Workshop on the Status of Women in the New Market Economies
co-sponsored by NEWW and the University of Connecticut School of Law

Read the Conference Program

April 13-15, 1996
Prepared by Sonia Jaffe Robbins


On a cloudy, cool April morning in Hartford, Connecticut, the NEWW East-East Legal Committee met before the formal opening of the legal conference "The Status of Women in New Market Economies."

First, the introductions:

After introductions came detailed logistics for the coming weekend meeting.
Then we went around the room once more, to answer the question:


As a delegate to the Duma, Ludmilla participated in drafting the law for ombudsman, whose main purpose is to legally protect the rights of women in the Russian Federation. At the first hearing, there was only one vote against the law, but in following hearings of the draft law, the Duma divided into two groups, based on their attitudes towards the person who it was expected would become the first ombudsman, the human rights activist Kovalev: the Communist Party and Zhirinovsky's party were opposed to him, while the democratic parties supported him. Ludmila has tried to argue that approval of a law cannot take such a matter into account, to no avail. She is now trying to get women in the Duma to focus on issue, regardless of party. In the current Duma, there are 47 women, 10.2 percent in Duma.
The Kharkov Women's Studies Center has studied violence against women through surveys of ordinary women, prepared a study for UNICEF on children in violent home situations, interviewed women in prisons. Sasha is working on drafting laws in Ukraine, as law reform in Ukraine has been slower than in Russia, and the civil, criminal, and family code all still need revision and the draft of the new constitution is just now being discussed. In the December 1995 elections, women's participation greatly increased: 70 ran, although only 2 were elected.
Since returning to Romania in September 1995 and her job as a judge, Daniela was surprised to find things worse than 3 years ago. One phenomenon she has noticed is that although there is a law against domestic violence, this law tends to be used overwhelmingly by men and rarely by women. Her hypothesis: women perceived that an accusation of domestic violence would inevitably lead to a demand for divorce from the man, while the men used accusations of domestic violence as power plays against women. So Daniela wondered whether legislation against domestic violence was effective when women were considered to be so subservient.
She has just received a $200,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to create a national information service for all Polish women's groups, a project that was created by 15 women's organizations. Through her work at the Batory Foundation, the Polish Soros Foundation, she established a women's program 3 years ago, focusing on domestic violence, sexual health, and unemployment, and last December organized a meeting of 18 Soros foundations throughout the region to establish women's programs in their foundations.
Reminded Dagmara that she had been active in the Beijing committee and the group that created the women's status report. Urszula's Women's Rights Center works in two areas: legislative and monitoring work, and helping individual women. Several publication projects have been completed: a booklet on women's rights in the constitution; a booklet "Knowing Your Rights" for women about rights during the legal process against domestic violence; a brochure on statistics on rape, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. The WRC organized a conference on labor standards (to be held in June 1996) and co-organized, with the women's caucus in Parliament, a workshop on women's rights in the constitution June 1995. The WRC has challenged certain draft legislation and is writing a petition on behalf of liberalizing the abortion law. In December 1995, the WRC organized a tribunal on domestic violence, with public testimony from 8 women; this tribunal received considerable media attention. A booklet of the testimonies will be published. Out of this tribunal will also come a project to train judges, police, and prosecutors on domestic violence.
At the law school, Krisztina will teach the first course on "Women and Criminal Law." Just taking students to court is educational. As an attorney at COLPI, she ensures that women are included among its various projects, eg., prisoners' rights shouldn't just be male prisoners. She is also having her students compile international documents to show how such documents support women's rights.
Csilla has begun teaching an interdisciplinary course, "Women as a Minority," which has gotten a large and encouraging gender mix in its enrollment. She wants to make this a year-long course and get it accepted as official course. A recent 2-day conference on the role of gender issues in education revealed to her how rigid gender roles are being taught at schools, for example, that the role of woman is to keep the peace, while the role of man is to support the family.
Founded Gender Project in Bulgaria, the first project to translate and publish the Beijing Plan for Action and Bulgarian materials for Beijing, funded by British Council. The next step is to distribute as a brochure and send to governmental agencies and women activists. With the Association of Bulgarian Women in Legal Careers, the Gender Project is drafting the law on children's rights, and with the UNDP, a program on the gender aspect of human rights.
As a consultant for Soros, Lydia has done research on forced migration in Bosnia. Now with the international affairs office of the Olympic Games in Atlanta, she is working with representatives from Eastern Europe, who are all men. She is also working on adoption of children from FSU; has met a woman from Shanghai, who was interested in NEWW; and worked with a law student to set up a battered women's shelter in Bulgaria.
As a lawyer and sociologist, she founded the Center for Socio-Legal Status of Women, at Institute of Arts and Sciences in Warsaw in 1990, which is now offering the first post-diploma 2-year program in Gender Studies. In its first year, 10 courses are offered, with the 35 students now enrolled taking 3 courses each semester. The Higher Education Support Program provides some funding, the university provides space, but more funding is needed. She is also working with the Women's Parliamentary Group to draft an Equal Status Act, choosing to write a draft that goes into great detail. Malgorzata is one of the experts revised the national Polish Platform for Action on legal, education and media issues following Beijing.
Came to U.S. at the beginning of 1995 to finish oral history project, with Barbara Engel, of 40 Russian women born before the 1917 Revolution. In Russia, her work in the first years of women's movement focused on raising public consciousness against the rise of patriarchy. Recent developments work directly with writing legislation or trying to prevent new institutions that hinder equality. Last year, for example, women were able to change the title and content of the bill that was called "the law on family planning" to "the law on reproductive rights." The multitude of presidential decrees led her to conclude that it was easy for the government to say good words about women because it cost nothing. At local level, she noted, women doing better.
Nadezhda has been organizing many conferences. (1) "Women in Law," conference sponsored by the Interregional Association of Women Lawyers, comprising 12 departments in different regions of Russia, with lawyers, prosecutors, researchers, policy makers, and students. The association offers free legal consultations for women, invites other women's groups to work on current legislation. Published 2 books, "Women, Children and Law" and "Women and Law," based on last year's conference in Saratov, about existing local, national, and international laws to protect rights. (2) With the Association of Women Journalists, conference on women's rights as presented in national and local mass media, and also drew attention of journalists to women's issues. Her group is now finishing report on legal status of women in Russia; to prepare this report, asked many regional organizations to send materials about violation of women's rights, Replies from 435 women NGOs, among them 187 women's organizations with women's rights orientation, all indicated desire to cooperate. "Now in Russia, thanks to NEWW, we have a network, too."

Shana Penn, Urszula Nowakowska, and Isabel Marcus outlined NEWW's plans for the future of the East-East Legal Committee, and invited a discussion on how to develop these plans inside the countries represented and across the region.

  1. Raise funds for the legal committee in each country to prepare legal status reports, like those drafted by Russia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, and Poland.
  2. Establish internships for recent graduates of law schools as well as summer internships for law students to work with NGOs and legal centers in the region or in Western Europe. Urszula is expecting 2 American students to work at her Women's Rights Center this summer.
  3. Begin the electronic legal resource service, with U.S. law students preparing summaries of relevant laws and documents to be posted on-line, and with Russian staff collecting and posting information on current legislation in the region.
  4. Develop gender curricula with law faculties in summer school sessions.
  5. Develop trainings for each country's legal committee in team building, strategic planning, advocacy, transnational networking, etc.

Basic in these plans is the question of whether "Legal Committee" is the correct name. Should this be a Committee? Should it be a Coalition? Given these kind of projects, how might each country participate? Who else might be interested? What would be needed to carry out any of these activities in your country?

These questions will be further addressed in the coming days.

Conference Program

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