Moldovan women MPs, in solidarity to support women and vulnerable groups to face the pandemic crisis
In Moldova, women lead the statistics on young people with higher education, single-parent families, gender-based violence, with lower rankings on well-paid jobs and representation in leadership positions.
However, the 2019 local elections showed a 6.5% increase in the number of women elected as members of local councils in villages and cities, and by 8.6% in district and municipal councils.
The increase in the share of elected councilors is partly due to the application of the gender quota, approved by the Parliament in 2016, with the involvement of the Women Caucus from the previous legislature and with the support of UN Moldova. The common platform for dialogue of the women Members of the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova has managed several performances with social impact, such as parental leave, but also political impact, such as the gender quotas of representation of at least 40% of a gender in government institutions and on the electoral lists for local and parliamentary elections.
As a result, the number of women elected to the Parliament increased after the last parliamentary elections in 2019, with every fourth MP being female, which is a record for Moldova, but a modest share compared to the European and regional average. At the same time, although the Parliament is chaired by a woman, for the second time in the country’s history, after a break of two decades, they still remain underrepresented in the Legislature governing bodies.
There is a parliamentary standing committee, namely the National Security Committee, with no woman involved, not even as a member. Analyzing the polls, we can see that only the Chaiperson of the Parliament is in the list of the Parliament politicians, taken into account at measuring the population trust.
However, today, 9 out of 10 teachers in Moldova are women. Also, 95% of medical personnel and more than half of doctors are women. Thus, to a large extent, the challenges and risks generated by the pandemic triggered in 2020, fell on the shoulders of women. Along with challenges that overshadow equal opportunities, new ones have emerged, such as online education, restricted childcare and career advancement.
In these circumstances, four UN funds and programmes have joined forces to relaunch the Women Caucus, where women can work together to promote inclusive and socially high priority topics.
Within the framework of the UN programme to strengthen the role of the Parliament in improving gender equality in the Republic of Moldova, UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA and UN Women conducted an analysis of the needs for the development of the Women Caucus. A three-year action plan was developed based on the country’s long-term development vision. The documents drawn up have been designed to help the deputies fulfill their mandate, with an impact on society.
Monica Babuc, former deputy speaker of the Parliament, MP: “The platform gives us the opportunity to interact with MPs from the parties present in the Parliament and to know their opinions and experience, managing to generate ideas and projects of major public utility, for example amendments regarding employment and payment of annual leave allowances to school teachers of retirement age.”
Stela Macari, MP: “Being an MP for the first term, I managed to learn too well that politics is a continuous struggle of competitive ideas and, respectively, for the chance to implement them. The Women Caucus is an opportunity to increase our capacity building, as long as we want to contribute to a change in society’s political attitude and behaviour.”
Thus, the Women Caucus has promoted, despite political differences, bills and policies that come with solutions to the problems faced by women and vulnerable groups, and promote gender equality.
Efrosinia Grețu, MP: “The Women Caucus creates opportunities for solving problems related to the activity of women in the regions, especially in rural areas, such as local elected officials, to help them and encourage women that they can also succeed in the activity they carry out.”
Galina Sajin, MP: “Working within a common platform gives, first of all, the opportunity to discuss in a narrower circle and, as a result, gives the opportunity to be better heard and understood. The Women Caucus has its value, given that in our country there is still a lot of work on the gender equality, and women represent the majority in most important professions in the sphere of education, health and social care.”
Within the UN project, workshops were held with similar Women Caucuses from Serbia and Finland, where the challenges faced by vulnerable groups in the context of the pandemic and solutions for people whose lives have been seriously affected by COVID-19 were discussed.
In March 2020, Moldovan MPs held consultations with local elected representatives from almost all districts. More than 300 local elected officials shared their experience of fighting the pandemic and ensuring access to education and social services for the country’s residents.
Monica Babuc, MP: “I highly respect women involved in local governments, I know that they have a very difficult task: selecting the multitude of problems faced by the people in the villages. I wanted to know how we, MPs, can contribute to solving these problems. I always communicate with our compatriots in the regions, and these consultations have enriched my list of valuable people with whom I can stand in solidarity in order to build a democratic, genuine society and decent life for all people in the Republic of Moldova.”
Efrosinia Gretu, MP: “There were very good communication experiences through the online conferences we had with local elected officials, with teachers. I am a member of the constituency and I know the problems of the region very well. I was impressed that, regardless of the region, the front-line doctors, the teachers, even with scarce funding, took responsibility to do everything for the safety of students, so that education and training would continue.”
Galina Sajin, MP: “Discussions with local elected officials are extremely important at any time and on any topic, because they are the ones who keep their hand on the pulse of the society. They are the first source when it is more difficult to meet the citizens in person. They are the first source of both information and solutions to current problems. I really want further communication with local women. We constantly communicate with elected representatives within the party, but communication with the representatives of other parties is also necessary and the consultations have confirmed this to me, because the problems are the same.”
Following consultations with local elected representatives, several issues were identified, including legislative issues on which, for the first time in the current legislature, members from different fractions began working together. Thus, following the discussions, a bill was drafted and passed by the Parliament which restores the rights of people of retired age who continue to work, especially in such areas as education, where the respective employment contracts were signed for 9 months, being renewed. Thus, people did not benefit from paid leave and other social facilities provided for by the legislation. This inequity has been eliminated with the effort of the Parliament members.
Efrosinia Gretu, MP: “Due to these discussions, we have jointly identified the pressing problems that need urgent solutions, such as the modification of the Education Code, psycho-pedagogical assistance services. We have not been able to discuss the full spectrum of issues, which is why we will continue these discussions within the platform, so that leaving aside political conflicts, we, MPs, stand in solidarity in defending and promoting the rights of women and children.”
Stela Macari, MP: “I have always considered that one can learn about the real problems faced by society only by communication with citizens, but also with those who represent the bridge between citizens and the state, that is, local public authorities. These consultations were necessary, especially since our visits to the territory are restricted by anti-pandemic measures. I have marked to myself the limited possibilities available to local public authorities of Level I compared to those of Level II, to combat the pandemic, but also all activities related to them.
Next, women MPs are working to solve other problems highlighted during the discussions held within the Women Caucus, whether we are talking about documenting young people whose parents are abroad, or about inclusive education that has many shortcomings, aggravated by the pandemic context, or about funding schools and improving social services. By solving such problems, women deputies also motivate other women to be actively involved in the decision-making processes.
Galina Sajin, MP: “I hope that the Women Caucus will strengthen over time as an effective tool for individualization, debate and realization of good projects to create levers for those in the regions, access to education and social security for children, etc.”
Efrosinia Gretu, MP: “Here in the Women Caucus, no matter which party we belong to, we join efforts to defend and promote the interests of women, children, communities, to put forward joint legislative initiatives and to convince the colleagues in our factions to support draft laws aimed at ensuring equal rules of play for women and men.”
Solidarity of women MPs, which overcomes political differences, can change perceptions of many problems in the society. Women MPs have shown that they can work together, transparently and openly, raise awareness, educate and change attitudes, and find solutions.
Early parliamentary elections will be held in the Republic of Moldova on 11 July 2021. Regardless of the number of women MPs and their pre-parliamentary experience, the UN will continue to assist and support women parliamentarians so that their voices can be heard, and issues identified as a priority for the Women Caucus can be included in the list of public policy priorities.