulos Foundation for Human Rights and the GLWR, together with Greek women’s organizations, rejoicing over this success, congratulated the African Group of Women, who saw their years of struggle against FGM vindicated.
(iv) Local developments
(a) Award to journalists
During a festive gathering to celebrate the coming of the New Year, the League welcomed friends, members and partners in gender equality, and presented, as is our tradition, awards to journalists of the press and electronic media who during the previous year supported gender equality. This year the first award went to the writer of a book titled “Stories of shame”, which narrates the often cruel and inhuman confrontation of women throughout the centuries, while exposing the causes of such cruel phenomena as well as the source of modern time stereotypes. The second award went to the Greek National Television for presenting the Danish serial “Borgen”, which projects a useful role model of a woman participating in the political arena.
(b) International Woman’s day
Acknowledging woman’s social achievement, the GLWR dedicates each year the 8th March (Woman’s day) to women who voluntarily and disinterestedly have given themselves to social work, such as in the social, scientific, educational or other sectors. The prize, of moral value only, bears the name of Alice Yotopoulos Marangopoulos, and for 2013 was awarded to Maria Sotiropoulou, physician, member of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. Maria, mother of 4, is also a well known writer, and is distinguished for her interest and participation in social movements for peace and civilization. At the public discussion organized for the event, well known scientists in the fields of nuclear research, environment, and medicine gave very interesting presentations.
(c) The GLWR often invites its members to attend lectures given by experts on various subjects (history, literature, science, art etc.), in a friendly get-together atmosphere over a cup of coffee. This year two such events were organized, with members of the Board presenting interesting subjects.
(d) - “The Struggle of Woman” is the GLWR’s journal, totally dedicated to promoting gender equality, safeguarding and advancing women’s rights, fighting gender stereotypes and prejudices and disseminating news and information on women all over the world. Due to lack of financial means, our journal has not been issued for two years. We do hope that as from autumn this year we will be able to issue our journal again, since a provision for its financing is made in the budget for the programme against stereotypes we will be materializing.
(e) Responding to a programme of the General Secretariat for Equality to chart all records and files relevant to women’s issues and create, a complete electronic record thereof, we contributed a full catalogue of all our records and files for the purpose. In another programme aiming at creating a record of “oral evidence of distinguished women and information on issues and the history of women’s struggle for equality”, three distinguished members of the Board were interviewed.
(f)On the occasion of the National Broadcaster (ERT) being closed down by Government decision, we issued a strong press release of protest. ERT was not just another TV Channel, it was the only quality broadcaster, which apart from serious news bulletins, supported selected high quality programmes with music, literature, art, science, human rights and others of similar content.
(V) Local activities
- A woman MP, responsible for women’s problems in her party, visited our Offices for an up-date and discussion on equality problems of today.
-On behalf of the GLWR, members of the Board attended many events/presentations etc. organized by various parties, such as:
- Conference of Women Bank employees
- Institute of small size enterprises of the Hellenic Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen and Merchants
- Association of Greek Women in Legal Professions
- Soroptimistic Union of Greece
- Institute Friedrich Ebert.
- General Secretariat for Gender Equality
- Marangopoulos Foundation for Human Rights: Three presentations on i. violence, ii. corruption, iii. environmental protection.
- “Committee for Equality, Youth and Human Rights of the Greek Parliament” where Board members took the floor on two occasions: one on violence, one on political rights.
- IAW and Greek Centre for Social Research on the effects of austerity on the rights of women, gender equality and peace.
- At AFEM the GLWR is represented by its member Sofia Spiliotopoulou, Lawer, Independent Expert of the European Commission.
- At the “Greek National Commission for Human Rights” the GLWR is also represented by Sofia Spiliotopoulou.
- At the Greek section of the EWL the League is represented by two of its Board members.
- On various occasions, we issue Declarations or press releases, as the need arises.
- Finally, we were glad and proud to see the portrait of Alice Yotopoulos Marangopoulos on the calendar of EIGE (European Institute for Gender Equality) for 2013, among 12 other “distinguished women inspiring Europe”.
Athens, July 20th, 2013