05 October 2014 Published in Gender Studies Written by 

Roma women between voice and voicelesness in politics in the Republic of Macedonia

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"We do not see the importance of Roma women in political life"
Amdi Bajram, Roma member of Parliament and political leader

The above statement of a Roma politician and leader tells enough about the attitude and the treatment towards Romani women by Roma political parties. In the past twenty years, Romani women have made a significant contribution to the development and organization of Roma political parties and civil society. However it is dominant the impression that Romani women still do not receive rightful place in Roma political parties. Key factors for this situation are the political culture of the Roma leaders, legislation, the persistence of the women as well as the traditional position of Romani women.

  • Legislation – The legislation requires all political parties to include at least 30% women on candidate lists. Law on Election of Deputies (2002), the Local Government Act (2004) included a target of 30% participation of both sexes on the candidate list forthe election of MPsand councilors. Electoral Code is quite clear "... in every three places at least one should be of the less represented gender.”[1] Although political parties have completed with this statutory provision, still the number of women elected in the Parliament is still only 30.9%, which means meets the smallest quota. Until now, we have had only one Romani woman (Gjulistana Jumerovska-Markovska) as a representative in the Parliament. From all political Roma holders only 2 councilors are Romani women.
  • Political (non) culture of Roma leaders - one of the biggest problems with our leaders is the lack of political culture and dialogue especially when discussing women’s political active participation which most of the time reflect on the political ideology of the party. It becomes obvious that Romani women are “visible” only during the election period.
  • Women’s persistence - the problem of Roma community in terms of Romani women is different to the status of women in other communities. For example, Anne Stevens in Women, Power and Politics explains that although women have the right to vote, still they are not active voters and are less prevalent in politics.[2] The public / private division has a dual role, as an explanation of the subordinated position of women as an ideology that builds that position. Women, however, often find it easier to accept this fact, underlining the fact that besides their education, it is difficult to progress and build careers. The element that we have only two Romani women as councilors confirms the fact that women in political parties are used only as a method to meet the legislation. Due to the fact that women are not given the opportunity and confidence to prove their qualities, Roma political parties remain gender insensitive. The Idea of being “apathetic”, “conservative”, “emotional”, does not allow women to realize the importance of independently deciding for whom to vote and whether and how to be politically active. Very often on the Election Day, Romani women are massively recruited initially by their husbands who are soldiers or partisan supporters of a particular political party, and being suggested for which political candidate they should vote.
  • The traditional position of Romani women – when discussing Romani women’s participation, it is crucial to discuss the traditional position that many Romani women hold inside the families and communities. From most of Romani women it is not expected to become public figure nor a political active leader, the opposite, they are trained how to become mothers and how best to “serve” as Romani women, mothers and wives. I wonder how a Romani woman may have the ambition to do something different from what is imposed and requested. Anne Stevens argues that “socio-economic factors influence the supply of women able and willing to take on positions as representatives. Their ability actually to do so is structured by the nature of the political system”.

Unfortunately, very little is present the awareness that their voice or active participation may change policies that are directly related to their needs and interests, policies tackling domestic violence, specific needs of women in terms of health, sexual harassment, gender inequality and many other issues. In addition, our leader with his statement "We do not see the importance of Romani women in political life" upheld where the place of Romani women is. Moreover, women selected as leaders or political representatives very often want to show that they have been selected not because of their sex or gender, but because of their qualification, therefore those women are less likely to tackle and deal with women’s issues.  

The category 'woman' is associated within the construction of kinship and family (private area), just as the category 'man' is associated with power, politics and knowledge (public area). I agree with Marx when he says that the public/private division is crucial for understanding the relationships between families, political structures and economic processes.[3] Although Marx gave this statement more than a hundred years ago, our MP (Amdi Bajram) unfortunately his statement turns out that pauses several centuries of Marx. Perceptions that women receive when becoming active outside (private sphere) often are associated with their morality and integrity they "should" have as women.

Because of the dual played role (reproductive and professional), Romani women are forced to choose only one role, often it is the reproductive (private) one. These are gender perceptions took place during the communist movement and the understandings taken for granted, sexual ideas as social and cultural understanding of male-female differences, power and inequality. However, it is tremendously difficult for Romani women activists, especially for those who are in the same time part of public (activists) and private (mothers) word. These women cannot completely fight against oppression and domination, because of the two statuses they hold.

In order to find a way to achieve gender equality, first of all we need to find a way that will allow women to be part of public sphere without questioning their morality or integrity, without linking their role which they “should” have it as women, activists and mothers. Today I see Romani women: struggling in different fields, weak involvement in political parties, repression by families, holding traditional roles, not being motivated for self-development etc. Can we imagine if the roles switch and Romani women become active political figures?

The analysis is copyrighted, unauthorized publishing, text reproduction, distribution, and text copy is prohibited without prior consent by the author.


[1] Local government law of Republic of Macedonia

[2] Stevens, Anne (2007). “Chapter 3: Women as Voters” and Chapter 4: The Representation of Women.” In: Power and Politics. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 48-97 

[3] Davidoff, Leonore (1998). “Regarding Some Old Husbands Tales”: Public and Private in Feminist History.” In: Landes, Joan B. (ed) (1998). Feminism, the Public and the Private, Oxford University Press, pp. 164-194

 

  • Angela Kocze, Gender, Ethnicity and Class: Romani women’s political activism and social struggles, Budapest, Hungary 2011
  • Claire Pomeroy 2004, Redefining Public and Private in the Framework of a Gendered Equality
  • Dahl, R.A. (1989). “Democracy and its critics”, New Haven: Yale University Press
  • Matland, Richard and Montgomery, Kathleen (2003). “Recruiting Women to National Legislatures. A General Framework with Applications to Post-Communist Europe”, in Matland, Richard and Montgomery, Kathleen (eds), Women's Access to Political Power in Post-Communist Europe. Oxford: OUP
  • Sztojka, Katalin. Roma Rights 1/2000,
  • Antiko http://www.antiko.org.mk/Uploads/Analiza_na_kandidatski_listi.pdf (last access 02.04.2013).
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Last modified on Thursday, 04 December 2014 11:04

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