The world in which we live is characterized by deeply unequal sharing of the burden of adversities between women and men. Gender inequality exists in most parts of the world, from Japan to Africa, from Uzbekistan to the United States of America. However, inequality between women and men can take many different forms. It manifests itself in the unequal representations of women and men in various walks of life, differences in their salaries, persistent gender stereotypes, and sexual discrimination. One of the most troublesome issues is the extremely unequal representation of women in government and administrative office. Nevertheless, Lithuania, as well as other former communist countries was distinguished by a very high involvement of women in politics (worldpress.com).
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The role of women in society has been changed a lot in the last few decades. In the early days, women were seen as wives who were supposed to cook, clean, and take care of the children. They were limited from the responsibility of earning money for the family because this responsibility was left to husbands. Women were not allowed to vote and to work outside the family while men took care of having jobs and paying bills.
Soon enough some thought that women should have bigger roles than what most of the people thought women should have. With the beginning of industrialization and technological development, the lifestyles of people in Lithuania started to change. The needs of human beings started to increase. This movement toward modern living started to reflect in the lifestyles of people. In this process, women started to practice some outside home activities (Aidis). Therefore, women involved in education in equal terms with men. Consequently, women gradually started to participate in all life movements. They started to think independently and participate equally in outside world along with males (Blackburn). Slowly but gradually discriminating women on the basis of gender, even though it still persists nowadays, diminished considerably. Therefore, the ongoing changes in social, political and economic activities of the country included not only the raise of women’s role in society, but also the break of stereotypes of treating human beings by gender which was so well developed through decades (Aidis).
Times when women used to sit at home and look after the children are gone. Today, women have bigger roles to play in the society. They are entrusted with more responsibility than men. They have to work along with men in providing a higher income for the family, but even so, most men in Lithuania still consider women to be inferior, and they do not trust them enough in order to permit a female to deal with political, economic, and social problems. As the ‘ruling class’, men completely support the patriarchal view of the Catholic Church. “The resurgence in the popularity of the Catholic Church has been accompanied by the glorification of motherhood (Voices from Lithuania)”. Therefore, men favor motherhood over professional and political involvement because they “identify political actions with masculine behavior, power struggles, private property disputes, corruption, and hypocrisy” (LaFont).
Initially, men objected to women starting their career outside home, but with the growing needs and insufficiency of money, they had no other way out but to accept the reality and change according to the circumstances (Aidis). According to Suzanne LaFont, Lithuanian men should be proud of their women getting involved in any social, economic, and political activity, and they should support their efforts to contribute to society rather than “crush their struggle with irony, skepticism and empty words” (LaFont).
Even though gender issues were not a main priority for the country, Lithuania has shown improvements to gender equality by introducing laws and regulations that would protect women’s rights in society (wikigender.org). “Equal opportunities and equal treatment is enshrined in the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania (art. 29); in 1998, the Sheimas (Parliament) adopted the law on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men” (wikigender.org). This law forbids direct and indirect discrimination against men and women. It also requires the state and other institutions to work on the basis of equality in gender when it comes to employment, education, science and other areas of activities. “In addition to a prohibition giving priority to one of the sexes in employment and education advertisements employers are obliged not to ask job seekers about their age, marital status, private life, and family plans”(wikigender.org).
According to the statistics prepared by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, “the year 2009 was marked by continued progress for women in parliament. The global average for the proportion of women in parliament reached an all-time high of 18.8%”. Moreover, at the beginning of 2010, the number of women ruling in politics increased even more. “They held 35 (13.0%) of the 269 top posts in parliaments around the world. This is an improvement on the 1995 total, when 24 women held this post. In addition, women make up 30% or more of the members in 44 parliamentary chambers – 26 single or lower and 18 upper houses. This is a six-fold increase over the 1995 total, when just seven chambers achieved this goal”(IPU).
According to the Lithuanian Statistics Department Data, slowly and with no doubt, in 2008, 50% of Lithuanian women were involved not only in household but also in state-related activities. “Women made 37% of all leaders in the Lithuanian ruling elite such as parliamentarians, senior state officials and executives of companies and establishments” (Worldpress.com). The number of females running a business also increased but still remained lower than that of men. Thus, in 2007, women made 31% of businessmen in Lithuania which was 5% more if compared with the year 2006.
The first women, who reached top posts in parliaments, were elected in Sri Lanka (1960) and India (1966). “Countries of Europe which have had a female president or prime minister in the modern era (1945-2003) are: Bulgaria, Finland, France, the German Democratic Republic, Lithuania, Great Britain, Iceland, Ireland, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Switzerland, and Yugoslavia” (koed.hu).
As mentioned before, Lithuania is also ranked among that category, with its current and first female president of the country- Dalia Grybauskaite. Next to the president, Lithuanian inhabitants are honored to have twelve women in top parliamentarian positions that also contributed, in a way or another, in bringing some changes to the country and to its population. One of them is Nijole Ambrazaityte. She was a member of the Seimas from November 25, 1996 till October 18, 2000. She also was elected to the Supreme Coucil (1990-1992). Nijole was a member of various parliamentary groups for the relations with the Republic of Georgia, Africa, China, Austria, Czech Republic, Italy, Russian Federation, Canada, France, Taiwan, Tibet, Germany, and other North European countries. Nevertheless, Nijole did not contribute only in politics but also in other areas of activity. Therefore, even though she was a winner of international contests of vocalists, Nijole was also granted the highest awards for her contribution to the Lithuanian culture and opera art (Nijole Ambrazaityte).
Another woman worth mentioning about is Laima Andrikiene – currently a member of European Parliament since year 2004. She was also a Vice Prime Minister of Lithuania between 1989 and 1990. During 1996 – 2003 Laima was a Chairman of the Board, Laitenis UAB and a Minister in the Ministry of European Affairs. (Laima Andrikiene). She was involved in various projects such as Training programme of Lithuanian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Crafts (2002), EU Officialdom Training Programme (2002-2004), Scientific Study “Effective Integration of Lithuanian Industry into the EU in a Short Term” (2003), EU Sixth Framework Programme for Research, Technological Development and Demonstration Activities (2003-2004) (Laima Andrikiene). She also received lots honorable medals for her merits. Therefore, she got the Independence Medal of the Republic of Lithuania (July, 2000), National Order of Merit of the Grand Officer for the French Republic (October, 1997), Medal of the Baltic Assembly (2003), etc (Laima Andrikiene).
Furthermore, the woman who achieved a lot in her life and in the lives of millions others was Dalia Grybauskaite. Having received remarkable support from Lithuanian citizens, Dalia was elected President of the Republic of Lithuania in the first election round in the year 2009. Until then, she was a Programme Director in the Prime Minister Office of the Republic of Lithuania (1991), Director of the Economic Relations Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1993), Plenipotentiary Minister at the Lithuanian Embassy in the USA (1996), Minister of Finance (2001), and among many other posts she had, one of the most significant was the post of EU Commissioner in charge of financial programming and budget of the European Union (2004) (president.lt).
According to Dalia Grybauskaite, gender equality is a topic of vital significance for every nation. In her speech at the General Debate of the 65th Session of The United Nations General Assembly in New York, she said that “Gender equality issues are rarely associated with overcoming the economic crisis or stopping the climate change. However, it has been estimated that the elimination of gender discrimination in the labor market could increase the GDP by as much as 30 percent” (president.lt). She also mentioned that “It is of no surprise that women in Lithuania hold a number of top positions in politics and in business life. It is only natural that Lithuanian women made their own the famous saying: When the going gets tough, the tough get going!” Thus, the prerequisite for gender equality represent the participation of both genders in decision making (president.lt).
In all the countries of the world, women are in the minority at the decision-making level. Nevertheless, in most of countries more and more women are coming into office and are getting involved in the social life. As a good example would be Sweden. “Women have achieved parity in the Cabinet of Ministers (where both men and women each constitute 50 percent), 43 percent of members in parliament and 41 percent of local government officials are women” (I Know Politics). Today, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden are the only European countries which have more than 30 percent female members of parliaments. “Regarding governments, political scientists and political journalists often talk about a ‘glass ceiling’ effect: this means that women do not get to the highest level of government or business” (koed.hu). Mostly, those women who are considered to be part of the government or parliament, they are involved in less important positions. In order to be successful, women have to be trained for political discourses and motivated to defend their own rights or political interests. Achieving that would show that “the difference between women and men is just a result of their perspective behavior” (koed.hu).
Nowadays, women in Lithuania do not have enough influence over the decision making but the situation is getting better. The gender identity in people’s minds is still that men are better in politics than women are. It is important to mention that Lithuania always went beyond its neighbor countries – Latvia and Estonia, on this issue. It is considered to be the first country among the other countries of Central and Eastern Europe in advancing gender equality (I Know Politics). More recently, “the highest level of women’s representation in parliament among the countries of Central and Eastern Europe was achieved in Lithuania (18.1%); soon after, Estonia (18%) and Latvia (17%) reached similar levels” (I Know Politics). It cannot though be compared to Sweden (43%), Denmark (37%) or Finland (37%).
According to Kozma, women and men have different theories of perceiving gender issues in the world today. Women believe that it is not entirely right to think that only they are guilty for the current position in the political area. In a party, a woman gets to hold a position if this is desired by men (feminis.ro). Maria Grapini, the current candidate for mayor of Timisoara (Romania), noticed that it is also true, however, that women are hesitant to support each other. Moreover, she believes that they must know as well that it takes lots of time to become politicians.
Mother, wife, business woman, politician! It seems hard to believe but a woman can actually manage everything and not in one regular way, but with elegance, style, and determination. Changes in society today are happening quickly and there is no doubt that there are still many unsolved problems. Men as well as women have to learn that gender identities belong to history and not to the modern life. Therefore, it is not the only option of women to stay home and take care of her children. Men, as well as women were given same rights and possibilities to grow professionally and individually. Therefore, the main goals are protection of women’s rights and removal of discrimination in society by eliminating the existed stereotypes from people’s minds.
Aidis, R. (1997). MoterÅ³ verslininkiÅ³ problemos. -Moterys: tapatumo paieÅ¡kos. Lietuvos filosofijos ir sociologijos institutes. MoterÅ³ informacijos centras. Vilnius.
Blackburn, R.M., Jarman J. and Siltanen S. (1993). The Analysis of Occupational Gender Segregation Over Time and Place: Considerations of Measurement and Some New Evidence, Work, Employment and Society.
LaFont, Suzanne. (1988). Women in Transition: Voices from Lithuania. State University of New York Press. Albany.
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