The Belarusian Women's Union is 32 years old. This public association was created on 14 December 1991. The organization was called upon to protect rights and interests of Belarusian women, their families and children, to secure a worthy position of women in the society, to enhance their role in the socio-political, socio-economic and cultural life. However, the goals have not changed since then. Only the status of the Belarusian Women's Union has risen. The number of members has also increased. Today it is the largest women's organization in the country, which unites more than 150,000 women. It is present in all corners of Belarus: from a small district capital to the metropolitan city.
In the new episode of BelTA's YouTube-project After the Fact: Lukashenko's Decisions we will draw a portrait of an average Belarusian woman. And we will also tell you: what kind of support can our women count on? And why does Aleksandr Lukashenko call himself a women's president?
“Dear ladies, we bow before you. We admire your wisdom, patience, the ability to balance family and professional duties, to support the loved ones. We admire mothers of many children; they are the true heroines. We, men, sometimes put on airs. But you should know that everything we do is for you. We would be unable to accomplish any noble feats and deeds without you,” the head of state mentioned the special role of women in society as he presented government awards to mothers on 7 March 2019.
How did Belarusian women support the head of state during political turmoil?
On 14 October 1996 Aleksandr Lukashenko took part in the opening ceremony of a social support center of the Belarusian Women's Union in Minsk. The president was shown the classrooms designed to teach sewing, knitting and other handicrafts. The center also employs a psychologist, a lawyer, and a teacher who are ready to provide support in difficult situations. For six years the Belarusian Women's Union had been trying to open such a center, and the plan came to fruition only after the head of state got personally involved. It was then that the president decided to open such institutions all over the country. I wonder whether Aleksandr Lukashenko could have imagined then that 20 years later, at a time when the country was in turmoil, Belarusian women would gather from all regions to support their leader and his policies. That they would literally use their wisdom and common sense to lead Belarus away from the abyss and influence the future course of events?
“The first and most important reason why I am here is to show that I really appreciate what is going on here. You cannot even imagine what a brilliant page in the history of new Belarus you have written with this event that brought together people from all corners of our small, but very comfortable, beautiful and amazing Motherland. You are writing our history. It is great that this page will be bright, beautiful, integral, uncorrupted and real,” Aleksandr Lukashenko expressed confidence in it as he addressed delegates of the women's forum For Belarus in September 2020.
“The year 2020 impressed all of us. Women had to come out and say their firm no to the destruction of the country and their firm yes to protecting our country and supporting the head of state. Because we are women, mothers, responsible for what is happening in the country. Our voice sounded loud and clear, and the head of state mentioned it. If you could feel how he was welcomed... It was very warm, very authentic, it was a special emotion,” noted Olga Shpilevskaya, Chairwoman of the Belarusian Women's Union, Director of the Belarusian office of the interstate television and radio company Mir.
What professions are most popular among Belarusian women?
So, what is the average Belarusian woman like? Very beautiful! Every foreigner will tell you that. And also smart, educated, hardworking. If you draw an average portrait, she is a working urban resident 43 years old with two children.
According to Inna Medvedeva, Chairwoman of the National Statistics Committee of Belarus, in total, there are just under 5 million women in the country. They represent 53.8% of the country's total population. 79% of the women live in urban areas and 21% in rural areas. “Belarus boasts a high employment rate among women. They try to build a career and are in demand in various positions. The main areas where the greatest number of women work are healthcare and education,” Inna Medvedeva said.
The official added that Belarusian women also work in trade, public catering, hotels, finance, and insurance. Quite a lot of women work in IT. Women are represented the least in civil engineering. “As many as 41% of Belarusian women have a university degree. Many more than men,” the National Statistics Committee representative stressed.
More than half of Belarusian executives are women. Our ladies are great at combining work and family. Among them are parliamentarians, directors of organizations and enterprises, doctors and teachers, blue-collar workers and office workers. In general, they are successful, in-demand and self-sufficient women, ready to be useful to the society and the state.
“A woman is given every opportunity to prove herself, to get a profession, to advance in her career. All avenues are open. We have equal legislation, there are no restrictions for women to take up a particular job,” Inna Medvedeva stressed.
The National Statistics Committee representative underlined that a woman can rise to a very high position. As an example she mentioned Chairwoman of the Council of the Republic of the National Assembly of Belarus Natalya Kochanova. “From my own experience a woman in an executive position is welcomed. A woman means warmth, comfort, diplomacy, the ability to find unconventional solutions,” the National Statistics Committee representative summarized.
What support for mothers of many is available in Belarus?
And yet the most difficult, responsible and noble job is being a mother. It is not easy to raise children to be decent human beings. The head of state speaks about the main purpose and the greatest calling - to give new life, perhaps, in every greeting to women. He was raised by his mother, and the president has a special, warm, and reverent feeling for her. The kind of feeling a grateful son may have, who knows exactly what an unselfish mother's love is, which guides and guards him throughout life, teaching him to love his Motherland, to do good and to respect national traditions. Maybe that is why the head of state sees every woman as a mother first and as a professional second.
On 24 February Aleksandr Lukashenko signed a decree on presenting an Order of Mother. This year the order has been conferred on 206 Belarusian women. These are mothers who have five or more children. Among them are representatives of the civil engineering industry, banking, transport, taxation, road industry, forestry, trade, education, healthcare, culture, and many other sectors. By the way, the first such decree was signed by the president back in 1996. 124 women received an Order of Mother then. Today almost 13,000 mothers with many children have this star of honor.
“Distinguished delegates, I would also like to propose to you today to develop a program called ‘Belarus with many children' and to base it on the following several points. First. To expand the limits for using the family capital. Second. ‘A mother with three children is not a housewife!' A mother's work should be valued like any other. Third. Mothers of four children have earned a future pension. When the fourth child is born, give the mother with many children the right to a labor pension, even if she has no appropriate employment history,” the Belarus president mentioned in his speech during the 6th Belarusian People's Congress.
According to Olga Shpilevskaya, the state has created a lot of conditions for women's realization. Various programs and benefits are available for mothers. Multiple laws and decisions have been adopted to offer maximum social security to Belarusian women. “Health, children, safety from violence, safety at work, the Labor Code. Our women are protected from all sides,” Olga Shpilevskaya is convinced.
How does the Belarusian society guard traditional family values?
Who could have thought that in the 21st century Belarusians would have to defend something that has not been questioned for centuries? The traditional family is the union of a man and a woman. It was, it is... and it will be. You cannot argue with the Constitution. Even if ultra-fashionable legal trends impose the opposite on us. We don't need such liberal values. Our people will decide themselves how to live, for example, at the Belarusian People's Congress, which already has a constitutional status. By the way, if we recall the last composition of the delegates, more than a third of them were women. Women's voice is confidently heard in the parliament as well.
“I always say that we have to support 30-35% of the women no matter what so that they could be in the new parliament. We've already seen that a parliament is stable if a third of the members are women. Men don't go crazy in such a parliament. They don't jump or run around. Because they feel shame before women. It is kind of a strong stabilizing factor in any society. This is why it is necessary to preserve women's representation [in the parliament] at 30-35% at least. Gender problems are all the rage these days. But we don't care for them. We adopted this policy a long time ago. Before Europe and the West started toying with gender orientation. And we stick to it,” Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko said as he met with Chairman of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus Vladimir Andreichenko in September 2019.
But “well-wishers” tried to find a completely different meaning in statements of the Belarusian leader. Do you remember how his opponents shouted that Lukashenko underestimates women and does not believe a woman can be the president? And how many times have they tried to see another beautiful woman next to the president? But to look does not mean to see. And only the attentive may notice: if the president smiles, he must be talking to a woman. Because he respects, appreciates, and is proud of them. And he is also ready to support and help them. And judging by the warm welcome Belarusian women give to their head of state, the feeling is mutual.
The most important words - mother, family, Motherland - are feminine. Nobody doubts that. She is the keeper of the hearth, a symbol of life and a source of inspiration. Mother, grandmother, wife, daughter... Even the strongest man needs a woman. Women without whom life itself is impossible. Women, who are symbolically also female. Happy International Women's Day, my sweet ladies!