Olga Lipovskaya Lipovskaya Olga
Chairwoman of the Petersburg Center for Gender Issues

"Feminism and women's rights should be understood on the mass level and become an integral part of the common sense and everyday life. This time did not come yet, and I see the main task of the women's feminist organizations to make it happen.".

What do you think about different aspects of women's leadership in politics, social life and business in Russia today?

Russian "women of the new generation" practically did not develop the sphere of leadership yet. Under the category "new generation", I have in mind women, who do not come from the Soviet elite but are orientated at the leadership, self-actualization, and achievement of set goals.

There is practically not a single woman of that kind in politics now. In general, political women persons are the "remains of the nomenclature" - representatives of the former Soviet structures of all levels, beginning from the State Duma and ending with local Soviets. They are experienced in political activities, they know about the world women's movement and about gender discrimination, but all that is not in their political schedule. Nomenclature always existed for itself.

There are more "new women" in business, however, in this sphere problems of women are not considered as problems of a specific social group, and women professionals aim mostly at the personal success and well-being. They exist in the men's world and act according to men's rules. This sphere is built on the laws of competition and it is difficult to follow principles of solidarity and mutual support in this sphere.

Much more women are engaged in public movements, in the sector of developing civil society. However, they are working there mostly for the sake of others - advocate the rights of different social groups: support children and disabled, rescue drug-addicted young people, investigating consequences of the senseless wars, save environment and fight against forced call-ups. Women working in the 3rd sector possess a great potential of citizen's sense and leadership experience, but as a rule they do not consider the community of women's problems as problems of a social group.

Even being leaders women in Russia did not find the way to themselves, to realization of their civil rights as autonomous persons for freedom from discrimination for access to resources and to all decision-making levels in politics, business and personal life yet.

What is your opinion of the initiative "Vital Voices"?

My point of view is that promotion and involvement of women into politics, business and social life is quite significant. This is the barest necessity in the present Russia and in the countries in transition. Perhaps, the initiative "Vital Voices" creates the informational field for them who are already aware of such a necessity.

However, I cannot determine the efficiency of that initiative because I know from my experience that the availability of information, even in the broadest sense, is not enough to change the social sense and is not enough to influence society. In many respects, this project seems to me to be a wide scale but partly an artificial action, which is not corresponding with the socio-cultural context of the present Russia and other post-socialist countries. This project is based in many respects on ready and usual for all developed countries technologies, which include not only electronic but also political ones and which are now only starting to develop in Russia. Women's problems did not become the topic of mass media and public discussions yet. Therefore, as I think even the superfluity of information on the websites will not change not only the mass opinion but also even women's opinion.

I think that the time for the strong feminist project in Russia did not come yet. There is no feminist field and movement. The feminist and political orientated projects make a vain proportion in the huge mass of women's organizations, groups and initiatives. We should work on awakening of the awareness among activists of the women's movement, on education in the field of political and civil technologies. Not minimizing the importance of the international cooperation, I think that the programs of that sort should be based on real situations and real social, economical and political situation of the specific country and culture.

What is your personal or your organization's contribution to support and promotion of women?

Petersburg Center for Gender Issues is working with women and for women. We render direct support (free-of-charge consultations of the lawyer and psychologist); offer educational programs (PC, English). Educational program includes lectures, seminars, trainings on gender issues and feminism. Also we opened the library of feminist women scientific literature on gender studies. We work as consulting recourse center for women's organizations. We publish a monthly magazine "Posidelki" which is distributed free-of-charge among organizations and private subscribers in Russia and CIS.

What is the target group of your support?

Our Center has three main target groups:

  • women's organizations and activists of women's movement;
  • researchers and students, working with the issues of gender inequality;
  • women, who need direct help (consultations, informational support).

What actions could help the society to change existing stereotypes standing in the way of women's self-realization?

I consider following as significant factors for changing of existing stereotypes concerning women and men:

  • consolidation of the women's movement and strategic orientation at political engagement of women on all levels;
  • mass informational actions through mass media about discrimination and international agreements in the frames of UNO and European Union about improvement of women's status etc;
  • "to go out from underground", which means the visualization and integration of the women's movement into other social movements;
  • "multiplication" of women's feminist projects, groups and organizations aimed at elevation of women's self-appraisal.

What ways of partnership are possible between women leaders of political and commercial structures and women's social initiatives?

Today no ways are obvious, because the mass opinion in Russia is deeply patriarchal.

In the first place, we should change social awareness; women's problems should become visible on the social level. We need to have a powerful women's movement.

Secondly, we need time to raise in the ranks of the women's movement educated feminist-oriented women politicians who will protect and advocate rights of women as social group. Now there are only few of them.

The dialogue with the businesswomen as equals is possible only in the presence of these two factors.

Feminism and women's rights should be understood on the mass level and become an integral part of the common sense and everyday life. This time did not come yet, and I see the main task of the women's feminist organizations to make it happen.