Sofia Forum - II
On the 19 of October 2006, Center of Women’s Studies and Policies organized a second forum in Sofia, named “European Union and gender equality” in cooperation with the New Bulgarian University, Department of Political Sciences within the framework of the activities under the Politization and Democratization Seminar. The event has been announced at the official website of the University.
The aim of the forum organizers was to continue the discussion on the Enlargement of the European Union and Gender Equality, held on the 18 of May 2006 at St. Kliment Ohridski University of Sofia and to present the results of the joint project Young Women are Building Bridges for EU Partnership to more young people in Bulgaria.
A second but more important goal was to have a discussion in a smaller group, consisting of 30 students in order to stimulate a more active debate and to apply the methodology of the non-formal education on human rights, which aims at increasing the empowerment of young people in decision-making process.
The results of the inquiries, carried out under the project and the documentary shot in the three universities in Sofia, Ankara and Nimes were presented to the students, and then they were given the floor for expressing their opinions.
Overcoming gender stereotypes and changing the mentality need time and depend on the cultural characteristics and the traditional values of the society. The patriarchal traditions are still very strong in Bulgarian society and changing them should be a natural process, was the opinion of the predominant group of the students. They discussed the role of the media, the education system and the family for influencing the change of young people mentality. issues like the unbalanced gender representation in politics, the low representation of women in high-level positions, the difficulties to overcome the so-called glass ceiling and the pay gap were a natural continuation of the discussion between the students.
Some of them were interested to debate the phenomenon of gender competition and the conflict situations, which arise as a result in their private and professional life. A few examples when women consciously are passive in their personal development were presented by students to illustrate some old-fashioned ideas for the role of women in Bulgarian family.
Sex discrimination at the work place and admission quotas for boys and girls for the universities were also hot topics for discussion.
The positive result of the discussion was the possibility for students to put questions to their opponents of the same age and to the lector and to find together answers trough the open debate.
Students from the New Bulgarian University agreed that according to the documentary and the inquires held under the project, it is obvious that young people have stereotypical ideas for the religions and the cultures they do not know well. They are not informed enough about them and this is the reason to be negative or to underestimate their specific features. Students do not know much about young people from the neighboring Turkey or France but some of them considered that the religion should not be a serious barrier for the European people’s alliance. The European Union, according to their views, is mostly an economic and political union and religion should not be the leading factor for consideration of the new countries candidatures for EU. It is true that new members put new challenges for the European Union but it is also true that its development should envisage an appropriate target movement.
Participants in the discussion expressed the opinion that the positive effects of the Bulgarian accession to the EU would result in a long term transition period and smooth transformation of the people’s mentality. However, they were optimistic for the advantages of the accession mainly for the young generations. To meet the requirements for membership and to harmonize the national legislation with the European policies and legislation is of high importance, but it is also important to keep the national identity, was the main outcome of the last part of the discussion. The students from the Political Sciences Department thought that the whole society should be included at the earliest stage of the law making process in order to contribute for effectiveness of the legislation and its relevance to national realities.
At the end of the 60 minutes discussion forum most of the students agreed that the process of Bulgaria integration in the European family had already gained speed and requires more young people are active citizens to be interested in the decision making process at national and European level, in order to achieve successful democratic development.