Last week I attended the Estonian Women’s Studies and Resource Centre (ENUT for short) celebration of 20 years since the UN’s fourth women’s conference in Beijing “Women for equality, development and peace”. I will share three important moments from the event, because as the head speaker Reet Laja said, one who does not remember the past has fewer choices in the future.
Participants were remembering, their tone dripping with sarcasm, that Estonia passed the gender equality law on 1 March 2004 — in other words, the same day the country joined the European Union. Because that was the last prerequisite for joining the EU. Go figure.
In the developments front was noted an (un)important detail: both in 1995 and in 2015 we have had only two female ministers in charge.
And then the gender equality expert Ülle-Marike Papp hit the nail on the head when she quoted the book “On the way to a balanced society” (2000) summary: “It´s obvious that gender equality does not present itself spontaneously, nor does care and tolerance in our individualism-praising culture.”
Ülle-Marike said in her report that the long hard work has finally begun to bear fruit. We actually have new feminists stating their opinions in public! From the slideshow looked back the brave faces of Mari-Liis Lill, Kristiina Ehin, Anette Parksepp and Triin Toomesaare. Nils Niitra and Raul Rebane were also mentioned.
And then came a cry from somewhere in the audience: “So, are they of any actual use?” which is a wonderful illustration of how women are often the harshest towards each other.
At the end of the day arrived the (now former) Foreign Minister (now presidential candidate) Marina Kaljurand to remind us of Madeline Albright’s words — that there is a special place in hell for women who do not help other women.
It was also revealed that the Ministry of Social Affairs is working on a so-called welfare development plan (full name being “Social safety, outreach and equal opportunity development plan 2016-2023” ), which has a whole separate mention of furthering gender equality! This is a huge strategic step forward.
The ideal goal of the development plan is to reach a point where people can get by on their own, where they have equal opportunities, duties, rights and responsibilities to take part in society and the workforce. Should independent existence prove difficult, all are provided with help to ensure a dignified way of life. The development plan is petitioning to be ratified this year in November by the Ministry of Social Affairs.0