Parity between the sexes needs a whole lot more work

Equality of the sexes is «a major issue… that is is linked to the strengthening of political and social rights,» the new general secretary for equality has said, in her first interview with the press. The new head of the General Secretariat for Equality (GGI), Evgenia Tsoumani, told Kathimerini that her election to the post was a great, if unexpected, honor, despite her long involvement in such issues. Gender equality, she said, was a «basic deficit in modern democracies.» Tsoumani has been involved in gender equality issues for the past decade and was associated with initiatives that led to national accords on support for married and unmarried mothers, as well as the reconciliation of family and professional obligations. She has served in posts dealing with issues of gender equality and is a member of the European Steering Committee of Equality between Women and Men. In 1995, she was one of the national representatives at the Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women. While much worthy work has been done on issues of gender equality, she said, the General Secretariat for Equality will need to do «considerable work on a social, political and technocratic level.» Defining problems and delineating plans of action will take place after consultation with interested parties and organizations. But she added: «Contacts with organized women are not enough. We need to reach out to more women, to women who face serious problems or, on the level of prevention, to young women who have not yet faced such problems.» The secretariat’s services, she said, must reach those women and deal with their needs. While the GGI’s structure certainly satisfied some of them, constantly changing conditions and new requirements and priorities mandate a restructuring of the secretariat, Tsoumani said. She places particular emphasis on women as citizens, in order to give them immediate access to policies and programs being implemented, and to serve their needs faster. «That means that our services need to be much friendlier to those women who have immediate need of them, as well as to all other women on issues that affect them.» The two offices for battered women that work under the auspices of the secretariat were doing «sterling work with few resources,» she said. Tsoumani underscored the need for more, and more specialized, personnel. «Of course, we are re-examining broadening the role of those offices and our aim is to increase them.» As for the Research Center for Gender Equality (KETHI), which is supervised by the GGI, Tsoumani says that «its new administration must aim for an organizational form with rules for its administrative and financial operations,» as well as focusing more on «the needs of the times, in accordance with the priorities of the GGI.» At the same time, she said, «it is too early to speak of priorities, since we are still at the information and consultation stage.» Priorities, she said, «first need to pass through a maturation phase.» But she didn’t hesitate to suggest some: «We will work on the basis of national priorities in dealing with contemporary problems, which are unemployment and social cohesion. Because that’s what gives rise to violence, poverty and illiteracy and we will lay emphasis on dealing with problems.» Social partners need to play an active role, she said. Another priority, she said, is the completion of Community Support Framework-funded programs aimed at informing, advising and training women, as well as providing them with social support. Implementation by the GGI is already under way, she said.

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