We live in a world where empowering our young women to fully participate in public and economic spheres equals to developing our societies in the mid and long term, and in this we must not turn back.
On a global scale, women’s issues are still among the greatest challenges since societies and cultures are divided. These vary from communities where girls and young women do not have access to education, to facing violence on a daily basis and human rights deprivation, to communities where tradition makes women’s participation difficult to achieve or to societies where women have significantly more access and opportunities to public participation. Regardless of the situation, however, women still face discrimination and represent one of the most vulnerable groups of society – be it in terms of basic education, or equal treatment in the labour market.
From this perspective, Eastern European societies may be considered ’in transition’ to achieving more recognition for the role that women play in social, economic and political development. Romanian society is typical for this part of the world: participation of women in public and economic life is still shaping – on the one hand, in the vast majority of Romanian families women are still those mainly responsible for the household, children’s education and being employed at the same time. On the other hand, younger generations tend to be more flexible, young adults decide to form their families later in life (average age for women 25, average for men 28 years old) and young women tend to be more active in higher education and participation in public and economic sphere (NGOs, volunteering, activism).
A series of factors influence women’s participation in Romanian society: the level of education, the quality of education they had access to, the values inspired in their families (mostly traditional), the economic independence (from parents or partner) and their access or opportunities to civic participation. Moreover, Romanian society is itself very divided in terms of women’s participation: in urban areas and mainly in cities that are university centers, young women’s participation is higher and young ladies even hold leadership positions of representation in student NGOs, they are actively involved in their communities and take part in economic life, offering them a positive social status, self confidence and thus promoting autonomy.
The situation is very different in rural areas or in regions that are still conservative by tradition (especially in North-Eastern parts of Romania): women are highly dependent on their families or with their partner. Most of them get married immediately after finishing their studies or earlier (average 22 years old) and, by tradition, become responsible for households and their children’s education. For them, participation in social and the political life of their communities is not a priority, most of them have never experienced more forms of civic engagement than voting.
Even though there are no official statistics and correlations, the regions of Romanian society where young women are less involved in civic participation, and don’t have access to quality education, or a positive value to their work are also the most economic underdeveloped regions of the country.
Participation of young women in the social and political life is also a matter of developing a culture of democratic citizenship in our countries, for women are not only important to the citizens of the communities, but also to the mothers of future generations of children and young people. For they are the main people that – through educating their children – contribute to shaping the future of our societies.
By Corina Pirvulescu.