International Women's Day - forgotten in Czech Republic

March 8th is International Women's Day, not that you'd notice it in the Czech Republic. Throughout the years of Communist rule, it was a major event. Women who had achieved outstanding results at work and who had toed the party line were given awards by the state, all women received presents at work, and there were celebrations everywhere, frequently with the women doing all the work and the men drinking until late at night - which just proved the real position of women in society.

International Women's Day was discredited to such a degree, that nowadays nobody even mentions it. But the internationally recognised day is an occasion to take a closer look at the position of women in society, and especially in political life. Olga Szantova reports.

Just what role do Czech women play in political life? You don't have to do any in-depth analysis to see that it's certainly not a major one. There is not a single woman in the cabinet. Out of the 81 members of the Senate, only 10 are women, that's 12 percent, and out of the 200 seats in the Lower House of Parliament, only one in seven (31) are occupied by women MPs. The official reason for this state of affairs is that women lack self-confidence, that they prefer to rush home from work and look after their families. But many women are extremely successful in business, which certainly requires a huge amount of self-confidence. I talked about it with Mrs Jana Outratova, who heads an NGO where many women entrepreneurs are members. But not all women take that stand. Dr Jaroslava Moserova has been a member of the Senate since it was founded in 1996, and most of that time she was the deputy chairperson of the upper house. She gave up a very successful career in medicine to enter politics. Why did she make that decision? And many women realise that. You'll find them mostly on the lower levels of political life, in the local councils, where concrete, everyday matters are dealt with. Eva Novakova is an elected member of the district council in Prague 3, where she works on the social, health and cultural committees. So much then, for a picture of Czech women in politics on International Women's Day 2001.

Author: Olga Szantová
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