Unmarried mothers most vulnerable group of all

Single fathers are usually in a better economic situation than single mothers. Consider the viewpoint of one 45-year-old man, a widower who is the father of two teenage girls. «Things are actually easier than they seem at the beginning [of single parenthood],» he says. «We don’t have any financial problems, and the kids are essentially at an age when they can take care of themselves. Of course, they are always with friends and their school is 300 meters from home. Here in Keratsini (in southwestern Athens), we have a real neighborhood.» Unwed mothers have the hardest time. They often get little help from home, because traditional Greek society has still not accepted them. Widows, on the other hand, are a different story. The divide is explained by an unwed mother who was part of a study by IPROSEC (Improving Policy Responses and Outcomes to Socio-Economic Challenges), a European Union initiative on changing family structures, policy and practice, currently being applied in 11 member states. «Divorced women have status in the social and working environment,» this unwed mother said. «Divorced women have social status in society and the workplace. For us, it’s a totally different situation, even from our own family environment. We also have problems with our children not being recognized [by their fathers], so DNA testing gets thrown into the mix.» Most of the women who have joined the Panhellenic Association of Single Parents in the last few years have been unwed mothers, according to the organization’s general-secretary, T. Tsitsimba. «These women have often given birth to their children under very dramatic circumstances,» Tsitsimba says. «And everyone puts them down for keeping their children. Some had reached the crucial age of 35 and didn’t want to risk an abortion. Many had long-term relationships that were headed for marriage and, in the end, the men backed out. Men are always afraid of family responsibilities. In the past, society’s morals didn’t allow a man to leave a pregnant woman at the altar. Relatives got involved, and they made the man accept his responsibilities. Today, there is no family or social pressure on men. The state also does not make men accept their responsibilities.» The situation is worse for unwed mothers in rural Greece, says A. Stefanidi, founder of the Single Parents Group of Agrinion in western Greece. «Society doesn’t want to have anything to do with them,» Stefanidi says. «They don’t have any support from their families, either. These girls face a stigma, as do their children. The kids are not considered legitimate, and they have problems in school.»