Women’s Congress, Equality Parade and much more…
It ended yesterday afternoon with the final exam with the Swedish school teaching the Swedish language. Children’s choir. Grades being handed out. Speech from me. And finally coffee and cakes. It contained all those elements that are so intimately linked to Summer – including the traditional songs and chorals. Without them (like “Den blomstertid nu kommer”) – no real Summer. And after them, the Summer holiday is there.
Though not for Ambassadors…
The day before was the day of the Equality Parade for LGBT-rights around Warsaw. Last year my colleague Erika Carlsson represented Sweden since I unfortuantely had to be outside the country. But this year we participated my co-worker Vanda Czifra, my wife Karin and myself – joining the parade outside the Palace of culture where the fifth Women’s Congress just had come to an end.
I was very sorry to hear that MP Robert Biedroń was beaten by homophobes later in the evening. Terrible to hear. The parade however went very well. Nice and calm atmosphere. Enthusiasm. Rainbow flags everywhere I looked. And I was very happy to note that 22 Ambassadors including myself signed this year’s support letter. http://www.swedenabroad.com/en-GB/Embassies/Warsaw/Current-affairs/News/Equality-Parade-in-Warsaw–Open-letter-in-support-for-LGBT-rights-sys/
The Women’s Congress covered two intensive days where Sweden was represented primarily by State Secretary Ulrika Stuart Hamilton who visited Warsaw for the first time (and definitely looked like she could come back any time soon). She participated in two roundtables including the one gathering Gender Equality Ministers for a discussion about Gender pay gaps in Europe, unfortunately still quite challenging also for Sweden – with 15% finding itself just below the EU average. Ms Stuart Hamilton i.a. pointed out two reasons like the stratified labour market and the higher degree of part time work for women.
When you weigh in factors like education, profession and hours of work the pay gap in Sweden is around 6%. Which is lower but still not only existing but also quite high.
What to do? Ms Stuart Hamilton stressed the responsibility of Government as employer and the need for transparency. All employers are now obliged to do reagular surveys (which now are going to take place on a yearly basis). And of course the importance of dividing the parental leave benefits between fathers and mothers in a more equal way.
This was a key message also from me in the panel where I participated to address the responsibility of men and fathers in the efforts to strengthen gender equality and to combine family and professional life according to Swedish experiences.
The issues in substance that were discussed during the Women’s Congress were of course of crucial importance. Like methods to increase the political influence of women. It was also quite encouraging to hear Prime Minister Tusk thoroughly commenting all the postulates from last year’s Congress and how far Government had come with the promises thay had made e.g. about day care for children and the fight against gender based violence. Almost equally important however, I believe, is the energy and inspiration the Congress means for the women participating. You could clearly feel that atmosphere when entering the different conference halls.
And the Concert Friday evening was in that sense and many others just unbelievable. The whole Sala Kongresowa was singing and dancing when two of my new favourite artists, Andrzej Sikorowski and his daughter Maja, were performing. Now I am playing his lovely song “Moje kobiety” over and over again through the Spotify account on my wife’s computer (by the way a Swedish innovation…). Unforgettable.
My most memorable moment these two intensive days came, I must admit, when I was presented an award by the Congress (Nagroda równości) during the final session. Made me extremely happy and proud.
There is so much more that could and should be said about this extraordinary social movement with its clear potential to make an impact in society. First and foremost this: The Women’s Congress is simply an invaluable asset for Poland.