Polish Government Rescinds Demotion of Gender Equality Official
Tuesday, December 28, 2004 11:10 AM

In December 2004, Gender Equality Minister Magdalena Sroda was demoted from Equal Status Plenipotentiary appointed by the Prime Minister, to a position under the authority of the Ministry of Social Affairs.  Women’s rights advocates viewed the demotion as an attempt to diminish her political power, limit the office’s competence to only social policy issues, and prohibit the office from having independent authority.  In protest the representatives of women’s organizations composed and collected signatures for the letter to the Prime Minister, requesting the government to rescind this decision immediately. 

Advocates’ efforts were successful and the decision of the Council of Ministers was changed and the office of the Gender Equality Minister remains.


Below is the letter sent to the Prime Minister. 

Mr. Marek Belka,
Prime Minister,
Al. Ujazdowskie 1/3,
00-583 Warsaw, Poland

Distinguished Prime Minister,

We, the representatives of women’s organizations participating in United Nations Economic Commission for Europe Regional Preparatory Meeting for the 10-Year Review of the Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, are deeply concerned and disappointed upon learning today that the Plenipotentiary for Equal Status of Women and Men has been demoted to the Ministry of Social Affairs. We believe that this demotion is a deliberate attempt by the government to diminish the political power of the Plenipotentiary, to limit the office’s competence to only social policy issues, and to prohibit the office from having independent authority.

Since 1995, Polish women’s organizations have been lobbying the government to establish a permanent government body on equal opportunities and gender equality. Such an office is in accordance with the European Union standards as well as Poland’s signature to the Beijing Platform for Action. Poland signed the Beijing Platform in 1995 thereby commiting itself to establishing an independent government body for gender equality. Moreover, the establishment of such an office is a goal of all countries that aspire to be true democracies where women’s rights are human rights.

We are concerned about the process by which the decision to move the Plenipotentiary to the Ministry of Social Affairs was made. In particular we are outraged that this decision was made at exactly the moment when European governments are meeting in Geneva and on the verge of reaffirming the principles set forth in the Beijing Platform for Action, one of which obligates state parties to establish and empower an independent governmental body on gender equality.

As you are aware, the Polish government is participating in this discussion and in fact, Minister Magdalena Sroda is the head of Poland’s delegation to Geneva. It is ironic that given the current discussions in Geneva and Poland’s participation in these discussions, that the government chooses this moment to demote the Plenipotentiary, completely in opposition to Poland’s commitments under the Beijing Platform for Action. In addition, this decision was made in the absence of any consultation with Minister Sroda or Polish women’s NGOs, going against Poland’s basic commitments to democratic development and decision-making processes.

We request the Government to rescind this decision immediately and support the Polish women’s NGO’s call for a meeting with the Prime Minister as soon as possible.

1. Erin Barclay, Network of East West Women, USA;
2. Anastasia Posadskaya-Vanderbeck, Director of Network Women’s Program Open Society Institute, New York, USA;
3. Monika Ladmanova, The Open Society Fund, Prague, Czech Republic;
4. Jana Javornik, Network of East West Women, Slovenia;
5. Tamar Sabadashvili, Youth Network for Gender Equality, Georgia;
6. Genoveva Tisheva, Bulgarian Gender Research Foundation, Bulgaria;
7. Roxana Tesiu, Center Partnership for Equality, Romania;
8. Dina Loghin, SEF Equal Opportunities for Women, Romania;
9. Beata Olahova, The League of Human Rights Advocates, Slovakia;
10. Viera Klementova, Czech-Slovak Women’s Fund, Slovakia;
11. Kinga Lohmann, KARAT Coalition;
12. Rede Portuguesa de Jovens para a Igualdade de Oportunidades entre Mulheres e Homens (Portuguese Network of Young People for Equality), Portugal;
13. Maria do Mar Pereira, Platforma Portuguesa para os Direitos das Mulheres (Portuguese Platform for Women’s Rights), Portugal;
14. Julia Kovalenko, Estonian Women’s Association Roundtable, Estonia;
15. DOMINOES Women’s Association for Promotion of Women’s Rights and Development of Civil Society, Split, Croatia;
16. CENZENA Center for Women War Victims ROSA, Zagreb, Croatia;
17. Danica Anderson, Executive Director and Founder, Women’s Cross Cultural Collaboration, Croatia;
18. ASTRA Anti Trafficking Action SOS, Serbia;
19. Prof. M. Ismail, RISE, Pakistan
20. Virginija Aleksejunaite, Director, Center for Equality Advancement, Lithuania
21. Margarita Jankauskaite, Project Manager, Center for Equality Advancement, Lithuania
22. Larisa Fedorova, Institute of Gender and Social Policy, Moscow, Russia;
23. Elena Kochkina, Institute of Gender and Social Policy, Moscow, Russia;
24. Dina Utesheva, Institute of Gender and Social Policy, Moscow, Russia;
25. Marina Tabukashvili, Women's Program of Open Society - Georgia Foundation, Georgia;
26. Davit Gabunia, Women's Program of Open Society - Georgia Foundation, Georgia;
27. Olena Suslova, Women`s Information Consultative Center, Kyiv, Ukraine;
28. Bernice Dubois, The European Council of WIZO Federations,
29. Annette Lawson, NAWO – National Alliance of Women’s Organizations, United Kingdom;
30. Slavica Stojanovic, Reconstruction Women’s Fund, Serbia;
31. Silke Silberstein, WIDE – Women in Development Europe, Belgium;
32. Rubina Devrikyan, President of Women and Youth Development Association, Armenia;
33. Nurgul Asylbekova, Women’s program Soros Foundation Kyrgyzstan;
34. Tolkun Tulekova, “Diamond” Association, Kyrgyzstan;
35. Zumrat Salmorbekova, Institute of regional research, Kyrgyzstan;
36. Mairam Tilebalieva, Association of crisis centers, Kyrgyzstan;
37. Roza Aitmatova, Women’s support center, Kyrgyzstan;
38. Klara Toktonalieva, Diplomatic Academy of KR, Kyrgyzstan;
39. Valdet Sala, Albania;
40. Women in Black, Belgrade, Serbia;
41. Sandra Ljubinkovic, Anti-Trafficking Center, Belgrade, Serbia;
42. Shorena Dzotsenidze, Center for Women and Development, Tbilisi, Georgia;
43. Marina Beriashvili, Ph.D, Chair of NGO Women Employment Innovative Center, Georgia;
44. Gender Studies, Prague, Czech Republic


Compiled from: The Network of East-West Women - Polska/NEWW Newsletter No. 44-45, 20 August 2004, available here, OSKA home page: http://www.oska.org.pl/print.php?what=news&id=1639,

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