Conference Report orginally written in Russian by Irina Mardar [ email@example.com]
Translated to English by Elena Leonoff [firstname.lastname@example.org]
A conference of the Don Women's Union took place on October 20, 1996 in the city of Novocherkassk (Russia). The delegates were 104 women from various cities and regions in the Don area.
Attending as guests were Marina Sol'e, advisor to the President of Russia and a long-time supporter of the Don Women's Movement; and Lyudmila Svatikova, assistant to the Governor of the Rostov Oblast'. Virtually all major cities of the Don area were represented by several women's organizations, including traditional reformed zhensoviety (women's councils) and the new women's groups which have arisen on the wave of democracy. Some of these are not yet registered, being still in the process of organizing.
Novocherkassk, currently acknowledged as the center of feminist thinking on the Don, was represented by nine organizations covering a varied activist spectrum:
- Human Rights Committee;
- Nastavnitsa (a group for older women);
- Aksin'ya (association of women journalists);
- Don Women from Chechnya;
- Venera (rehabilitation centre for members of the armed forces);
- Semena (a youth group);
- a committee of parents of disabled children;
- the Socio-Psychological Assistance organization;
- an ecological organization.
The introductory part of the conference went for almost 2 hours, as each of 20 participating organizations gave a brief report on work being done by women in their cities and regions. This includes: setting up offices providing free legal advice; "White Scarf" peace activism; working with children, with older women, with children who have gone through the Chechnya inferno; assistance to parents of those serving in the armed forces; and many more tasks left untouched by the official powers at all levels.
This was the first conference in almost two years of the Don Women's Union's existence, and it permitted an evaluation of the path taken by women and a look at organizational growth in both quantitative and qualitative terms. It was good to see the appearance of men in the ranks, who have become aware of common interests and agreed to work in partnership with women. One fundamental achievement has been an increase in women's influence in various spheres of life. Due to the persistence of the Don Women's Union, a Committee of Women's Affairs is currently being set up in the Rostov Oblast' administration. However, as conference participants noted, the only way to realize all the plans and projects of women's organizations is for women themselves to get into power. As practice has shown, the actions of Legislative Assembly deputy L.K. Mazurok have been effective in speeding up the advancement of the interests of the "fairer half of humanity", which our politicians remember as an electorate only in the leadup to elections and happily forget about thereafter. Thanks to her activism, regional family planning centers and rehabilitiation centers for members of the armed forces who have served in Chechnya have been created; committees of soldiers' mothers have been strengthened, receiving official recognition, office space and telephones.
The conference therefore passed a motion for putting forward and supporting our own candidates in regional elections over the coming months. At present, women politicians are mainly interested in the representative organs of power; however, Valentina Cherevatenko, leader of the Don Women's Union, stands a real chance of success in elections for the post of head of the city's administration. As Marina Sol'e, conference guest and well-known politician, noted, this is currently the sole instance in all of Russia where a woman is running for Mayor of a city. Obviously, women are not lacking in courage, and courage (or maybe women?) is what conquers cities.
The conference chose a new coordinating council and confirmed an extension in office of the chairperson-coordinator, Valentina Cherevatenko. A listing of planned work for the coming year covered over twenty points, the fundamental ones being:
- working out and implementing regional legislation (covering social order, charity work, credit unions);
- organizing an informational/educational center;
- creating the position of Assistant for Women's and Family Affairs in municipal administrations (like the Assistant for Cossack Affairs);
- working out "Older Generation" programs;
- supporting women's enterprise and business, together with ecological, educational and other activities.
This organizational description was taken from the Women-East-West listserv, orginally posted by Elena Leonoff on November 14, 1996.
Last updated: November 1996
A print version of much of the information contained in this NIS Third Sector Organizations section can be found in the The Post-Soviet Handbook (Seattle and London: University of Washington Press, 1999).