“I am currently involved in a project on gender-based violence and the war in Ukraine,” said Ganna Gerasymenko, from the Institute for Demography and Social Studies, National Academy of Sciences, Ukraine. “There has been a huge increase in incidence. It may take years, maybe decades, for things to settle down once the war is over.”
She was talking just before presenting her paper on ‘Gender aspects of Income Inequality: a case of Ukraine’ at the World Social Sciences Forum on 13 September at the International Convention Centre, Durban. A patriarchal society which was weakened during the Soviet years has reasserted itself starkly, Gerasymenko, a demographer whose job is to provide useable aggregation of data and analysis for policy makers and ministers in her country, said.
The inequality between men and women is glaring in the graphs she presented: women on average earn 75% of what men earn in the Ukraine and they are at greater risk of poverty. There’s a ‘gender segregation’ in occupations both horizontally and vertically – that is, some occupations are clearly dominated by women, while the higher echelons of status, such as managers and CEOs, are male-dominated.
Interestingly, the stereotypes that underpin this state of affairs are well established: Gerasymenko noted that, when asked if women should be prepared to cut down on her paid work for the sake of her family, 17.8% of Ukrainian women agree – nearly three times higher than British women at 6% and way higher than Danish women at just 1.9%.
The sharp swing from a Soviet sensibility in which all women had to hold jobs and equality was a policy goal, said Gerasymenko, may have been a reaction to this austere ideological approach – when the USSR crumbled, women sought to reclaim their traditional ‘feminine’ roles. This led to a rebound of the darker side of tradition: patriarchal stereotypes which, ultimately, has resulted in greater poverty for Ukraine’s women – and the gender-based violence which emerged during the recent war. Although Ukraine has made some strides through enacting gender rights-related legislation, mending this situation is “impossible to achieve through legislation,” said Gerasymenko. “It has to be through information and teaching, starting even at school level,” she added.
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Author: Sarah Van Der Ahee from HIPPO Communications.