Tuesday, November 4, 2014

SOS Russian Union of Women

By: Madina Baimagambayev
Produced and edited by: Olivia Harlow

Hundreds of Russian women have felt cornered and violated, with many locked in their own houses by their husbands until they’ve completed tasks such as cooking and washing clothes.  If they don’t complete household chores, they are then physically beaten.  These women are victims of domestic abuse.
Women's associations are increasingly taking the form of socially-oriented NGOs and have become the most responsive, mobile structures, capable of solving significant social issues.  These NGOS help women all over the country, by offering psychological material and legal aid to women struggling specifically with domestic violence and gender inequality.
Today, in every major Russian city, there are dozens of women's organizations – both those officially registered and those not registered. There are around 800 total, with more than 100 of them charities. These organizations first had to fix statutory, structure, and formalize. In the primary analysis of relevant information, database fields attracted the attention to the fact that the traditional area of ​​activity associated with the public opinion of the women's movement, namely, the "women's struggle for equalization of rights with men in the economic, social, political and cultural fields, as well as their participation in the political struggle," is by no means dominant. Of course, a certain group of women's groups affirms the necessity of building equalization of opportunities for women and men at the state level, both in the political and legal sphere. However, many prefer to stick to investing in "small business" in order to gradually overcome negative effects of the reforms that have touched women since the end of the twentieth century.

© Russian Union of Women

Russian Union of Women (RUW), created in November 1990, is a public, all-Russian, non-governmental organization. RUW organizes women's councils, unions, associations, committees and clubs operating in many Russian regions, on a voluntary basis. It also includes four federal organizations: the Women's Union of the Navy, The Russian Union of Public Associations, Russian Public Movement of Russian women, and Russian School Library Association. RUW also collaborates with other NGOs in more than 100 countries around the world, as well as with UN specialized agencies.
The Department of Public Information of the United Nations has a special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) as the holder of an honorary diploma of the United Nations “Messenger of Peace.”
Women in difficult situations can contact the RUW either by phone, written letters, or by visiting one of its branches. If a woman has no place to live, the RUW provides a dorm room in which they can stay for a month, free of charge, with free meals, psychological counseling, medical help, and jurisprudent assistance. The RUW always tries to find ways to help women in need regardless of if they are citizens or not. It is not rare to see RUW helping women from Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, or other countries outside of Russia.
One woman, who hopes to remain anonymous, claims that RUW saved her and her children’s lives from violence in her family in 2013. RUW gave her a place to live, provided a jurist for her case, and offered a psychologist for her and her child. She was a foreigner without Russian residence, so the RUW stepped in to support her family and prevent her deportation to the country where the domestic abuse had taken place. RUW helped the domestically battered immigrant woman earn Russian citizenship, as well as find a job and a place to live.
This union also helps support young families, who don’t yet have an opportunity to buy clothes, household appliances or food. In 2013, RUW provided over 500 families with material aid charity, and by the end of 2014 this number is expected grow by 20 percent.
© Russian Union of Women
In September 2013, a young family from an autonomous republic of Russian Federation, Bashkortastan, applied for financial support for the family. Irina, mother of 2 sons, became pregnant at 17 and did not know where to get help. When she first saw a commercial on Internet for RUW, she did not believe that anyone would help her and her young unemployed fiancé with material support.
“We have a certain image of such organizations.  No one believes that they really can help.  Me personally was thinking that it is another organization where you will wait for help forever and in the end they would ask you to collect thousands of papers and documents you wouldn’t know where to take,” she says.  However, Irina took that chance and later received a call from the Centre for Social Support for Women.

After a couple days, volunteers from RUW contacted Irina and later provided her with clothes, food and vitamins for pregnant women, and even invited her to classes at “University of Maternity”— another branch of the RUW which was established in 2013. That socio-educational program was created to improve conditions of maternal and child health, to give breastfeeding support, and to promote healthy lifestyles that strengthen the family. This program has helped many young families, including Irina and her fiancé Felys to get some critical knowledge for personal development and to acquire necessary parenting skills.

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