President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: I want to congratulate you on the upcoming holiday. The weather is right for a holiday mood. Unfortunately, having the cameras present makes it a little harder to have a really heart-to-heart talk, but I hope you will nonetheless all relax a bit and feel like women about to celebrate this holiday coming up on March 8.
I would like to talk about any problems and issues of concern to you. All of you hold very responsible positions, and many of you work in what are considered traditionally male professions. But you perform your duties just as well as, and even better than many men would. On my way to this meeting, I looked through some statistics on how many women we have in government bodies: not many, it is true. And the higher the level of government, the fewer women there are. There are only two women ministers in the Government Cabinet. Their names are well known. I think it is time to look at getting more women into the Government and its various agencies. Looking further, what is the situation today? In the legislative branch, the parliament, there are more women: of the 450 members of the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, around 140–150 are women, and this is a bit better of course.
It is at the municipal level (and I know that among those present are women involved in municipal government), that women shoulder the biggest load. Women account for a third of municipal heads, and are thus responsible for the most complicated grass-roots work. We all realise how difficult it is to run, say, a district or village when money is in extremely short supply, there are numerous problems, the population is in some cases simply dying out, and someone needs to get everything organised, make sure that people have heating and light. In short, this is the toughest work.
Why am I saying all this? I say this because the balance is unfair. I visited Spain just recently, and these are issues they take very seriously there. They do more than just make sure women are represented in their own government bodies. They follow the situation elsewhere too, and said to me, “You have very few women”. There was nothing I could say in reply. Of course, this is not the overriding issue, for we have plenty of other problems to address, but women’s representation in government is nonetheless an important matter, and as President of this country, I simply wanted to draw attention to the situation.
I will not say anything more for now, not until I’ve heard what you have to say, anyway. Once again, I offer you my sincere congratulations on this upcoming spring holiday, a holiday that has a long history with its roots in struggle and politics. Almost everyone seems to have forgotten this history now and today, this holiday is simply seen as Women’s Day, a day when we congratulate women. Congratulate you is precisely what I want to do now, congratulate you from all my heart!