Coordinated by Aurelian GIUGĂL

 

Socio-political landmarks on gender barriers in South-Muntenia Region of Romania

 

Eugen LUNGU

 

Lumina-The University of South-East Europe

 

Abstract: Gender discrepancies and equality of opportunity and treatment between men and women are some of the fundamental principles touching human rights in the democratic societies of the European Union. The introduction of the gender perspective, in recent years, in the public policies, developed at central and local levels, highlights the fact that Romania is continuing to implement the standards of the Union, according to the treaties signed upon the accession to the European Union. This article seeks to tackle some socio-political aspects, with respect to gender barriers in the South-Muntenia region, based on the results obtained by the research team of the European project “Feminis – Let Us Progress Together!”

 

Keywords: gender barriers, gender equality, equal opportunities, human rights, South-Muntenia region, traditional world, modern world.

 

 

1.       INTRODUCTION

 

Promoting equality between human beings is a fundamental principle of the foundation and consolidation of modern societies. In the context of equality between people, the promotion of gender equality is one of the main objectives that are at the heart of Europe’s social and economic policies.

Although the specialized literature estimates that, in recent years, a significant progress has been made in gender equality, in a series of countries worldwide, many inequalities between women and men still persist in various fields.

Thus, like many other values which were consolidated in the Community, “gender equality is a fundamental right, a common value of the European Union and a necessary condition for achieving the EU’s objectives of growth of the workforce, and of social cohesion”[i].

It is commonly known that any democratic society includes, in its system of values, the concept of gender equality, and Romania, after 1989, appropriated and consistently advocated the social and political values of the advanced democracies, respectively, of the political systems which place equality between men and women in a central position.

 The likes of gender equality and their imposition, without any further abashment, deal especially, with the environments of un-self-regulating systems, like the Romanian one.

 In Romania, a specially-designed quota had to be introduced, at first, for the minorities, on the one hand, in order to ensure their political participation as a public audience that can represent one of the most noteworthy voices, as far as the ideal of constructing an inclusive, well-structured, political arena is concerned.

 Presented as such, the concept of gender equality is imbued in correlations with the concept of gender mainstreaming, which conveys, in its theoretical befitting stances, “the  process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action including legislation, policies, and  programmes, in any area and at all levels”[ii]. The concept alludes to the narrowing of gender gaps, in every sectorial field of public action, through the elimination of the gender disparity, in what regards the representation of women and the consideration of the effects that the public action can have upon it.

Thus, it is estimated that “democratic states usually promote equal opportunities in society, as a desired option through the act of government, being essential for the stability, cohesion and prosperity of a society [in general]”[iii].

In this respect, terms like gender barriers, equal opportunities, gender equality, gender discrimination, etc., are part of the contents of the programmatic documents, developed by Romanian state institutions, that can be found within the national legal landscape, but at the same time, that are part and parcel of the philosophy and object of activity of certain social and cultural entities belonging to today’s Romanian civil society.

Actually, according to specialists in state government, it is estimated that guaranteeing equal rights for men and women is one of the fundamental directions of ensuring the normal functioning of a modern socio-economic system. It is, therefore, considered that the extension of the participation of citizens, male and female, in modern states’ governance required special efforts, in recent decades, due to issues pertaining to gender equality, but also due to the need of changing the institutional regulations and practices[iv].

We can say, with no risk of error that the issue of gender barriers is present in a multitude of socio-economic and political spaces that compose Romanian society, our country having many problems to solve in this direction.

 There is a point of view, unanimously shared by specialists in gender barrier issues, according to which, the sociological research conducted among the population, provides the most relevant information on the perception of equality between men and women in Romania, and/or in any other country in the world.

Thus, the exploitation of the scientific research carried out in the academic and research environments, in recent years, circumscribed to this topic, but, most particularly to the rigorous analysis of the socio-political conclusions, resulting from the surveys on the issue of gender barriers in Romanian society, is meant to lead to an overview on the progress made by Romania in the field of gender equality.

This article aims to highlight a number of socio-political issues concerning gender barriers in South-Muntenia development region, using the results obtained by the research team of the European project “Feminis – Let Us Progress Together”.

Launched in May 2014, this project falls within the perimeter of the objectives set by the Lisbon European Council (March 2000) which established, as a strategic objective, the transformation of the EU into the most competitive and dynamic economy in the world, based on knowledge, providing an increased number of jobs and a greater social cohesion, by stimulating reforms in member states in order to create millions of new jobs.

Thus, this project aims to facilitate women’s access to the labor market and to promote a cohesive and inclusive society, with a view to ensuring the welfare of all citizens of Romania, as a member state of the European Union. Being connected to the dynamic developments, which take place in the training and specialisation of managers of small and medium enterprises, the project follows the line of boosting an entrepreneurial culture among EU citizens and of encouraging lifelong learning.

Starting from one of the objectives of the EU strategy set on this occasion, which aimed at a 75% employment rate, for the population aged 20-64 years, which was not achieved due to the global financial crisis,  that has seriously affected the EU, the project “Feminis – Let Us Progress Together” intends to solve a number of issues related to the economic inactivity of the female population from six development regions of Romania (Bucharest-Ilfov, North-East, North-West, South-East, South-Muntenia, West).

Starting from the imperatives facing the Romanian society in terms of gender equality, given the EU standards that Romania has assumed in this area, but also based on a number of studies and research carried out in our country in this direction, and especially those of the research team of the project “Feminis – Let Us Progress Together”, we intend, in the end of the article, to draw a series of socio-political conclusions about the size of gender equality in the development region of South-Muntenia and the manner in which it is actually perceived[v].

 

 

2.       THE METHODOLOGICAL BEDROCK

 

Beyond any shadow of a doubt, a researcher addresses, within a research framework, the sort of questions that puzzle him and that make the answers, acquiesced so far, highly unlikely[vi].

The point of view of this article, as it was also the point of view circumscribed by the research process and by the procedures adopted, was that of an experimental researcher. My aim was not to experiment on methods or to apply methods that could have a more positivist underpinning, from the point of view of finding more theoretically precise and accurate functions and notations.

The methods exposed and applied in rendition, throughout the collection of the different variables involved, were mainly quantitative. Certainly, we are referring here to the scientific work, entertained during the implementation of the projects. The acts of construing were purely denotative. One specific trend, in Social Sciences, is the fact that quantitative methods of scientific investigation are making a tremendous comeback[vii]. As Mark Franklin would hold in analysis:

 

Quantification is one way of employing the scientific method to discover things about the world. In the Social Sciences, we are trying to discover things about the social world, but the approach we use can still be regarded as scientific. The scientific approach attempts to abstract from the nuances and details of a story the salient features that can be built up into a theoretical statement (or statements) expected to hold true of any situation that can be defined in terms of the same abstractions[viii].

 

                The quantification was utilized as a tool for encapsulating the 228 questionnaires, applied in the South-Muntenia region, within a case-study additional feature of the research design.

We utilized a case-study approach, first of all, because, the potentiality of the numerical attributes, that could be involved, seemed ideal: we only had to concentrate upon a region and accentuate its attributes, as far the perception of the gender barriers or the want of dynamism in this respect, is concerned.

 Dealing with a limited core of quantification, the creativity for erecting a personal scientific design, for the research purposes of this article, seemed very promising. Coupling a case-study approach with a set of procedures, of a quantification nature, did not have to do with a rather in-depth philosophy.

The choice was, actually, simple and, at the same time, it was the most adequate choice that we could make, in the process of assembling together the methodological specific stances. A case-study has some sort of an omnifarious disciplinary wisdom. As Rolf Johansson would argue, a case-study approach can be easily intercepted, in all sorts of scientific fields:

 

A case study is expected to capture the complexity of a single case, and the methodology which enables this has developed within the Social Sciences. Such methodology is applied not only in the social sciences, such as psychology, sociology, anthropology, and economics, but also in practice-oriented fields such as environmental studies, social work, education, and business studies[ix].

 

Whilst embracing the quantification methodology and the case-study approach, we were able to pursue the modelling of a configurative-ideographic case-study. The whole of the research was to catch the most in-detail glimpse of the subjects explored and interpret and absorb the legislative, social and political alterations, regarding the gender emphasis, in both public and private surroundings. Implications connected to the important aspects of social, public and personal life were set into enunciation, in the study conducted.

Also, we became aware of the importance of forwarding our own interpretations regarding the phenomena scrutinized, through our perception methodological investigation tools. As such, especially when the conclusions were formulated, an interpretive facet of the case-study approach was also utilized. A very important inference is made regarding the usage of interpretation and its affiliation with case studies methodologies:

 

“Case research can be carried out taking a positivist or an interpretive stance, can take a deductive or an inductive approach, can use qualitative and quantitative methods, can investigate one or multiple cases. Case research can be highly structured, positivist, deductive investigation of multiple cases; it can also be an unstructured, interpretive, inductive investigation of one case; lastly, it can be anything in between these two extremes in almost any combination”[x].

 

Within this article, we aimed to reason, by deduction, a blend of the two types of case-study approaches. It was necessary for us to lay an emphasis upon the justification or our conclusions and for our extrapolating endeavors. No theory-building bias or orientation was assumed or presumed within the research conducted in the project, or within this article[xi].

The methodological matrix of this article can be summarized, as follows: a fusion of quantification and of data analysis, from two important standpoints: ideographic and interpretive. As research contrivances, we utilized the working technique of the questionnaire and the qualitative method of the focus-group, in order to delineate the storage and display of the case-study approach. With this aim in view, we followed the general lines of initializing a case-study, by the encompassing of:

 

“the traits of the contemporary phenomenon, in its context […]; of the fact that the boundaries between the phenomenon and the context are not very clear […]; of the fact that an abundance of relevant variables is summoned […]; of the fact that it is supported by plenty of elements of validation that must converge […]; and of the fact that an orientation by the means of an-already existent theoretical casing must be followed”[xii].

 

The reconnoiter of gender barriers and of their mutuality of entailment in the socio-political landmarks is provable by evidence, observable even by ways of mere intuition, with other more refined instruments left aside.

 Furthermore, the boundaries between the context of discussing gender barrier and their virtual actuality in the South-Muntenia development region was not clearly observed. We utilized, in this esteem, the experiential filter of the subjects investigated.

 We expostulated that their experiences could be influential, not only as channels of providing stimulus, for the quality of the perception of the issues raised by gender barriers, but also as furrows of identifying the workings of the mechanisms, that were administered for their eradication, judging, most of all, from their efficiency.

In the following section, we will be referring upon the main national concerns regarding gender barriers, relating to how they were inspired by European standards, and, especially, to how they localize the attendance of being acknowledged by quantitative analysis. Our assortment of quantitative and qualitative analyses, utilized in this article, by the purpose of the methods presented, raised, in some points of our concluding excerpts, the stake of working by inductive inferences[xiii]. In addition to this, it is worth mentioning the fact that, in our opinion, both the quantitative and qualitative variables converge in their reciprocal reassuring, within our methodological gantry. As previously divulged, the aim of this article was not to produce a theoretical casing.

 We utilized already-existent criteria of methodological combination: there is nothing innovative about the combo between the types of quantitative and qualitative research methodologies. However, the presence of the interpretative and of the configurative-ideographic pilasters of the case-study approach, in the same bailiwick can be noted as something trail-blazing for a research endeavor. In the following lines, we will be concentrating upon how national concerns can follow a trajectory of intersection with the European standards, in the field of gender barriers.

 

 

3.                 NATIONAL CONCERNS AS TO THE RESEARCH AND IMPLEMENTATION OF EUROPEAN STANDARDS REGARDING GENDER BARRIERS   

 

Research on gender barriers, in the Romanian society, in various areas such as: the economic, entrepreneurial, social, political, educational ones, etc. was an important direction of research in the academic environment during the last two decades, especially since Romania’s pre-accession to the European Union.

The active involvement of women in the economic and social life, over the last quarter of a century, the important changes, that we all notice in everyday life, related to the current status and role of women, in family life and in society, have generated new approaches regarding gender issues, by our country’s local and central political and administrative institutions.

Addressing the drawbacks arising from gender issues, the famous feminist author Mihaela Miroiu appreciates that on gender relations: “one should not close one’s eyes, in a misogynistic manner, or deal with these things with ignorance and superficiality, because it demonstrates that one is irresponsible towards the world one lives in”[xiv].

Alongside numerous universities, which directed their research towards identifying the elements that shape gender barriers in various areas, various research institutes, NGOs, socio-professional organizations, political organizations, etc. stood out turning this field of research into a space where numerous studies and important works were developed.

Thus, the documentation activities, undertaken under the project “Feminis – Let Us Progress Together!”, identified and analyzed different studies and papers elaborated by various universities and research institutes, at national level, whose main goal was to study the barriers of gender, equal opportunities in various sectors of political, economic and social life.

It can be stated that, in recent years, the major social and political changes that Romania has undergone, in the context of her European integration, have contributed to the development of an important theoretical field regarding gender equality in our country, in tune with the legislative and institutional evolutions, but also in tune with the spectacular qualitative transformations of the civil society in our country.

 In this context, research institutes, universities, NGOs, etc. have conducted numerous researches and studies, that focused on gender equality and equal opportunities, of which we would like to highlight just a few, such as: Gender and Socio-cultural Diversity in Vocational Training (Manual for the Mainstreaming Approach of Gender and Socio-cultural Diversity in the Daily Practice of Vocational Education and Training in Romania, 2007); Gender Differences and Their Effects on Academic Achievements. A Study on the Measures Taken so Far and the Current Situation in Europe (study made by the Executive Agency for Education, Audio-visual and Culture, 2009); Gender Based Differences with Respect to Professions, Career and Incomes (Spiru Haret University, 2011); Gender Differences in Leadership (Centre for Partnership and Equality, 2006); GUIDE – Prevention of Stereotypes about Women and Men in Childhood (National Agency for Employment and Instituto de Formacion Integral, 2012); Guidelines for Promoting Equality between Women and Men on the Labour Market (National Agency for Employment, 2013), etc.

The elaboration of the National Strategy for equality between women and men for the period 2014-2017 is, undoubtedly, a moment of primary importance, in implementing EU norms on gender equality in our country, seven years after Romania’s integration into the European Union.

The document starts from the genuine fact, according to which, the equality of opportunity and treatment between women and men is a fundamental principle of human rights, implemented at both the legislative level and at the level of public policies in the European Union countries. The strategy envisages the further implementation of rules of procedure, such as Law no. 202/2002 on equal opportunities and equal treatment between women and men, as well as the compliance with a series of Community legislation governing equal opportunities between women and men, such as the  Directive 2010/41 / EU of the European Parliament and the Council of July 7, 2010 on the principle of equal treatment between self-employed men and women; Directive 2010/18 / EU of March 8, 2010 for the implementation of the revised Framework Agreement on parental leave concluded by BUSINESSEUROPE, UEAPME, CEEP and ETUC; Directive 2006/54 / EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of July 5, 2006 on the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and work (reform); Directive 2004/113 / EC of December 13, 2004 on the implementation of the principle of equal treatment between men and women in terms of access to goods and services and the supply of goods and services; Directive 92/85 / EEC of the Council of October 19, 1992 on the introduction of measures meant to encourage improvements in the safety and health at the workplace of pregnant workers who have recently given birth or are currently breastfeeding; Directive 79/7 / EEC of the Council of December 19, 1978 on the progressive implementation of the principle of equal treatment between men and women in matters of social security.

The National Strategy for equality between women and men, for the period 2014-2017, estimates that the promotion of gender perspective in our country’s policies has become a constant view at national level, based on the results obtained in the field of gender equality, both in the pre-accession and after Romania’s integration into the European Union, recording an active and balanced participation of women and men in public life.

The document takes into account the fact that although the economic and financial crisis affected the employment rate in roughly equal proportions among both women and men in our country, however, according to the statistics provided by EUROSTAT, there was an obvious gap between the wages of women and those of men, which confirms the manifestation of direct and indirect discrimination, and of occupational segregation in Romania. In addition, it is estimated that, according to European statistics, between 2005-2011, in Romania the risk of poverty decreased significantly, and the percentage of women running this risk (42.06%) was higher than that of men (39.42%).

The protraction of gender stereotypes, states the strategy, led to an unequal distribution of economic and political power in Romanian society, as reflected in the recent local elections of July 2012, which revealed that women occupied only a percentage of 5.95% of the newly elected public offices. The last elections witnessed an increase in the proportion of women in the Parliament, up to 11.5%, compared to the previous elections, of 9.8% of the total number of MPs, reality which, compared to the decreasing tendency at the level of the European Union in terms of women’s distribution in decision making positions, places our country in a top position in the European hierarchy.

The National Strategy for Equality Between Women and Men for the Period 2014-2017 has set as specific objectives and intervention areas education, the labour market, the balanced participation in decision making, gender mainstreaming and gender-based violence.

Thus, in terms of education, the strategy focuses, on the one hand, on a campaign of awareness and information among students in secondary education in order to raise their awareness on the importance of equal opportunities, and on the other hand, on the development of in-service training programs of teachers, in the field of equality between men and women.

As regards the labour market, the strategy seeks to promote gender perspective in employment policies, mobility and migration of workforce and to raise the awareness on the legal issues governing the equality of opportunities between women and men.

 Moreover, it is important to raise people’s awareness regarding the wage gap for equal work, where appropriate, between women and men. In the field of gender based violence, given a certain escalation of the phenomenon of sexual harassment, statistically recorded in recent years, the strategy will seek to combat this phenomenon, by conducting information campaigns, targeting both employers and employees.

 

 

4.       SOCIAL AND POLITICAL ASPECTS REGARDING GENDER BARRIERS IN

THE DEVELOPMENT REGION OF SOUTH-MUNTENIA

 

In this section, we intend to analyse and interpret the gender issue, from a socio-political perspective, based on the results obtained by the research structure of the European project “Feminis - Let Us Progress Together!”, for the female population of the development region of South-Muntenia.

Although the research area of this project was larger, aiming the female population of the six development regions of Romania, as we have shown in the introductory section, this article considers only the South Muntenia development region, using, for comparison also the final results obtained from the research of gender issues in all the six regions.

 In order to choose the most appropriate methodology and research tools for this region we envisaged, on the one hand, the structure of certain researches conducted in this area in recent years, at national level, and on the other hand the studies and research reports in the field of gender barriers, published by institutions and forums at continental as well as at global level.

From the perspective of the topic addressed, the report “Gender Gap Index 2014” provides relevant information on how most of the countries of the world stand in terms of gender equality. As a tool for informing the World Economic Forum “Gender Gap Index 2014”, provides a series of data and information on the issue of gender barriers, at global level since 2006.

Starting from the idea that sustainable economic growth is closely linked with the equal involvement in the economic activity of both women and men, “The Global Gender Gap Index 2014” underlines the importance of gender equality and measures the important aspects of gender equality in four key areas: health, education, economics and politics.

The 2014 general results of this report indicate that Romania ranked 72 out of the total of 142 countries analyzed, with a score of 0.694, i.e. a position about halfway worldwide, ranking in terms of gender disparities existing in the Romanian society[xv]. By comparison with the other eight reports, since 2006, it appears that Romania’s best classifications were those of 2006 (46th position) and 2007 (47th position), and her lowest ranking was that of 2014.

Although there are different opinions as to the scientific limitations of this report which even its authors admit (e.g. from the political standpoint the report says nothing about how women are represented, in percentage, in local administrative bodies), we cannot help stating that Romania still has many goals to achieve in this area to be up to the standards required by the European Union.

In recent years, one could observe that due to the regulations in various fields, the gender issue is a very important issue for Romania, a “space” that requires further serious scientific researches in this direction in order to substantiate those public policies meant to eliminate the gender disparities existing in various areas of her economic and social life.

Addressing gender issues in South-Muntenia development region is part of the broader context tackled a quarter century ago, in which this field entered the “territory” of Romanian research at university level, but also at the level of specialised institutes.

If between 1980 and 1990, the works dedicated to women in our country were dominated by the image of the “heroine woman”[xvi], in the early 2000s the progress in this area is evident, the specialised literature specifying that “feminist research and gender studies have significantly advanced in Romania, in the last decade. The expertise increases in various fields, especially in social and political sciences, on the coordinate of this type of studies. We believe we have reached the level of development necessary to be able to say that we have the prerequisites for a Romanian school of gender studies”[xvii].

Within the project “Feminis – Let Us Progress Together!”, one of the objectives of the research covered the socio-political component as to the gender gap in South-Muntenia development region. We do not intend to refer here in detail to the methodological aspects, that underpinned the research approach, within this European project, but we intend to point out some of the significant elements, which configured the research and contributed to achieving notable results, throughout all the stages of the research, and subsequently to its completion.

 Thus, we used a questionnaire for women, consisting of 46 questions, a questionnaire for enterprises and a questionnaire for the County Agency for Employment-Prahova. The questionnaire for women was administered, on the one hand, to a number of 228 women in South-Muntenia development region, and on the other hand, to 1738 women in the six development regions.

 Additionally, we used the interview and focus group methods, which helped us collect important information, in order to draw conclusions on the perception of gender differences, among the female population in this development region.

With these methods, during the eight months of research, starting from the very first months, we were able to identify certain trends that exist in the South-Muntenia development region, in terms of perception of the women surveyed as to gender differences and equal opportunities.  

By applying the interview method, for eight months, to a significant number of female persons in South-Muntenia development region, it resulted that women do not perceive significant gender differences regionally, within the Romanian society, neither in family life nor at work.

 Although some isolated cases were found, in which women perceive certain gender differences in their professional life, we can say that, in general, most of the women in the South-Ploiesti region who were interviewed, on the occasion of the fieldwork carried out by the research team, do not regard gender differences as something which might seriously jeopardize the functioning of family life or that of the various socio-economic organisations.

Based on the theoretical consideration that the focus group is the most common qualitative research technique, the discussions held, during the eight months in which a large number of female persons from the South-Muntenia development region participated aimed: to identify the trends existing in Romanian society on the perception of gender differences; to determine cultural aspects concerning the issue of equal opportunities; to understand how women relate to the problems of daily life in relation to men; to see which is the level of legal culture in combating various forms of discrimination; to evaluate the relationship between modern and traditional family life and in the Romanian society, etc.

Thus, the application of this research tool to South-Muntenia development region resulted in a number of conclusions: the women participating in focus groups, for the most part, have not been victims of gender-based discrimination; the women estimated that in various fields of economic and social activity there are certain forms of discrimination based on gender; there is a perception, in a significant percentage, that in Romanian society, there is a certain tradition of inequality between women and men; women in Romania have no culture of belonging to a society in which, from a legal standpoint, the woman is equal to the man; women know very few things about state organizations and bodies, or at the level of civil society fighting against all forms of discrimination; there is a hesitation caused by psychological factors about recognizing whether a woman was discriminated against, for a particular reason, etc.

In order to provide an image as accurate as possible on the issue of gender differences in this development region of Romania, we shall further refer to some socio-political issues concerning gender barriers resulting from the processing of the 228 questionnaires administered to women by the team members of the project “Feminis – Let Us Progress Together!”.

 We have in view, on the one hand, the content of some questions, with socio-political relevance included in the questionnaire and the aspects resulting from the processing of the answers given by the surveyed women, and on the other hand, a comparison, with the results obtained from the processing of the 1738 questionnaires, administered to the women, in all the six development regions.

Question 23 of the questionnaire for women was meant to provide relevant information about the main needs felt by the young women in this region, starting from the data contained in the preliminary study prepared by the research team members as well as from the data provided by the County Agency for Employment-Prahova.

This question is found in the questionnaire and sounds as follows: “Which do you think are the top three problems facing young women in Romania today?” To choose the correct answer, the questionnaire suggested the following possible answers: a. Women do not have a home of their own; b. They have no job; c. They do not have (enough) places for leisure; d. They do not have the material possibilities (family) to attend the school (college) they desire; e. They cannot marry (because they could not support this new family); f. They do not afford to have children (for the same reason as above); g. They are forced to go abroad (in order to support their family or themselves); h. Other problems.

            The analysis of the responses given to this question by the 228 respondents of South-Muntenia led to important conclusions of relevance, from the viewpoint of the configuration of the final results of the scientific study.

 Thus, 60 women (26.3%) indicated that lack of housing is the main problem faced by young women in this region at present, 54 women (23.7%) answered that this problem ranks second in terms of urgent needs, while 37 women (16.2%) felt that the lack of their own residence is the third problem young women in South- Muntenia are confronted with. Comparing the situation in South-Muntenia to the one existing in the six regions, it can be said that some differences were noted, but not in significant percentages.

 Thus, at the level of the six development regions, 526 women (30.3%) indicated that the lack of a home is the main problem facing young women in 2014 Romania. Furthermore, 364 women (20.9%) felt that the lack of their own residence is the second major problem young women in this region are confronted with, while 293 women (16.9%) felt that the lack of their own dwelling is the third of young women’s needs at this time, at regional level.

            To the second response, suggested in question 23, referring to a job, 34.2% of the respondents in South-Muntenia answered that the lack of employment was the main problem facing them, 25.9% answered that the lack of employment ranked second in terms of daily needs, and 9.6% of the respondents indicated that this lack ranked third in comparison to other daily necessities.

In the six development regions the surveyed women replied as follows: 593 women (34.1%) indicated that the main problem for young people is that, currently, they did not have a job, while 518 women (29.8%) replied that the problem of the lack of employment ranked second in terms of major daily problems, and 126 women (7.2%) declared that this problem ranked third among their immediate needs.

We have to admit the fact that, in the past, there were many intricacies regarding the manner in which women were integrated in the workforce. Gender roles were also influenced by the sex-determined responsibilities.

The partition of responsibilities, according to a pre-conceded framework, was meant to rectify the problems of functionality that there were experienced by a society. No colligating could be made with the persistence of traditional views regarding women in the workforce, and the distribution of the workforce, according to a gender in-laid partition of responsibilities. This meant fewer women in the workforce.

There were academic voices that thought that such a traditional view upon the workforce distribution, with women being largely kept out of the working sphere, or least being encouraged not to pursue such a type of socialization, was a beneficial outcome for a society.

 In Talcott Parsons' view[xviii], the two spheres – the private and the working one – constitute interdependent social structures. These spheres were triggered about by a certain type of concord, a consensus upon the values shared amongst the social agents. The sex-role segregation was thought to induce some sort of equilibrium to a transient society[xix]. Parsons considered such a segregation a far too minor of a compromise to make in order for the constancy and the well-balance of a marriage. The link of causality with what the sex-role segregation is too of a far-fetched variable to be taken into consideration, for the fact that the majority of the answers given indicated the lack of a job was the main scarcity traversed by young people[xx]. Having these remarks been put in place, we can now return to the remainder of the commentaries regarding the questionnaire.

            Given the statistics recorded at national level on the number of divorces, and on the causes that led to an alarming increase in recent years of the number of marriages dismembered, as a result of divorce, question 29 of the questionnaire sought to gather information on women who have experienced a divorce.

Thus, question 29 led to a number of important conclusions which, in conjunction with other information, resulting from the processing of the questionnaire, confirmed a certain situation existing in Romanian society, as well as at the level of the development region South-Muntenia. Thus, in South-Muntenia development region the percentage of women who had experienced a divorce was of 15.8% (36 women), while the percentage of women who had not gone through this unfortunate experience was of 84.2% (192 women). At the level of the six development regions, where the questionnaire for women was administrated, of the 1738 respondents, 308 women (17.7%) said they have experienced a divorce, while 1430 women (82.3%) declared they were never divorced.

It can be seen that there are no significant differences between the percentages resulted for the South-Muntenia development region and those of the six development regions of Romania, from the perspective of the indicator referring to the experience of a divorce. Although since 2011, according to statistics[xxi], divorces are decreasing nationwide, the fact that during the last 25 years this phenomenon has increased in intensity, in terms of figures recorded, demonstrates a tendency towards the modification of traditional relationships in couple life, a repositioning of women and men in family life, but also in the whole Romanian society.

 The discussions in the focus groups revealed that a large number of the women, who belong to this development region, are increasingly reluctant to agree to perform in family life only those traditional household chores, specific to the Romanian people, abandoning their profession. Thus, we can state that women’s tendency to gain more and more economic freedom which, manifests itself in this region, too, is one of the reasons that make divorce decisions to be taken in many instances by women.   

Question 30 of the questionnaire sought to obtain information on women’s perception about those occupations / professions to which they have no access, or just limited access, due to cultural traditions or customs forwarded over time.

The documentation activities preceding the preparation of the questionnaire revealed that there are some concerns among women about the limited access to certain positions/specialisations. In South-Muntenia development region, out of the 228 surveyed women a number of 211 women (93.4%) responded that in their places of residence there are no occupations to which women do not have access, while 17 women (6.6%) responded that in their localities there are occupations to which women have no access. It was noted that women have no access to leadership positions (mayor, deputy mayor), and it was stressed that the prevailing criterion is that of belonging to a particular party, rather than that of a person’s educational background.

In all the six development regions, out of the total of 1738 respondents, a number of 1429 women (82.2%) stated that, in the place where they reside there are no occupations which women cannot fill, while 289 women (16.6%) responded that, in their localities, there are occupations at the level of companies, to which women have no access. Also, a number of 20 women (1.1%) did not answer this question.

The answers point out several occupations that were not mentioned by the women in the six development regions, as follows: manager, construction worker, transportation worker, bus driver, tickets controller, motorman, electrician, crane operator, train driver, aviator, worker in mining, security guard, priest, mayor, policeman, and welder.

 The variety of answers provided by the respondents to this question leads to a series of important conclusions, such as: there are a number of occupations which by their specificity belong mostly to men (aviator, welder, mining worker, etc.), but women’s desire for emancipation, expressed also through this opinion, generated such options. Also, not all women know that certain professions (for instance that of priest) are inaccessible to women, due to matters pertaining to tradition, the cultural dimension of the Orthodox space and the regulations of the respective domain.

Question 31 of the questionnaire focused on women’s perception of how they position themselves, in the context of the changes produced in Romanian society during the last two decades, especially under the influence of globalization forces.

The respondents had to choose one of the following options: 1. Positioning in the traditional world as a mother and wife; 2. Positioning in the modern world, as an employee and citizen; 3. Positioning in the contemporary post-modern world of the new century as a consumer and participant in contemporary culture.

At the level of the development region South-Ploiesti, the 228 women answered as follows: 64 (28.1%) prefer to go on living in the traditional world as mothers and spouses, 105 (46.1%) prefer to find themselves in the modern world as employees and as citizens, and 59 (25.9%) prefer to position themselves in the contemporary post-modern world of the new century, as consumers and participants in the contemporary culture.

Out of the 1738 respondents, from the six development regions, 449 women (25.8%) responded that they preferred to position themselves in the traditional world as mothers and wives, while 863 respondents (49.7 %) said they wanted to live in the modern world, and 426 women (24.5%) preferred to find themselves in the contemporary post-modern world of the new century, as consumers and participants in the contemporary culture.

            One of the aims of the questionnaire addressed to women was to identify further barriers, others than those of gender that the women perceive both in the Romanian society, but also in the different roles, that women play in everyday life.

 The interviews, and discussions held in the focus groups revealed that, beside gender barriers, the women in all the regions, where the questionnaire was administered, perceive several other barriers in the Romanian society, thresholds which impede women’s professional and personal development and evolution.

In this respect, question 32 of the questionnaire targeted Romanian women’s perception of other cultural barriers related to ethnicity, race and religion.

The distribution of the surveyed women’s responses points out that, in the Romanian society, there is a significant number of women who perceive that, compared to men, women have to face particular barriers, in order to assert themselves as employees, as mothers and citizens. At the level of South-Muntenia development region, out of the total of 228 women who filled in the questionnaire, a number of 192 women (84.2%) answered that they did not perceive cultural barriers related to a woman’s ethnicity / race, and 36 women (15.8%) responded that, in the attempt to assert themselves in the Romanian society, they perceived cultural barriers related to ethnicity, race and religion.

 Comparatively, in the six development regions of Romania, a number of 1241 women (71.4%) answered that they did not perceive cultural barriers related to a woman’s ethnicity, race and religion, and 497 women (28.6 %) responded that, in the attempt to assert themselves in Romanian society, they perceived the existence of cultural barriers related to ethnicity, race and religion.          

Question number 33 of the questionnaire referred to women’s perception of other cultural barriers related to gender issues, barriers which have been felt by the women in the six development regions of Romania and regarded as obstacles in their personal and professional evolution.

In the South-Muntenia development region, out of the total of 228 respondents, 201 women (88.1%) responded that they did not see other gender-based cultural barriers, 3 women (1.3%) gave no response, while 14 women (6.1%) gave various answers: sexual harassment at the workplace, well-paid jobs are inaccessible to women, extremely difficult access of women to leadership positions in an economic entity, etc.

In addition, in the six development regions, the distribution of responses was as follows: 1268 women (72.9%) responded negatively, 133 women (7.6%) did not give any answer, 10 women (0.5%) responded that they “do not know” and 327 women (19%) gave different answers.

The most relevant answers envisage a number of aspects such as: treating women as sex objects, reluctant to hire Roma people, pregnant women have little chances to find a job, the phenomenon of misogyny, racism, the Islamic veil, etc. Moreover, as it is well-known, despite the elaboration of numerous policies, at the European level on combating all forms of discrimination, ethnic minorities, along with immigrants, continue to have limited and unequal access to the labour market in the EU countries[xxii].

The issue of accepting a different sexual identity was another direction of investigation tackled by the research team of the project “Feminis – Let Us Progress Together”.

 Thus, question number 34 of the questionnaire for women targeted the level of acceptance/rejection, by female people in the six development regions of Romania of the female people who have intimate relationships with persons of the same sex. In South-Muntenia development region, the distribution of the responses was as follows: 63 women (27.6%) said they were totally against it, 117 (51.3%) responded that they had nothing against it, and 48 women (21.1%) responded that they could not pronounce themselves.

The distribution of the responses of the 1738 women surveyed in the six development regions was as follows: 493 women (28.4%) responded that they were totally against intimate relationships between female persons, while 868 women (49.9%) answered that they had nothing against it and 377 women (21.7%) responded that they could not pronounce themselves.

 The analysis of the responses to this question led to the conclusion that both indices of the six development regions, and those of the development region of South-Muntenia had close values.

It can be said that compared with the studies conducted in previous years by various research institutes on this topic, the tolerance of the Romanians has increased, as a result of the information campaigns, carried out by central and local authorities concerning the rights of persons belonging to different minorities, including sexual minorities.

Hence, it follows that human rights, from the theoretical point of view, and from understanding of the way, in which these rights are implemented in Romanian society must be further issues of concern for Romania’s civil society. The issue of women’s rights - as citizens with equal rights in relation to men - should be, also, in the coming years, an important direction in the education of the population of South-Muntenia development region. Moreover, as many authors believe[xxiii], the on-going globalisation worldwide will involve the need to rethink the issue of gender and justice, and the issue of women’s equality in relation to men will gain an increasingly important place in the international law. 

 

 

5.       CONCLUSIONS

 

The general results obtained by the research team of the project “Feminis – Let Us Progress Together”, regarding South-Muntenia development region come to confirm other studies made in previous years in our country on gender barriers, meaning that the issue of gender is not a major obstacle to women’s personal and professional self-assertion.

 Thus, the final results of the questionnaire for women, as well as the free discussions held by the members of the research team with the women of this region, at different stages of the research, reflected the fact that women perceive an upward trend in the elimination of gender disparities issue, both in the socio-professional and family environments.

This positive trend, perceived by the women of this region, from the perspective of the efforts made by authorities to ensure a climate of equality between women and men is underpinned by the implementation of the legislative measures designed to ensure gender equality and equal opportunities in Romanian society especially after 2007, when Romania became a member state of the European Union.

We also appreciate that the analysis of the data resulting from the processing of the questionnaire for women, in South-Muntenia development region, leads to the conclusion that the difficulty of getting a job is the main problem currently faced by many of the young women at both regional and national level.

Although it can be concluded that the perception of women at regional level is that, the effects of the economic and financial crisis were felt equally by both women and men, the difficulty of getting a job is perceived more keenly by the women of this development region.

 Additionally, the debates held during the focus groups revealed that some women were confronted with a situation in which being hired in a particular job or changing the job, within the same economic entity was conditional, directly or indirectly, on the acceptance of having physical relations with a male person, from the leadership.

 This proves that, despite some progress made in recent years, in eliminating gender barriers, a woman’s attempt of seeking an employment entails the possibility of abuses by males who hold leadership positions, abuses which motivate those assessments, coming from various feminist organisations, according to which, in various situations, women are not regarded as people with equal rights with men.  

Another conclusion refers to the fact that, some of the women of South-Muntenia development region, who were part of the target group of the research, reported instances in which women were not treated equally with their men colleagues, as members of a team in an entity with an economic /social profile.

 The fact that women cannot fill certain positions in the organizational chart of certain economic units, that sometimes, for the same work and the same skill level there are wage differences, that, at the workplace, may occur instances of sexual harassment, etc. - are examples which show that, in this region of economic development, most deficiencies on gender issues are to be found in the sphere of professional activities.

For this reason, one of the effects of the research conducted by the research component of the European project “Feminis – Let Us Progress Together” shall materialise in an institutional attempt designed to raise the awareness of local authorities and of the leadership of the socio-economic entities of this development region, with a view of treating with utmost responsibility gender barrier issues and raising public awareness, in order to ensure people’s compliance with the legal regulations on citizens’ equality, regardless of sex, race or religion. 

The issue of the relationship between the modern and the traditional way from the perspective of gender, the way women of this region perceive a number of issues subsumed under this relationship was another line of research in the study. In this regard it can be concluded that the emancipation of women in Romanian society, in terms of perception of the professional environment, continues to this day.

The fact that the interviewed women from this region mentioned a series of occupations to which they have no access, but they would like to assimilate, is a proof that women in Romania wish to further limit the range of occupations which, traditionally, belongs to men.

Moreover, the weight of approximately 25% of the respondents who want to go on living in the traditional world, when answering a question of the questionnaire for women, and the fact that about 75% of the women want to be part of the modern and postmodern world show that the traditional family, with its deeply-rooted practices and values, is currently strongly influenced by the practices and values of today’s world, in the context of increasingly influential globalisation forces.

The processing of the questionnaire for women, of the one for enterprises and the use of other research tools, in this development region, have highlighted both issues involving gender barriers and the existence of other cultural barriers related to a woman’s ethnicity, race and religion, such as: the treatment of women as sex objects; the refusal to hire Roma people; certain hesitations of employers in the private sphere to hire women of Islamic religion; the impossibility of pregnant women to get a job; the phenomenon of misogyny; the lack of access of women to well-paid jobs, etc.

Finally, we can say that, in South-Muntenia region, a structure which includes six counties of Romania, a significant progress has been made, as to the objectives assumed by Romania, in the field of gender issues, with the country’s accession to the European Union.

The results of the scientific studies, conducted within the European project “Feminis – Let Us Progress Together”, both those concerning the South-Muntenia region, and those involving the six development regions, which constituted the target group of the research, offer the guarantee that Romania’s authorities, as well as other public and private institutions empowered to educate the population, will continue to address the issues of gender barriers, with the utmost responsibility, in order to implement the entire aegis of European values in Romanian society.

 

Bibliography

 

BALAHUR, Doina, Meta-analysis of Gender and Science Research. D31-Country report Romania, Women's Study Center, Iași, March 2009.

CAVAYE, Angele.,  „Case Study Research: a multi-facteted research approach for IS”, in Information Systems Journal,  6, 1996.

DRAGOMIR, Otilia, MIROIU, Mihaela, Lexicon feminist, Editura Polirom, Iași, 2002.

ECKSTEIN, Harry, Regarding Politics. Essays on Political Theory, Stability and Change, University of California Press, Berkely, 1975.

FRANKLIN, Mark “Quantitative Analysis”, in DELLA PORTA, Donatella, KEATING, Michael (eds.), Approaches and Methodologies in Social Sciences – A Pluralist Perspective, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2008. 

JOHANSSON, Rolf, Case Study Methodology, A Keynote Speech at the International Conference Methodologies in Housing Research, organised by the Royal Institute of Technology in cooperation with the International Association of People–Environment Studies, Stockholm, 22th–24th of September 2003.

KRAAL, Karen, ROOSBLAD, Judith and WRENCH, John (eds.), Equal Opportunities and Ethnic Inequality in European Labour Markets. Discrimination, Gender and Policies of Diversity, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 2009.

LATZKO-TOTH, Guillame, L`Étude de cas en sociologie des sciences et des techniques, CIRST – Centre Interuniversitaire de recherche sur la science et la technologie, Université de Montréal, Université de SHERBROOKE, Note de Recherche 2009.

MIROIU, Mihaela, Neprețuitele femei, Editura Polirom, Iași, 2006.

MUKHAPADHYAY, Maitrayee, Introduction: Gender, Citizenship and Governance, in Gender, Society and Development. Gender, Citizenship and Governance. A Global Source Book, Royal Tropical Institute (KIT), Oxfam Publishing, Amsterdam, 2004.

PARSONS, Talcott, The System of Modern Societies, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1971.

POPA, Dan, “Cum au evoluat nașterile, căsătoriile și divorțurile din 1960 încoace? Cum se traduc din punct de vedere economic aceste evoluții”, http://economie.hotnews.ro/stiri-finante_banci-19663102-analiza.htm, date of accession: 9th of February, 2015, accession time: 10:17 p.m.

WEISSMAN, Deborah M., “Gender and Human Right: Between Moral and Politics”, in McCLAIN, Linda C. and GROSSMAN, Joanna I. (eds.), Gender Equality. Dimension of Women’s Equal Citizenship, Cambridge University Press, 2009.

*** Gen și diversitate socio-culturală în formarea profesională, Manual pentru abordarea integratoare a egalității de gen în politicile de ocupare a forței de muncă, incluziune socială și protecție socială, Direcția Generală de Ocuparea Forței de Muncă, Probleme Sociale și Șanse Egale, Unitatea G1,

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*** Gender Quality and Equity – A Summary of UNESCO`s Accomplishments Since the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing 1995), Unit for the Promotion of the Status of Women and Gender Equality, May, 2000.

*** The Global Gender Gap Raport 2014, Insight Report, World Economic Forum, Geneva, 2014.

 


[i]Gen și diversitate socio-culturală în formarea profesională, Manual pentru abordarea integratoare a egalității de gen în politicile de ocupare a forței de muncă, incluziune socială și protecție socială, Direcția Generală de Ocuparea Forței de Muncă, Probleme Sociale și Șanse Egale, Unitatea G1,  http://www.google.ro/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&sqi=2&ved=0CCgQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fec.europa.eu%2Fsocial%2FBlobServlet%3FdocId%3D2045%26langId%3Dro&ei=QL1gVNmTHY3saLnKgYgG&usg=AFQjCNFnI9PBdGIulDJNxwiUSqWqbvA3Ww, p.8, date of accession: 18th of March, 2015, accession time: 20:23 p.m.

[ii] “Gender Quality and Equity – A Summary of UNESCO`s Accomplishments Since the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing 1995)”, Unit for the Promotion of the Status of Women and Gender Equality, May, 2000, p. 5.

[iii] Karen KRAAL, Judith ROOSBLAD and John WRENCH (eds.), Equal Opportunities and Ethnic Inequality in European Labour Markets. Discrimination, Gender and Policies of Diversity, Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam, 2009, p. 10.

[iv] Maitrayee MUKHAPADHYAY, Introduction: Gender, Citizenship and Governance, in Gender, Society and Development. Gender, Citizenship and Governance. A Global Source Book, Royal Tropical Institute (KIT), Oxfam Publishing, Amsterdam, 2004, p.14.

[v] The conclusions triggered by this study will involve the discussions towards the abiding of how the continuum public-private can be juxtaposed, in the field of taking perceptual cognizance, in the ranges discussed by the research aims of the project, covered as such, in the different sections of the questionnaire, utilized as a research inquiry conductor.

[vi] The more puzzling the lack of answers is, the more intriguing the search for knowledge becomes. In this way, the resulting issues are set to inquire upon the convergence of plenty of unconventional issues, thus binding the alternative perspectives and maybe find new, enticing correlations among and between them.

This objective was raised plenty of times before commencing the work within the project: “Feminis – Let`s Progress Together!”. It was raised even during the work to this article, as I was dwelling on the questions that could be the most interesting for submitting, from the literature debriefed so far.

[vii] This point of view was publicized even 1975. One outstanding work deserves to be cited for this clarification of the current and future trends of the investigation developed in Social Science: Harry ECKSTEIN, Regarding Politics. Essays on Political Theory, Stability and Change, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1975.

[viii] Mark FRANKLIN, “Quantitative Analysis”, in Donatella DELLA PORTA, Michael KEATING (eds.), Approaches and Methodologies in Social Sciences – A Pluralist Perspective, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2008, p. 240.

[ix] Rolf JOHANSSON, Case Study Methodology, A Keynote Speech at the International Conference Methodologies in Housing Research, organised by the Royal Institute of Technology in cooperation with the International Association of People–Environment Studies, Stockholm, 22th–24th of September 2003, p. 2.

[x]Angele CAVAYE, „Case Study Research: a multi-facteted research approach for IS”, in Information Systems Journal, 6, 1996, pp. 227-242.

[xi] Although the theory-building attempts, when utilizing this kind of methodological reservoir, is not rare. However, we hope that this study, being devoid of a grand academic endeavour, as it is, can still represent a considerable margin of exemplification, in the realm of the quantitative analysis on gender barriers and on their perception in Romania.

[xii] Author`s own translation of the original text found in: Guillame LATZKO-TOTH, L`Étude de cas en sociologie des sciences et des techniques, CIRST – Centre Interuniversitaire de recherche sur la science et la technologie, Université de Montréal, Université de SHERBROOKE, Note de Recherche 2009-03, p.6.

[xiii] It was, after all, a most common trap, when the sample resources are medium. Given the high level of heterogeneity of the subjects that were sampled, we could include the proclivity towards drawing some general clotures.

[xiv] Mihaela MIROIU, Neprețuitele femei, Editura Polirom, Iași, 2006, p. 129.

[xv] “The Global Gender Gap Raport 2014”, Insight Report, World Economic Forum, Geneva, 2014, pp. 322-323.

[xvi] Doina BALAHUR, Meta-analysis of Gender and Science Research. D31-Country report Romania, Women's Study Center, Iași, March 2009, p.1, http://meta-analysisofgenderandscienceresearch.org/doc/CReport_Romania.pdf, date of accession: 10th of March, 2015, accession time: 19:10 p.m.

[xvii] Otilia DRAGOMIR, Mihaela MIROIU, Lexicon feminist, Editura Polirom, Iași, 2002, pp. 5-6.

[xviii] For a much more recondite account – Talcott PARSONS, The System of Modern Societies,  Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1971.

[xix] It was, actually, considered to be important for the organization of a society and for the conservation of marital bliss.

[xx] Without any doubt, the structural conditions, regarding women unemployment, have changed. The issues and the afflictions of this problematics remain disappointingly the same.

[xxi] Dan POPA, “Cum au evoluat nașterile, căsătoriile și divorțurile din 1960 încoace? Cum se traduc din punct de vedere economic aceste evoluții”, http://economie.hotnews.ro/stiri-finante_banci-19663102-analiza.htm,accesed, date of accession: 9th of February, 2015, accession time: 10:17 p.m.

[xxii]Karen KRAAL, Judith ROOSBLAD and John WRENCH (eds.), Equal Opportunities…cit., p. 9.

[xxiii] Deborah M. WEISSMAN, “Gender and Human Right: Between Moral and Politics”, in Linda C. McCLAIN and Joanna I. GROSSMAN (eds.), Gender Equality. Dimension of Women’s Equal Citizenship, Cambridge University Press, 2009, p. 409.