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Round Table Womens Stories in Todays Russia: Realities and Prospects

The round table entitled Womens Stories in Todays Russia: Realities and Prospects organized by the UN Office in the Russian Federation in Saint-Petersburg State University focused on gender issues in todays Russia including the opportunities for women to fulfil their social role.

It was not accidental that Saint-Petersburg was chosen as a venue for the round table on gender issues. It is the home of the first educational establishment for women in Russia, there are 4 women in the city government today, women comprise 75 percent of the city administration staff, and head of the city is Valentina Matvientko, the only woman governor in Russia. Vice-governor of Saint-Petersburg, Liudmila Kostkina, and Vice-chancellor for economy and social development of Saint-Petersburg, Stanislav Yeremeev, addressed the participants.

Lidia Bardakova of UNFPA noted in her speech that gender equality has always been a major area of UN work and attaining gender equality is one of eight Millennium Development Goals adopted in 2000. The new publication of the UN Theme Group on Gender Monitoring of Womens Rights in the RF: a Thousand of Womens Stories that is based on womens interviews gives a broad picture of womens employment, healthcare and social status in Russia. The lead author of the publication, Natalia Grigorieva, spoke about the importance of making the results of the research known to decision makers. According to Ms. Grigorieva, the main goal of their work was to monitor the implementation of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and draw attention of the society and the government to the problems facing women today. For example, the research demonstrated that official unemployment among women has increased since 2002, while they earn less than men. In the area of healthcare there are problems with equal access to medical services especially in relation to people with disabilities or HIV-positive.

Irina Olimpieva, expert of the Independent Sociological Research Centre in Saint-Petersburg, spoke about gender inequality in womens employment in Saint-Petersburg.

Head doctor of the Uventa City Consulting Centre, Professor Petr Krotin, spoke about health and family issues, in particular, health of young women and teenagers. He named lack of awareness among young people a major issue today noting that over 60 percent of teenagers have no information about contraception or consequences of an abortion.

Svetlana Matveeva, who was in charge of monitoring discrimination against HIV-positive pregnant women and mothers for the report, noted that Saint-Petersburg is one of Russias regions with high level of HIV infection with 35,000 cases registered as of 01.01.2009, while the epidemic is increasingly becoming feminised.

Tatiana Barandova from Strategia Centre offered a brief analysis of womens involvement in the political and social life of the city.

One of the round table participants, Olga Kovaleva, summarised the discussion by pointing out that it was a good idea to invite not only representatives of the public sector but also NGOs, small and medium business, as the state cannot solve the problems it is facing without the support of its citizens, and the round table provided a valuable networking opportunity for experts and decision makers thus contributing to more effective work in future.

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