DEA, Ass. Professor of Social Work, T.E.I. of Patras
M.A. in Women’s Studies,
Adjunct Lecturer, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and T.E.I. of Patras
“An Introduction of Gender Equality Principles in Education:
A new experience”
In the academic year 2003-4 the so-called Undergraduate Study Programs on Issues of Gender and Equality were introduced to a number of higher educational institutions of Greece (8 universities and 4 technological educational institutions), among them the Technological Educational Institution (Τ.Ε.Ι.) of Patras. The whole project, a ground-breaking one for Greece, has been initiated and supported by the European Union, in the frame of the European Program on Education and Initial Professional Training II.
At the T.E.I. of Patras the program in question was designed to offer the students a multi-lateral approach on issues of gender equality, using as starting points aspects of personal relationships and examining their social, political and institutional dimensions within a local, state, European and multicultural framework. Teaching is based on the understanding that in the past 30 years, Greece, propelled by the women’s movement and the country’s entry into the European Union, has achieved great changes in the attitudes and institutions that shape gender relations (certain legal provisions are of the most advanced in the world), yet forms of inequality are perpetuated and advantages rescinded.* Our broader objective is to employ a number of activities designed to introduce the academic community, in its entirety, as well as the local society to these issues. Familiarity with these topics is evidently pertinent to the practice of Social Work, which is often called to deal with personal and/or social problems deriving from the fact that the principle of equality is not always respected in social life.
The following discussion of the realization of the Undergraduate Study Program on Issues of Gender and Equality at the T.E.I. of Patras, under the scientific supervision of ass. professor Stavroula Cornarou-Zagoura, aims to offer insights that developed from setting up and implementing such a program and its interaction with the academic and the social bodies which it addresses.
I. Introduction of three pioneering courses
At the Technological Educational Institution of Patras three new courses were designed, addressing all the departments of all its schools, and therefore a large spectrum of disciplines and vocations. Each course was taken up by a department of a school but was offered intra-departmentally, for three consecutive semesters. An outline of the contents of the three courses is the following:
“Personal and Social Rights from the Point of View of Gender”
This course was taught by Aristea Marouda, lawyer and former representative of the General Secreteriat for Equality at the District of Western Greece, and was adopted by the Department of Building Reconstruction, School of Technological Applications. It was designed to offer the students additional knowledge on the legal and institutional provisions for the implementation of the principle of gender equality, so that they can defend their rights as individuals and as citizens and contribute, in their turn, to the policy of gender equality -a policy advocated by the Greek state and the European Union on the grounds that failure to apply the principle of equality in the social nexus signifies a malfunctioning democracy.
It is interesting to note that this course was taught in a department of thoroughly technological orientation, thus offering a social perspective to the technocratic content of its educational program. The students who chose this course were mostly female, and on several occasions expressed their concern regarding their realization that despite legal safeguards women in Greece are still discriminated in relation to men.
“Equal Opportunities for the Two Genders in the Domain of Employment”
This course was taught by Anna-Efrosyni Mihopoulou, M.A. in Women’s Studies, researcher and activist on women’s issues, and was endorsed by the Department of Social Work, School of Health and Social Welfare Professions. It was designed to offer the students an approach to employment and its conditioning, the parameters responsible for discrimination against women, the laws and other means that aim to eradicate inequality (intervening in education and career advising, keeping in check sexual harassment, regulating wages, benefits, time off, social security and pensions), but also the necessary changes in attitudes, gender roles and the distribution of house chores and responsibilities. References ranged from the relevant positions and demands of the early and the contemporary Women’s Movement to the current policies of the European Union and the implementation of “mainstreaming” (that is, the “integration of the principle of equality of chances between women and men in all European policies and actions and in all levels of decision making”, adopted by the EU since 1996).
The importance of this course for the students is obvious, in view of their future involvement with the labor market and/or with counseling, especially since, according to the United Nations Organization, women constitute 70% of the poorest population internationally, are the most threatened with job loss, the most underpaid, and the most underrated professionally due to sexism.
“Gender Relationships – Companionship – Family”
This course was taught by Despina Sikelianou, M.A. in Social Psychiatry and Child-Psychiatry, and was endorsed by the Department of Business Management, School of Administration and Finance. It was designed to help students comprehend the necessity for the two genders to live together in a context of mutual communication formed under the principle of equality, so as to achieve a functional and harmonious coexistence. The importance of communal spirit was also discussed regarding both partnership and family life. The course generated the strong participation of -mostly female- students in mutually informative dialogue with the lecturer. While they stated their personal views, which attest to the forms gender stereotypes currently take in Greece under the influence of religious and traditional norms, they proved willing to re-examine their attitudes regarding female sexuality and gender relationships in the light of the relevant discussions in other European countries that were presented to them.
The necessity and value of this course becomes apparent in view of the fact that in Greece 1 out of 3 marriages is dissolved, 18% of the female population is victim of abuse within the family, by father or husband, while 1/3 of women internationally suffer some kind of abuse.
II. Realization of a social research project
In addition to the courses, the program provided for the realization of a social research project which was titled “An Examination of Student Views and Attitudes Regarding Gender Identities and Equality” and aimed to chart the attitudes of the student community of the T.E.I. of Patras in relation to the ideas promoted by the program.
This project provided the opportunity for collaboration with another institution of higher technological education, since it involved Baitzar Gazerian, M.S.W., ass. professor at the T.E.I. of Athens, as head of a group of researchers from both institutions. A review of the research was presented by Ms Gazerian at the educational seminar that concluded the second year of the program at the T.E.I. of Patras, in May 2005 (see below), and was in summary the following:
On the question whether the problems concerning gender equality are resolved in modern societies, or not, the opinions of the students seem to be divided, half giving a positive and the other half a negative answer. They do underline the importance of social conditions in the formation of the dominant views regarding gender roles, however they consider the biological factor decisive for both the formation of gender identities and for the limitations that certain professions set for women -consequently, certain professions are considered more suitable to female “nature” by students of both sexes. At the same time, they acknowledge that women, together with their involvement in the labor market, continue to be burdened with rearing children and doing household chores, which prevents them from making the most of their educational qualifications, as men do.
Regarding the characteristics attributed to each of the two genders, traditional ideas appear to have been revised. Nevertheless, the changes documented coexist with stereotypical conceptions of the genders which echo previous social and economic constructions as well as the difficulty in changing perceptions regarding gender. Thus, women are still attributed adjectives such as sensual, nagging, intuitive, sensitive, gossipy, housewifely, loyal, sexy, affective, tender, romantic and obedient, while men continue to be more associated with the adjectives aggressive, violent, tough, diligent, serious, honest, ingenious, charming.
As for the views of students on the realization, or not, of equality in particular areas of living, higher levels of gender equality are expected regarding access to information and education, and relationships between spouses and partners. Lower levels, resulting from discrimination against women, are expected in acquiring employment, job relations, and political representation.
Finally, special courses and the development of multiple activities are considered by the students essential for diffusing information and reforming attitudes in order for gender equality to be attained.
III. Activities aiming at informing and alerting the academic society
and the local community
Teachers and students participating at the project at Patras organized activities aiming to inform and alert the academic society as well as the local community on the necessity to obliterate gender inequality and discrimination. Such activities were:
- A day-seminar titled “Postgraduate Studies on Women and Gender in Greece and abroad”, at which the philosophy and the structure of such post-graduate programs were presented to a wide audience of academic staff and students.
- Participation of academic staff and students at the seminars “Cross-culturalism and gender equality” and “Equal participation on decision making centers: women in the heart of Europe” organized by theCentre of Research on Issues of Equality (KETHI) and other institutions.
- A student research on the phenomenon of violence within young couples, and the publication of a pamphlet informing young people, especially women, on how to confront inter-personal violence.
- A student study of the problem of trafficking, a subject of great urgency, since more than 17.000 women and children, victims of worldwide trafficking, are found in Greece today, while worldwide about 4 million women and girls are transported between different countries, destined for prostitution and other forms of exploitation.
- An educational two-day seminar titled “Equality in Intra-Gender Relationships and Employment”, on May 16 and 17, 2005 at the new Congress Hall of the T.E.I. of Patras, with a host of speakers from institutions of Patras and other parts of Greece, open to the academic staff, the students, and the general public.
From the 10th to the 14th of May 2005 the Worldwide March of Women (WMW) crossed Greece and then left from Patras towards Italy, carrying the World Charter of Women for Humanity, which “calls all men and women and all the oppressed peoples and groups of the world to exercise individually and collectively their power to transform the world and to change thoroughly the relationships among them, in order to develop relations based on equality, peace, freedom, solidarity and justice”. It was no accident that a presentation of the WMW and its principles concluded the above mentioned two-day seminar of the gender equality educational program at the T.E.I. of Patras.
Social Work, a mainly individual-centered profession, ensures the same principles, the realization of which contributes to social cohesion. Providing the dimension of gender equality in education on the base of the same principles contributes to the empowerment of young people so that they can defend their rights, as individuals as well as citizens, and contribute, in their turn, to the establishment of gender equality policies in actual fact.
* Research conducted by the World Economic Forum, entitled “Gender Gap Report”, examined gender relations in 58 countries -30 OECD member states and 28 emerging economies- on the basis of 5 criteria, and ranked Greece 50th, with a total of 3, 41 points out of a possible 7; Greece placed 22nd in access to health services -its best performance-, 44th in economic participation, 45th in terms of access to education, 48th in regard to economic opportunities, while it performed worst in access to political office occupying the 50th position; Xenaki, Kitty, “Adynamo fyllo oi Ellinides” [“Women in Greece, the weaker sex!”], Ta Nea, May 17, 2005, p. 20.
Centre of Research on Issues of Equality, Isi amivi – Prosohi sto keno [“Equal Pay – Mind the Gap”]. Conference Papers.
Athens, January 30, 31 – February 1, 2003, Athens, KETHI, 2003.
Centre of Research on Issues of Equality, Isi amivi – Prosohi sto keno [“Equal Pay – Mind the Gap”]. Studies – Research
Projects, Athens, KETHI, 2003.
Centre of Research on Issues of Equality, To dikaioma stin isotita. Theoritikes prosengiseis kai thesmiki katohyrosi [“The
Right to Equality. Theoretical approaches and institutional provisions”]. One-day Conference Papers. Athens, June 8,
2001, Athens, KETHI, 2002.
Centre of Women’s Studies and Research “Diotima”, To fylo ton dikaiomaton. Exousia, gynaikes kai idiotita tou politi
[The Gender of Rights. Power, women and citizenship]. European conference. February 9-10, 1996. Conference
Papers, Athens, Nefeli Publications, 1999.
General Secretariat for Equality, Ethniki ekthesi tis Elladas gia tin efarmogi tou “Programmatos drasis” tis 4is Pangosmias
Diaskepsis gia tis gynaikes] National Report of Greece for the Implementation of the Action Program of the 4th I
nternational Conference for Women, Athens, 2000.
League for Women’s Rights – European Commission, “Ergasia, syndikalismos kai isotita ton fylon” [“Employment,
Trade-unions and Gender Equality”]. Seminar Papers , Athens, Odysseas Publications, 1998.
Movement of Democratic Women, “Mia nea poiotita zois horis ta stereotypa ton fylon” [“A New Quality of Life, Free of
Gender Stereotypes”]. Conference Papers. Athens, September 29-30, 2000, Athens, Movement of Democratic
National Centre of Public Administration / Institute of Further Training - General Secretariat for Equality / Centre of
Research on Issues of Equality, Diimerida “Diapolitismikotita kai isotita ton fylon” [Two-day Conference “Intra-
Culturalism and Gender Equality”]. Volos, December 18-19, 2003.
Pros mia Koinotiki stratigiki-plaisio gia tin isotita ton fylon (2001-2005) [Towards a EU Strategy-framework for Gender
Equality (2001-2005)]. Report of the Commission to the Council, to the European Parliament, to the Economic and
Social Committee and to the Regional Committee (COM (2000) 335 final), Athens, KETHI, 2000.
Worldwide Women’s March, Idrytiki synantisi tou ellinikou diktyou [Founding Meeting of the Greek Network]. Athens, May
10-11, 2003, Athens, WWM / Greek Network.
(στα ελληνικά, με τη σειρά που οι πηγές εμφανίζονται κατά την αγγλόφωνη απόδοσή τους)
Κέντρο Ερευνών για Θέματα Ισότητας, «Ίση αμοιβή – Προσοχή στο κενό». Πρακτικά συνεδρίου. Αθήνα, 30, 31 Ιανουαρίου
– 1 Φεβρουαρίου 2003, Κ.Ε.Θ.Ι., Αθήνα 2003.
Κέντρο Ερευνών για Θέματα Ισότητας, «Ίση αμοιβή – Προσοχή στο κενό». Μελέτες - Έρευνες, Κ.Ε.Θ.Ι., Αθήνα 2003.
Κέντρο Ερευνών για Θέματα Ισότητας, «Το δικαίωμα στην ισότητα. Θεωρητικές προσεγγίσεις και θεσμική κατοχύρωση».
Πρακτικά ημερίδας. Αθήνα, 8 Ιουνίου 2001, Κ.Ε.Θ.Ι., Αθήνα 2002.
Κέντρο Γυναικείων Μελετών και Ερευνών Διοτίμα, Το φύλο των δικαιωμάτων. Εξουσία, γυναίκες και ιδιότητα του πολίτη.
Ευρωπαϊκό συνέδριο 9-10 Φεβρουαρίου 1996. Πρακτικά, Εκδόσεις Νεφέλη, Αθήνα 1999.
Γενική Γραμματεία Ισότητας, Εθνική έκθεση της Ελλάδας για την εφαρμογή του «Προγράμματος δράσης» της 4ης
Παγκόσμιας Διάσκεψης για τις γυναίκες, Αθήνα 2000.
Σύνδεσμος για τα Δικαιώματα της Γυναίκας – Ευρωπαϊκή Επιτροπή, «Εργασία, συνδικαλισμός και ισότητα των φύλων».
Εισηγήσεις σεμιναρίου , Εκδόσεις Οδυσσέας, Αθήνα 1998.
Κίνηση Δημοκρατικών Γυναικών, «Μια νέα ποιότητα ζωής χωρίς τα στερεότυπα των φύλων». Πρακτικά συνεδρίου. Αθήνα,
29-30 Σεπτεμβρίου 2000, Κίνηση Δημοκρατικών Γυναικών, Αθήνα 2001.
Εθνικό Κέντρο Δημόσιας Διοίκησης / Ινστιτούτο Επιμόρφωσης – Γενική Γραμματεία Ισότητας / Κέντρο Ερευνών για Θέματα
Ισότητας, Διημερίδα «Διαπολιτισμικότητα και ισότητα των φύλων». Βόλος 18-19 Δεκεμβρίου 2003.
Προς μια Κοινοτική στρατηγική-πλαίσιο για την ισότητα των φύλων (2001-2005). Ανακοίνωση της Επιτροπής στο
Συμβούλιο, στο Ευρωπαϊκό Κοινοβούλιο, στην Οικονομική και Κοινωνική Επιτροπή και στην Επιτροπή των
Περιφερειών (COM(2000) 335 τελικό), Κ.Ε.Θ.Ι., Αθήνα 2000.
Παγκόσμια Πορεία Γυναικών, Ιδρυτική συνάντηση του ελληνικού δικτύου. 10-11 Μαϊου 2003, Αθήνα, Παγκόσμια Πορεία
Γυναικών / Ελληνικό δίκτυο, Αθήνα χ.χ.