Updated: Jul 3, 2022
Many women across the world are actively fighting for their freedom and transforming history every day, joining the troves of women who came before them and whose stories are described in history books. In Russia, the women's rights movement has a fascinating history, one that continues into the 21st century. Despite women in Russia gaining certain protections as early as the 19th century, the path forward continues to be difficult. In this blog, we will describe some of the accomplishments of women’s rights activists.
Women's rights activists’ first victory was gaining the right to inherit property and disposing of it at their discretion; this brought more women into the labor force. However, there are still significant wage discrepancies among men and women, even those working within the same profession.
The Constitution of the Russian Federation took this a step further and equalized the rights of women and men. However, there were both restrictions and benefits written into law. Due to their “softer” physique and additional home responsibilities, women in Russia are treated differently. For example, the pension age for women was established to be a few years earlier than for men. Additionally, for mothers of more than three children, there is a system of preferential retirement—they can retire earlier.
However, the same reasons are used to restrict women—there are hundreds of professions that women cannot legally participate in due to the inherent present danger. In hazardous and heavy industries, certain norms have been established that limit the lifting of weights by women. Women should not lift more than 10kg (about 20 lbs), and the duration of lifting activity should be no more than half an hour.
This same mentality of weakness extends to the military. Despite Russia’s compulsory military service for all boys aged 18 and 19, by law, the state cannot recruit women for military service. Women are exempted from the obligation to serve in the armed forces and can only volunteer for a contract position—usually administrative in nature.
The upbringing of children is carried out mainly by mothers, although by law, this is the responsibility of both parents. Single mothers are forced to work multiple jobs to support their children, while some fathers are able to evade child support for years. Russia’s government has taken extraordinary steps to ensure women are supported in their motherhood journey.
One of these steps is giving women autonomy over birthing decisions and birth termination. Women have the right to independently decide to end a pregnancy. Nobody, not even her husband, has the right to force her to have a child or to have an abortion.
Maternity and paternity leave in Russia are well established and used by many families. However, while fathers can use their paternity leave to encompass extreme family circumstances or to take care of a sick or ailing wife, maternity leave is restricted to birth. Women have the option to take up to three years of maternity leave that is paid for by both the government and their place of work.
Maternity capital—a one-time lump sum payment issued to mothers upon the birth of their child—is a federal benefit created to encourage women to have children. This maternity capital can be used by the family to purchase real estate or a vehicle, cover a family vacation, be invested in business, or even deposited into a pension plan. Many families make the decision to have a child based on the promise of maternity capital.
In addition, working mothers have legally protected worker’s rights, including the right to refuse travel, overtime work, working at night, and working on weekends and holidays. It is recognized that women have an obligation to monitor their children on a daily basis, so a long work-related absence can adversely affect the health of children and their school performance.
While the Russian government has taken steps to implement some of the recommendations of women’s rights activists, many of the initiatives are grounded in outdated ideas, and support childbirth and childrearing over development and self-actualization. Our work at Girls Education Nation attacks this issue from two fronts:
We encourage and empower women to advocate for themselves to ensure that they can continue demanding expanded equal rights in their workplaces and communities;
We educate and assist women in navigating the existing systems to ensure that they receive the benefits they are entitled to by law
Thanks to the support of our network of donors and volunteers, we are able to continue our mission.