NEWW-Network of East-West Women
Newsletter Winter 2003
The goal of NEWW's Newsletter is to inform readers of upcoming events and programs
and to provide information on the current situation of women's human rights in Central
and Eastern Europe, the Newly Independent States, and the Russian Federation (CEE/NIS).

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Women's NGO Movement to Realize Equal Opportunities in Lithuania
Saule Vidrinskaite - 1997 NEWW Legal Fellow

This article was contributed by Saule Vidrinskaite specifically for the NEWW Newsletter. Saule was a NEWW Legal Fellow in 1997 and currently is an advisor in the Equal Opportunities Ombudsman Office in Lithuania. Saule also participates in the Open Society Institute EU Accession Monitoring Project, and teaches human rights at the Gender Studies Centre of Vilnius University.

The Lithuanian women's movement is not a new phenomenon in Lithuanian society. Lithuanian women have a long tradition of fighting for their human rights. In 1529 the First Lithuanian Statute confirmed women's rights to inheritance and to attend public meetings, and included a provision protecting women against violence. In 1905 the first women's organization, "Unification of Lithuanian Women for the Protection of Women's Rights" was founded in Vilnius and in 1907 the First Congress of Lithuanian women convened to address women's equality issues.

Since independence of the Republic of Lithuania in 1990, a new wave of the Lithuanian women's movement started to flourish with more women and women's NGOs actively participating in public activities. After the 1995 World Women Conference in Beijing, Lithuania intensified its commitment to promoting gender mainstreaming. Nowadays, equal opportunities for women and men are recognized as basic tenants of democracy and respect for humankind.

The Women's Issues Information Centre in Lithuania, an NGO dedicated to advancing issues concerning women's equality, has conducted research and statistical surveys to develop a database that counters the lack of gender specific data in areas such as employment, business, education and family life. The first draft legislation on equal opportunities for women and men was developed by the Women's Issues Information Centre and was supported by the Women's Parliamentary group in the Seimas (Parliament).

On December 1st, 1998, the Law on Equal Opportunities of the Republic of Lithuania was passed and came into effect on March 1st, 1999. Lithuania's equal opportunities legislation is among the first passed and is still the only legislation in the whole region of Central and Eastern Europe. On May 25th, 1999 the Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsman was established to oversee the effective implementation of Lithuania's equal opportunity legislation; it is an independent public institution undertaking democracy, legality, impartiality and justice as the principles of its activities.

The Office of the Equal Opportunities Ombudsman:

  • Investigates complaints relating to discrimination and sexual harassment

  • Conducts investigations based on violations of equal opportunities legislation

  • Submits recommendations to the State government and administrative institutions of the Republic of Lithuania on revision of legal actions and priorities in the policy area of equal opportunities.

For additional information on this article famous people, please contact Saule at: [email protected]

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