Promoting women’s health and wellbeing

Belarusian Women’s Union celebrates 20th anniversary, with National Library hosting solemn jubilee conference

By Galina Novoletova

The Belarusian Women’s Union (BWU) is a serious public organisation, uniting 183,000 people. It has achieved much, through projects such as No Abandoned Children in Belarus, Woman’s Health is the Nation’s Health, Women against Excessive Female Drinking, Spring of Kindness and Memory and Woman of the Year. Mother’s Day has also appeared at the initiative of the BWU. Of course, all these endeavours continue to be developed.

Discussing future plans, the Chair of the BWU Board, Nadezhda Yermakova, stresses that we can all make a difference by supporting those around us with words and deeds — be they mothers with troublesome children or a wife suffering from domestic violence. They need not material assistance, but advice and moral support.

Speaking of whether gender equality is an acute issue for the BWU, Ms. Yermakova notes that, at present, men’s rights are to the fore, as they need to defend their rights and responsibilities: their involvement in children’s upbringing. According to Ms. Yermakova, men are being challenged to be strong providers for their families. She explains that Belarus is placed 19th worldwide in terms of women’s representation on legislative bodies, although Antonina Morova, the Co-Chair of the Belarusian Women’s Union and the Chair of the Standing Committee on Education, Science, Culture and Social Development of the Council of the Republic, believes that this is a worthy achievement to date. Ten Third Millennium Development Goals have been outlined, including that of achieving 30 percent female representation. Belarus is among 27 countries which have already reached this goal.

Of course, problems remain: female drunkenness and drug abuse, and abandoned and neglected children who need to be taken into care. Fortunately, many parents are rehabilitated, allowing them to regain guardianship of their children. Sadly, Ms. Yermakova tells us that there are also those who fail to take responsibility for themselves or their offspring, also trying to avoid their responsibility in paying fees for the maintenance of their children in state care.

Many people are making a contribution to changing this situation, including journalists. The Information Ministry recently joined the BWU in organising a contest among the printed and electronic media, entitled Strong Family — Strong State; 82 creative works entered, with prizes awarded on the eve of the BWU’s 20th anniversary.

Not every contemporary Belarusian woman wants to have a big family. It is the personal right of everyone to determine the size of their family. The six year old granddaughter of Nadezhda Yermakova tells us that she hopes to have eight children and is already planning the number of boys and girls! Let’s hope she is blessed with happiness multiplied by eight!
Of course, being a mother and beloved wife as well as having a career is a challenging task, especially without support. However, if the whole Belarusian Women’s Union is behind us, it’s worth trying.

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