Feminism in Lithuania
The Social Innovation Fund is a non-govermental organization dedicated to training unemployed women in computer skills. You can access their website here. You can email the coordinator, L. Mecajeva, here. The mailing address is: Savanoriu 1, Kaunas 3000, Lithuania.
You can reach The Network Women's Program -- Soros Foundation Lithuania through Vilija Geciene here, or write to them at this postal address: Soros Foundation - Lithuania, Jaksto 9, Vilnius 2600, LITHUANIA.
Women's Organizations in Lithuania here.
The Social Innovation Fund
[Copyright 1998 Audrone Kisieline.]
The Social Innovation Fund (SIF) situated in Kaunas is an NGO which was established in 1994 as a public charity organisation. It is working for the benefit and welfare of unemployed and economically at risk women providing training and retraining opportunities for them. The SIF is also dedicated to influence public policy in the area of social issues with a special emphasis on women's employment problems. The Fund is unrelenting in the drive to improve the lives of women in Lithuania and to reduce the unemployment rate for women. We would like to receive information about programs, ideas, and successful measures developed to alleviate the problems of unemployment created by the transition to a market economy from similar organisations of other countries which have made successful moves to improve employment opportunities for women. Also, we can share information about the Lithuanian labour market, problems of unemployed women in Lithuania, and our experience working on women's issues with everybody interested in it. We are seeking joint project collaboration with similar organisations all over the world. Please find below the summary of information about our activities which some may find useful. The SIF is active in the fields as follows:
1. Adult Vocational Training. At the moment we are conducting:
Upon completion of the courses, the participants can improve their newly-acquired skills in an actual work environment and effectively seek for employment.
We are planning to establish a Vocational Training Center to improve educational and professional training and retraining opportunities for women.
2. "Hot Line". We have established the Social information and Advice Bureau "Hot Line" the goal of which is to provide impartial, confidential, and free of charge consultations and information on social and legal issues.
3. Training in social work. To improve the quality and variety of social services, training courses are organised for the Fund's volunteers to train them in social work.
4. Our Fund is active in the drive to influence public policy on women's issues. We have established a Social Partnership Coalition in Kaunas County to amend the law on social services.
Some results of the research:
The sociological characteristic of unemployed women in Kaunas, Lithuania are presented in this publication. Unemployment impacts mostly such strata of society as disabled people, the elderly and women. Due to the innate features, women experience specific problems in the labour market. Although legally women have equal rights with men, the job discrimination against women exists. The research analyses the social causes of women's unemployment and the problems of job seeking.
At present, work is the main source of living for a majority of economically active people. Traditionally, family was supported by the income of a working man. Nowadays, for a majority of people the income of one family member is not enough to satisfy the needs of all family members. Economical need is one of the factors influencing women's more active entering into the labor market. Women become more involved in the social and political life as well. Professional activity gives women opportunity for self-realisation and expands their social relationships. Working women can financially support themselves and contribute to the well being of their families. Unfortunately, women experience more difficulties than men while entering and holding out in the labour market.
A specific labour market structure was formed in Lithuania, which differs from traditional ones. Traditional labour market structure is composed of employment and unemployment. The characteristic feature of the new labour market structure is that the other two segments -- hidden unemployment and informal employment -- are added. Hidden unemployment and informal employment exist in the other Western countries as well, still its rate is lower than in Lithuania. In Lithuania, hidden unemployment and informal employment form uncontrollable part of the labour market and covers 15-20 percent economically active people. For this reason it is very complicated to determine a real situation in the labour market. In 1997, the total number of the unemployed registered at the Labour Exchanges all over Lithuania was 193.5 thousands, and that of these, 91.5 were women. According to the statistic of Labour Exchanges on January 1, 1998, the number of the registered unemployed in Lithuania was 120.2 thousands. The women's percentage of unemployment was 51.5 percent or 61.9 thousands. The women's share of the unemployed and latter on is the bigger one. As of January 1, 1998, the total number of the unemployed registered at the Kaunas Labour Exchange was 8356, 4800 of them being women. It constitutes 58 percent of the unemployed. 13 percent of all the unemployed registered at the Kaunas Labour Exchange were inhabitants with high education, 17.5 % with higher education and 71.7 percent of the unemployed skilled workers were women. More than five hundred unemployed women participated in this research.
There are several factors that make it difficult for women to find employment in Lithuania today. The economy, which is slowly recovering from the devastating effects of the loss of the Eastern market for manufactured goods in 1991, has not created enough jobs to ease the problem of unemployment. Also because of the old enterprises becoming bankrupted and reducing the number of workers. The analysis of the provided situation allows us to make a conclusion that special attention must be paid to women oelder than 30 years of age and having higher or vocational education, because they already have large work experience, developed sense of responsibility, desire to make a career. However, these women cannot find a work according to their qualification, because their knowledge is not relevant to the present day market demands and re-qualification possibilities are not sufficient. Besides, they lack knowledge and skills of how to search for a job.
Referring to the experience of the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Northern European countries in the field of adults vocational training we suggest solving unemployment problems for this group of women by founding Vocational Training Centres for Women. Training courses should be much shorter here than in the Vocational Training Schools. They would last 6-12 months, because women would only enlarge their knowledge in work with computers, foreign languages, bookkeeping, business management, administration and etc. The main purpose of these centres would be - providing new qualification or re-qualification, considering labour market's demands and new technology.
The Baltic-Nordic Conference on Women's Studies and Gender Research
[Copyright 1998 Irina Novikova.]
The Baltic-Nordic Conference on Women's Studies and Gender Research: Mapping the Situation took place on October 16-17,1998, in Riga (Latvia). Women's/gender studies as a theoretical standpoint and methodology is a new perspective in knowledge-production process in the Baltic countries -- on the national as well as regional levels. Although the first women's studies centers were established in the Baltic countries already in 1992, we can state that only a couple years ago women's/gender studies became an engaging research perspective for many scholars and NGO activists across the Baltic region. The Conference was organised by the Center for Gender Studies at University of Latvia, Lithuanian Women's Informational Center, Women's Studies center at Tallinn Pedagogical Institute, Femina Baltica Network, NIKK. The Conference was sponsored by Soros Foundation-Latvija, The Gender Equality Council of The Nordic Council of Ministers, NIKK and Mama Cash Fund. We are particularly grateful to Aino Saarinen, Marianne Laxen and Carita Peltonen for facilitating the process of obtaining funding for the conference. The coordination and organization of the conference were conducted by Irina Novikova, Giedre Purvaneckiene, Barbi Pilvre. The secretary of the conference was Elizabete Pichukane.
The Conference hosted more than 90 officially registered participants and attendants from the Baltic and Nordic countries. We were delighted to see our colleagues and friends from NIKK, The Gender Equality Council, women's studies centers in Finland and Sweden.
The objectives and goals of the Conference were:
This conference aimed at developing the discussions of the categories and methodological tools of feminist theory and gender theory. The conference plenary sessions and workshop topics center around such issues as gender, identity and ethnicity; sex and gender in cultural locations; gender relations in social and political discourses; gender and health; gender relations and politics.
Theoretical and methodological issues were presented in the papers of Katrin Kivimaa (Estonia), Rima Pociute (Lithuania), Lea Rojola (Finland) at the first day plenary session. They lay the grounds for raising the issues of women, difference and solidarity; postfeminist discourses and women's studies in the Baltic countries; gender theory and knowledge production and many other related questions of theory and practice. The second plenary session on Feminism, Gender and Culture included the papers of Dagmara Beitnere (Latvia), Ulla Holm (Sweden), Barbi Pilvre (Estonia) and addressed the issues of gender and anthropology;feminist ethics -- contextualization vs universalism; gender and mass media. The panel discussion Violence and security conducted by Giedre Purvaneckiene (Lithuania), Sandra Sebre (Latvia), Hilkka Pietila (Finland) addressed the topical issue of violence as a gendered complex process -- in everyday life, education, language, economy, and "high" politics. Workshop topics included:
Representatives from Baltic women's NGOs worked together with academic women for two days, and, in our view, this was the first attempt to build up mutually enriching connections between women in theory and women in practice, to challenge the politically convenient "ebony towers of women's research on women" by bringing women's voices from NGOs into gender theorizing and debating.
A very important result is the presentation and installation of EMILJA DATABASE on Women's Studies and Gender Research in the Nordic and Baltic countries. This project has been succefully headed by Jill Lewis (NIKK) and presented at the Conference by Diana Anders (NIKK). EMILIJA is very important for everybody who already works in WS and GR as well as for those who make their first steps and are highly motivated to step into women's/gender studies in the Baltic countries. The contact person in charge if EMILJA DATABASE is Liene Chaplinska (office 133, Raina Blvd.19, Center for Gender Studies, University of Latvia, LV-1586, Riga, Latvia).
This conference is seen by us as a politically important event for bringing new perspectives and discourses into intellectual, public and political life of our countries. Thus, this conference contributed significantly to developing terminological apparatus of women's/gender studies, literary/nationalism/cultural studies in our languages. We consider the language aspect to be very significant in terms of the public impact of the conference. The conference was a publicly open event, and the closing session is intended as an open discussion of pro and contra views.The conference gave an opportunity for Baltic scholars in women's/gender studies to develop platforms for their further integrative research plans. We hope that the conference became an event to build up cooperation between gender research and women's NGOs acitivities on the national and regional levels. The conference work will result in publishing the proceedings of selected conference papers.
The conference was viewed by us as part of preparation process for the Baltic workshop at the 7th Women's Studies International Congress in June, 1999, in Norway. As to the follow-up and/or long-term benefits of project we look forward to:
The hosting organization of the Conference was the center for Gender Studies at the university of Latvia. The Center was founded in January, 1998. Director -- Irina Novikova, coordinator -- Elizabete Picukane. The Center's office address: Room 133 Raina Blvd-19 University of Latvia, LV-1586 Riga, Latvia Fax 371 7 820113. You can reach Irina Novikova by email here and Elizabete Pichukane here.
Lafont, Suzanne, ed. Women in Transition: Voices from Lithuania. SUNY Press, 1998.
COPYRIGHT 1999 KRISTIN SWITALA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.