For more or less five years now we have been enjoying democracy and freedom in Eastern Europe. Five years ago the prodemocracy movements emphasized the civil and individual rights to freedom of choice in speech, thought, and life opportunities, demanded plural parties, political freedom, and freedom of speech.
Five years is a nice time to start a reflection. How is it going with democracy in our countries? What does democracy mean to us? Does it work equally for all or against some parts of society? Are we making the best out of it?
Democracy is a form of government which gives the entire population the opportunity to participate in formulation of government policy and the implementation of it.
The term "democracy" reflects - or rather is supposed to reflect the power of the people as a whole as well as of the individual. This power must be recognized in the fields of social security, of standard of living, of education, of work and employment, of the right to vote and the right to be elected, of participation in public affairs and political parties, etc., etc.
Democracy is related to human dignity and free development of one's personality.
Somehow it happens that in fundamentally no country in the world do women have political status, access, or influence equal to men. They are poorer represented in parliaments, governments, in leadership positions in trade unions or political parties, in short - they are barely visible in any formal political institutions. The question is - why? Why is it that half of the world's population routinely holds only 5- 10 percent of the formal positions of political leadership?
The meaning and the possibility of realization of democracy is related to history, culture, demographic changes, quality and willingness of decision-makers, economic circumstances, the validity of legislation as an instrument for democracy, autonomy and decentralization and the use of it. It is impossible to look at democracy without considering its background situation and conditions which influence it. When we talk about democracy, we have to talk about economy, work, media, health, religion, conflict, education, and so forth.
In the first issue of the Young Women and Democracy Newsletter we open the forum for young women to write about things which are important for them, the issues they work on or ones which affect their lives. Young women voices are often omitted from mainstream discussions, and the same about the themes they bring in.
As an insert we also include a paper on economics written by Women In Development Europe (WIDE) before the IV World Conference on Women. We hope it will be inspiring to thinking, research, discussion and action.
Enjoy the first issue, and write us your thoughts about democracy, and for the next issue also about economy. Eastern European women are especially welcome to share their thoughts!