|06MINSK453||2006-04-27 08:52:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Minsk|
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C O N F I D E N T I A L MINSK 000453
1. (C) Summary: DCM hosted a luncheon discussion on women's
roles in Belarusian society and politics for visiting speaker
Darryl Glenney and Belarusian women leaders. While the
guests admitted that Belarusian women are involved in the
country's political life, they denounced the current women
officials as Lukashenko's political puppets. Most went on to
claim that Belarus is ready for change, including larger
roles for more women leaders, but conceded that some
obstacles remain that might obstruct such progress. End
2. (SBU) On April 11, DCM hosted a luncheon for Belarusian
women leaders in honor of the Public Affairs Section's
visiting speaker Darryl Glenney. Glenney is a political
consultant who has extensive international experience
training and preparing women to be political and societal
leaders. She has worked with women's organizations in
Africa, the Middle East, South America, the Caribbean and
Current Women Officials Are Political Puppets
3. (C) The guests informed Glenney that Belarusian women are
involved in government, but that some of the women currently
holding office are viewed as puppets for the regime.
Christian Democratic Women's Movement of Belarus Chair
Ludmila Petina explained that President Lukashenko at one
point declared that 33 percent of all parliamentarians should
be women. After the next round of elections, all the women
who were invited to run for office by the GOB won a seat in
the National Assembly. Other prominent women are Central
Election Committee Chair head Lidiya Yermoshina and
Presidential Administration deputy Natalya Petkevich - both
considered by the political opposition as among the most
odious of the regime's officials.
Is Belarus Ready for More Women Leaders?
4. (C) The guests overwhelmingly claimed that Belarus is
ready to accept more women leaders in prominent civil society
and government positions, including the post of president.
Seventh Side grass roots NGO head Olga Karach stated that
more women are being elected by their peers to serve as
housing chairpersons for apartment communities.
All-Belarusian Women's League Chair Nina Stuzhinskaya claimed
that the role of women in Belarus is constantly developing.
Furthermore, she stated that men are ready to follow women
5. (C) Petina concurred that Belarusians would vote for women
candidates, but claimed that there are simply no qualified
female political candidates. She lamented the lack of
trustworthy, qualified public officials, citing Central
Election Committee Chair Lidya Yermoshina as a prime example.
Petina added that despite Yermoshina, society places more
trust in women in general.
6. (C) Belarusian Association of Women Lawyers' Chairwoman
Galina Debrezova asserted that Belarusian women are deeply
concerned about events and developments in their country.
She offered the example of 200 young Belarusian women who
traveled from all over the country to listen to a lecture on
7. (C) Only human rights lawyer Vera Stremkovskaya maintained
that Belarus is not ready for change or more women leaders.
She cited the recent presidential elections as an example of
Belarus' stagnation; she claimed that if the Belarusians were
not ready to remove its corrupt leader, they would not be
ready to accept a woman president.
Belarus: On the Road to Change, With Bumps Along the Way
8. (C) Ten Plus Coalition member and United Civic Party
deputy Ludmila Gryaznova lauded Belarus' post-election
demonstrations as examples of the country's progress towards
democratic change. She considered the several thousand
people who participated in street protests comparable to
100,000 in a free society. She also stated that the mere
occurrence of these protests represents a victory in itself.
Finally, Gryaznova commented that society views those who
were imprisoned for protesting the presidential elections as
9. (C) Belarusian Association of Journalists deputy director
Tatyana Melnichuk concurred that Belarus is on the road to
change but must continue to work hard to achieve its goal.
She pointed out that civil society remains weak and reluctant
to change. She stressed the importance of rejecting "old
ways," which do not attract new recruits, especially among
the youth. She pointed to the recent explosion of
"flash-mobs," which are increasingly popular with youth
activists, as a new way to bring about change.
10. (C) Law Initiative Chairwoman Galina Ustinova argued that
it is the economy that will bring change to Belarus. She
stated that Lukashenko can control elections, but he cannot
control the economy. She predicted that only economic
decline would be responsible for bringing political change to
Comment: Untapped Political Resource
11. (C) These women - smart, motivated, energetic and
experienced - to a great extent have been pushed aside by the
opposition politicians. However, they are increasingly
coming to the realization that they need to take charge of
political change themselves. More attentive to the needs and
concerns of everyday Belarusians than their male colleagues,
they are more capable of winning the trust and attracting the
non-political silent majority. The face of the future, and
perhaps ultimately successful, Belarusian opposition, could