Women’s Rights

WOMEN’S RIGHTS – STILL AN ISSUE

Some people say that feminism (or the fight for women’s rights) ended in the nineties. They say that it has already done its work. However, according to the Lithuanian Equal Rights Centre, there are still cases of women being mistreated in the spheres of economic and social life. These cases suggest that people in Lithuania need to reconsider the issues of the equal rights movement.

According to the United Nations Organization, women make up about a half off the population of the world and do two thirds of all the work. However, they earn only one tenth of the world’s income and own less than one hundredth of all the property. When people say that a woman’s work is never finished they mean that a woman spends twelve hours a day and seven days a week doing the shopping, the laundry, and the cleaning-up. What is more, these duties do not make even a half of the woork paid for. These figures suggest that women all over the world – and especially in Eastern Europe where they have long been treated as being inferior – are working harder than men but nonetheless still have not managed to catch up wi

ith them in terms of income rate. This is a serious problem for, according to the Baltic Polls, there are about 8% more women than men in Lithuania, and therefore it is physically impossible that men could do all the work and bring in all the investments and innovations into the country without receiving proper help from the women.

Moreover, as the International Women’s Organization reports, women and men often occupy different job positions. Very often women get less paid, less qualified, and less prestigious jobs. It is typical today in a company to see a man as a boss and a woman as his secretary. The reason for this is that a lot of women from the developing post-soviet countries haave no access to high education because parents can only afford to pay one child’s education bills and most of the time it is the son’s, not the daughter’s. Meanwhile, the daughter stays at home and helps around the house. Because of the reasons like this, as the United Nations Organization had estimated, two thirds of the world’s illiterate are women.

Furthermore, all over the world the United Nations Organization has noticed the process of the so-called “poverty feminization”. This me

eans that up to 70% of all the poor is women. There is a popular myth that women don’t have to work because they are fully supported by their husbands. However this does not count for the unmarried and divorced women as well as widowers. This is also not the case of the families where a husband is not able to fully support the wife. The latter argument is especially important to comparatively underprivileged countries like Lithuania. The unemployment rate in Lithuania is around 11% which is a rather high figure. This means that there is a great demand for work and the employers are in full control of the salaries. Unsurprisingly, they are not very high. Very often people in Lithuania work from morning till night five days a week and still do not have enough money to fully maintain themselves. Of course, if there were two working people – a husband and wife – it would be easier to support a family. Besides, a working woman would not only help her husband feed the family but could also save some money for herself. And a little bit of her own money would help a woman feel more appreciated.

In addition, women complain th

hat children are far more often raised by their mothers than fathers. Indeed, one could hardly find a family in Lithuania where a child’s father was challenging enough to raise a baby and let the mother work. One of the main reasons for this kind of role division, according to the Baltic Polls, is that of a stereotype. Raising a child is still thought to be a “womanly duty”. Moreover, it was only a couple of years ago that the Lithuanian Parliament issued a law which stated that a man, as well as a woman, could take a maternity leave if he wanted to bring up a child. Unfortunately, the Baltic Polls found out that when both of the parents are not able to continue their studies or work simultaneously there is hardly ever a dilemma about who should postpone the career. Most of the time it is the woman who has to give up the career even if she is the one who earns more.

Although these problems exist, the Industrial Revolution has introduced some positive changes for the woman as well. First of all, it has made machinery work more important than manual. This meant that physical strength wa

as no longer as important as it was, and women could do all kinds of work. So they started working as architects, engineers, and even construction workers. Moreover, modern work requires such qualities as attentiveness and thoroughness which have always been more characteristic of women than men. Because of these changes taking place, little by little women in Lithuania gain more self-confidence. They realize that now is the right time to fight for equal rights, and make sure women are treated right. So, they establish organizations, hold various meetings and discussions. They are not silent like they were some twenty years ago, and people are forced to take a closer look at their problems and find proper solutions.

A partial solution to women’s problems could simply be the change of the attitude in the society. Lithuanian men should be more aware of the fact that it is family welfare that matters most, not the so-called “womanly” and “manly” roles. Thus such things as income rate or career prospects should be taken into consideration when, for example, deciding who should stay at home with a child. However, Lithuanian society has been led by men for so long that it is not that simple to convince them that women must have the same rights as they do. Therefore, one must start the changes from the educational level if they want to make sure women and men are treated equally in Lithuania.

One of the best ways of helping women attain better-paid and more qualified job positions is establishing special centres for girls and women so that they would be more motivated to gain high education. For example, in Vilnius University there is a Gender Study Centre where such disciplines as gender sociology or the philosophy of feminism are being taught. Established in 1992, the centre was a great start in the Baltic States, and in no time more of them were established in Latvia and Estonia. Such initiative could be an example for other universities, public and private organizations. It could also be a guide for an individual initiative, if one has some money and wants to make a good and necessary investment towards a better life of women in Lithuania. Good education nowadays is the most important criterion when employing a person – be it a woman or a man. So, if people fight the problem of women’s illiteracy, they can also fight the problems of “poverty feminization” and men’s attitude.

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