The Soviet Union Women’s Movement
In our meeting with the Komite Wanita Sovjet Uni Anti Fasis [Soviet Union Anti-Fascist Women’s Committee], which took place on August 24, 1954, our group was given a clear explanation of the development of the women’s movement in the Soviet Union. Comrad Parfenova (Vice Chair) of the Committee explained various issues concerning the progress of the women’s movement, summarized here as follows.
1. Circumstances for women before the October 1917 revolution.
At that time women lived in the Czarist Era, and did not have social, economic or political rights. In Russia, 2.5 million women worked as day laborers or servants; education was not provided for women, so only 13% knew how to read and write; women were not allowed to hold government office; in the family, women did not have the right to work if the husband did not allow it, mothers did not have rights over children, women could be bought and sold like livestock.
Women’s liberation did not stand-alone, rather it was united with the peoples struggle in opposing the Czar government.
The path to women’s liberation was very difficult, because they had to overcome economic, social and political problems. The women’s movement implemented three principles: 1. to bring women into production jobs, 2. to provide education and skills practice so that their awareness increases, 3. to bring women into the field of government.
As a group of mothers who have responsibility for their families, so that they can do the work mentioned above, must be given guarantees according to their need.
2. Circumstances after the October 1917 revolution.
In the early years, circumstances were very difficult, at the time the Soviet Union was attacked by imperialist nations and experienced rampant famine. Thanks to the tenacity of the people’s struggle, including women, the situation was overcome. The struggle of women took place in cities and villages, and for this they formed committees.
The government of the Soviet Union guaranteed equal rights for men and women in law and practice. Thanks to continued struggle in realizing this, today women in the Soviet Union no longer experience such backward and difficult lives.
This is proven by statistics about the progress of women as follows:
1. Today there are 270,000 female doctors in the Soviet Union.
2. 2,700,000 women work in education and culture.
3. 741,000 women have received the Stalin award in various fields of knowledge.
4. 348 women have been chosen to serve in the highest governing body of the Soviet Union (Parliament).
5. 2,209 women (⅓ of all members) have been chosen to serve in the highest assembly in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
6. 500 women have been chosen to serve in local government bodies
7. Previously it was forbidden for women to work as judges, but now 42% of legal specialists are women.
8. Thousands of women are the heads of kolkhos .
9. 40% of agrarian specialists (farming) are women.
10. More than 2000 women have received the heroes award for socialist work.
11. More than one-million teachers and 38-thousand women study in schools
12. 3 women serve as ministers in the central government, the Minister of Culture, of Society, and of Health.
13. In the government of the Republics, women serve important functions, such as the Ministers of Health, Trade and Society in Kyrgyzstan, and as vice president in Uzbekistan, and so on.
This situation is possible because women are truly liberated from the burden of family. For example, being provided childcare and kindergarten, etc, makes it so that women can work in peace and develop their own talents.
3. Work of the Soviet Union Anti Fascist Women’s Committee.
This committee was established in 1941, the circumstances of the time were difficult because of the attacks from Fascists (Hitler). To save the Soviet Union, messengers from all of the women’s groups across Moscow gathered and rounded up the will to oppose war and fascism.
Remembering the importance of peace for women of the world, the Committee actively helped found the Gabungan Wanita Demokratis Sedunia [World Gathering of Democratic Women] which today has 67 member states and 150 thousand members.
Their work today has two principles:
1. To elevate the status of women in the country.
2. To extend friendship with women around the world.
For these needs, they publish a magazine in 6 languages and exchange experiences with women from various countries, in addition to exchanging delegates.
Concerning the progress of women in the Soviet Union, our impression is that women in the Soviet Union have progressed quickly thanks to their individual convictions and the full guarantees of a state governed by the people and for the people.