The Guardian 18 May, 2005
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Greetings from Ikaria, Greece
Recently I had the pleasure of attending the 9th Conference of the Greek Women’s Federation (GWF), held in Athens from April 8-10. Five hundred and seventy women from all over Greece participated (455 delegates and 116 observers). Greek women’s organisations from Belgium and Germany were also represented as well as representatives from China, Russia, Cuba, Palestine, Serbia, Albania and Turkey.
I, along with two other representatives from Ikaria (one being my sister Irene who has lived here since 1975) experienced my first women’s conference in Greece, and I must say it was a fantastic, invigorating experience.
At the opening session the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), Aleka Papariga, received a standing ovation and while she did not speak herself, a very commanding and uplifting speech was given by Liana Kanneli, a dynamic member of the KKE and member of Parliament.
The GWF was established in 1976 and is the largest women’s organisation in Greece. Only the left parties responded to the invitation to speak at the opening ceremony while the PASOK [social democrat] and New Democracy parties were conspicuous by their absence, as was the lack of media coverage apart from the KKE’s party press.
These non-attendances were discussed and well noted in the resolutions at the end of the conference. Resolutions regarding Cuba, Cyprus and the deplorable conditions regarding sea transport for the northern Aegean Islands were also passed.
The atmosphere at the conference was dynamic throughout, the energy and enthusiasm evident, as delegate after delegate gave their contribution. Women from city and rural areas were united in their common experiences that imperialism, globalisation and Greece’s membership of the European Union have had and continue to have, on their lives.
A positive aspect of this conference was the large number of young women who attended. Their political awareness, contributions and enthusiasm was very encouraging to see, while the older delegates were a positive role model for all.
There were many moving moments at the conference, but the handing over of a painting to the eldest participant and long standing KKE party member, who had spent 7 years in the Averof women’s prison as a political prisoner. The painting depicted a palm tree, which grew in the prison yard and around which women regularly met (or danced as one of their comrades was being led to her execution).
The GWF has a large representative committee (51 women), from all over Greece, who meet regularly in Athens. Elections resulted in my being elected to this group and I look forward to working closer with women across Greece, through this organisation.
The story that hit the mainstream press about the only pharmacist in the Hunter Valley NSW of Merriwa refusing to issue condoms or the morning after pill should start ringing alarm bells. It shows the beginning of a pro-life Christian fundamentalist agenda that is started to take hold in the United States.
Around the same time as this story was hitting the newspaper pages in Australia the People’s Weekly World Newspaper (CPUSA) published an editorial which detailed the situation of a Chicago woman who went to get her local pharmacist to fill a prescription for the contraceptive pill. The pharmacist refused to fill her prescription.
According to the editorial this is becoming common place in the US. Thirteen states in the America are considering legislation to allow pharmacists to refuse to do their job.
Not only that the Bush administration has moved a the so-called Abortion Non Discrimination Act which allows federal funded health care entities to deny women the right to an abortion without any penalty. It also includes refusing to issue the morning after pill, even in a case of rape according to the article.
Does the current debate in Australia on abortion have any familiarity with this?
The article calls on the American people to speak up against the ultra conservatives. It is now the time also for Australians to speak up.
This is not an issue that affects women alone. It is an issue that affects everyone. Women should have the right to choose if and when they want a child. But this issue is also about more than that. If we don’t speak up now than what next, denying a person with AIDS life-prolonging medication because it doesn’t fit in with their fundamentalist conservative agenda.
What audacity Estonia and Lithuania show in calling for an apology from Russia for the overthrow of their Nazi occupiers during the second world war.
It is the Baltic states and Poland that should apologise to Russia for their wartime collaboration with the Nazis in rounding up victims for the extermination centres and slave labour camps.
The people who are orchestrating these calls today have the same philosophy as the Nazis in the 1930s and the 1940s.