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Greece: Country Report

Greek Women in decision making process

Greece is a European nation without a strong tradition of gender equity. Though Greece was the birthplace of democracy, Greek women were not able to vote at the National Elections until 1952. The practice of obligatory dowries wasn't outlawed until 1983. Today, there are only 79 women in Greece's 300-member Parliament - twenty more than in the last elections - and Greece routinely ranks at the bottom of female representation in government, trade unions, and political parties among the 25 nations of the European Union. It will get a younger generation used to the idea of women in powerful posts. This said, let us see some really interesting and encouraging examples of Greek women in power in Greek History.

Greeks have gone through an evolution in society in the last years 1887-1888 Is the first year that the cry “ Women's Right to Vote” is heard. 1895 The first female student was enrolled as medical student at Athens University. Unfortunately the student was harassed to such a degree that she committed suicide. This tragic event caused the Women Suffragists to intensify their efforts to demand votes for women. 1924 At the National Assembly meeting, it is the first time that there is a decision to allow women to vote at municipal elections, although five years hence and provided that: -they would only have the right to vote, but would not be able to be voted for by others they would have to be over 30 years old they would have to be literate ie They would have to be able to both read and write 1934 Women are called to vote at the Municipal elections of 1934. These are the first elections in the history of Greece, where women, even though they are under restrictions, have the right to vote. As a result not more that 14,000 women were registered to vote and only 12,000 voted in the February elections. Amongst these only 2336 voted in Athens and 9500 in the provinces. 1952 Law 2159 establishes the right for women not only to vote at
National Elections, but also to put in their own candidacy for election at municipal and parliamentary elections. 1953 Eleni Skoura (1896-1991) was the first woman to be elected for the Greek Parliament as a candidate for the area of Thessaloniki. Interestingly enough, her opponent was another woman, Virginia Zanna. Skoura garnered 46,650 votes while Zanna received 23,808 votes. 1956 The first woman minister Lina Tsaldari is elected as Minister of Social Welfare. Also, the first woman Mayor is elected in the island of Corfu.

Greek society still exhibits a low level, one of the lowest in the EU, of women in positions of power and in Decision making, a feature in accordance with it sundeniable androcentric character. Furthermore, this is a period of recession in feminist organization and mobilisation, with almost nomechanisms for promoting women’s interests independent of the state. For various reasons, both specific to Greek society aswell as common with many others, feminism is not expressed as an autonomous movement in Greece of the 2000s. This doesnot necessarily mean that feminist ideology is in crisis in Greek society.On the contrary, if women’s social inferiority is always apparent in Greek society, it function today in a new climate of gender awareness and of legitimization of gender “equality”, created in previous decades by feminist political activity. Furthermore scholarly thinking and writing is today influenced by feminist theory, while seminars, conferences, courses inUniversities and specialised journals in which gender is a central objectof study, seem to flourish. It seems as if a phase of feminist introspection is prevalent today, out of which new political intervention sare eventually to be born by, and in favour of women, beyond public measures taken in accordance with European decisions and directives.It is apparent today that legal equality and welfare provisions, although necessary, are not enough as aremedy to the profoundly sexist character of the socio-political reality.Gender inequalities being far deeper than legal,what remains to be seen is how the maturing of younger cohorts with new valuesand priorities, less gender stereotypes and a bigger awareness of gender as an unacceptable discriminating factor, plus the growing implication of women in politics, are going to influence the political process in Greece, and thus, the position of women in Greek society.

Α few very important historical figures, who played a significant role in the Greek history are:
Laskarina Bouboulina (heroine of the Greek War of Independence in 1821) was born in a prison in Constantinople, where her father was a prisoner of the Ottomans. When her husband was killed in a battle against Algerian pirates in 1811, Bouboulina took over his fortune and trading business. She built four ships, at her own expense. In 1816, the Ottomans tried to confiscate Bouboulina's property because her husband had fought for the Russians against the Turks in the Turko-Russian wars. Bouboulina sailed to Constantinople where she met with the mother of Sultan Mahmud II who reputedly convinced her son to leave Bouboulina's property alone. After three months of exile in the Crimea, Bouboulina returned home During the ensuing extermination of the Ottoman garison, Bouboulina saved most of the female members of the sultan's household. After independence, when the opposing factions erupted into a civil war in 1824, the Greek government arrested Bouboulina. She had used all of her fortune for the war of independence. Laskarina Bouboulina was killed in 1825 as the result of a family feud.

Manto Magdalena Mavrogenous ; (1796 - July 1840) was another Greek heroine. A rich woman from Mykonos, she spent all her fortune for the Hellenic cause. Under her encouragement, her European friends contributed money and guns to the revolution. The Greek government has released several commemorative coins in her honor.

Kalliroi Parren was born in 1859 into a wealthy family and graduated with full marks. She married Jean Parren, a journalist who founded the Athenian news agency Kalliroi Parren was the first in Greece to introduce the feminist principles, which had already shown up in Europe. As she thought that she could not achieve her purpose through scattered articles in already existing newspapers, she founded her own weekly "Women's Newspaper", which she edited until 1918 when she was exiled to the island of Hydra because of her political views. The first issue was edited on March 8th 1887 and was almost snapped up, as 7000 copies were sold in a few hours in a capital of then 65000 inhabitants. Understandably she was met by a strong opposition from the editors of other newspapers, who attacked her in every possible way and called her "the anarchist". Kalliroi Parren also participated in many international women's conferences, which inspired her to found various organizations. In 1911 she founded the still working "Lykeio ton Ellinidon" (Upper Secondary School for Greek Women) with its declared aim to liberate women through systematic education. The school later evolved into an organization for women to which I belong since I was fourteen years old. It has opened branches all over Greece (and even abroad) trying to preserve and promote the Greek traditions (Greek customs, clothing, folk dancing, songs, handicraft etc.). The school received a prize from the Academy of Athens in 1939 for its great work, and furthermore it won first prize at the third World Festival of Folk Dancing in Mallorca in 1989. Kalliroi Parren tried to influence politicians to give women the right to study at the higher educational establishments. She achieved her purpose in 1895, when the first female student was enrolled as medical student at the university. Unfortunately as we mentioned before, the student was exposed to harassments to such a degree that she committed suicide. This tragic event caused Parren to carry on her work for recognition of women's rights. She now demanded votes for women. This did not however become a reality until 1924, and only for women of more than 30 years who were able to read and write as mentioned earlier.

Lina Tsaldari, a Greek politician, was the first woman member of a Greek cabinet. Tsaldari was born in Athens in 1887. In 1919, she married conservative politician Panagis Tsaldaris. After her husband's death in 1936, she became involved in charitable works and later entered politics, being elected to the Hellenic Parliament in 1956 and 1958 under the banner of National Radical Union. On February 29, 1956, she was appointed Minister of Social Welfare, the first Greek woman to hold a cabinet post.

Melina Mercouri , (born Maria Amalia Mercouri ) (1920 –1994) was a famous Greek actress, singer, and political activist. She became the first female Minister of Culture in Greece in 1981. The most important person in her early life was her grandfather Spyros Merkouris, who was mayor of Athens for many decades. Her father was a member of Parliament. Melina became well-known to international audiences when she starred in the 1960 film Never on Sunday , directed by Jules Dassin. She was nominated for an Academy Award for this film. In addition, she and Jules Dassin collaborated on its 1967 musical stage adaptation, Illya Darling , for which she received a Tony Award nomination as well. Merkouri then went on to star in such films as Topkapi, Phaedra, and Gaily, Gaily . During the period of dictatorship in Greece from 1967 to 1974, Mercouri lived in France. When democracy returned to her home country, she returned, and became first a member of Parliament. As Minister of Culture, she proposed the Cultural Capital of Europe ideal within the framework of cultural policy of the European Community. Athens inaugurated this institution in 1986, but most importantly, she advocated the return of the Parthenon Marbles. She served as Minister of Culture from 1981-1989 and 1993-1994 and survived 16 government reshufflings. Melina died in 1994 and received a state funeral equivalent to that of a Prime Minister. Shops and theatres in Broadway New York remain closed at the time and date that her funeral took place back in 1994, while the 6 th of March, the date of her death, has been proclaimed by UNESCO as the Worldwide Day for Culture at which time the Prize by the name of 'Melina Merkouri' is handed for cultural achievements.