Message at the Opening of the 7th Annual Global Forum

Athens, May, 2002

 

 

          Out of the several thousand years old history of mankind, the  involvement of women in social life - through the right to vote - has not been longer than one century. Neither the laws of Athens, "the cradle of the idea of democracy", nor the "Bill of Rights", "the cradle of modern democracy" has foreseen this right.

As we are in Athens, we cannot forget that the "exclusive male club", as the ancient city has been called, has not excluded women from public life without an explanation and with a certain sense of remorse.

The legend about choosing a name for the city of Athens says that the citizen of Attic have had to chose between Poseidon's gift of a horse bouncing from the rock of Acropolis when struck by the trident of the god of the seas, and the sacred olive tree that the goddess of wisdom miraculously made to rise from the earth. As women participated in the vote - and in quite a large number (due to their civic conscience, we would say today) - the choice was the olive tree and Athena became the protector of the city that was going to bear her name. The men had to give up Poseidon's gift, a token of victory at war, but they punished the women by forbidding them to vote again. Thus the notion of "exclusion of women from political life" came to life, but also the recognition of a wise decision.

When Plato calls in his "Banquet" at the idea of superior love, he summons this revelation to the priestess Diotima, who had revealed to Socrates the very essence of the Eros, as an uplifting passion. This leads to another acknowledgment: to the more direct connection of the woman with the sphere of unselfish and generous love.

Aristophanes too recognizes their judgment and "managerial capacities" in his play about a city governed by women - a utopia at that time.

Intelligence, superior love, leadership abilities, this is the image of the woman that Greek culture has sent over the centuries, despite political and social realities that have become history. These are exactly the qualities humankind needs in the dawning of a new millennium.

As the president of a country, which transgressed half a century under a dictatorship and where the right to vote used to have no meaning, because, just as Raymond Aron used to say, "it was not the voters who designated the elected ones, but the elected ones who were deciding their voters", I strongly felt the tension of the change of mentalities on the status of the woman - from the "communist manly woman" to the "top-model woman" and to the force by which she imposed herself as "manager".

At the same time, as I had set up a mainly female presidential staff, I understood that the "feminist vision" does not only mean a concern for matters specific to the woman, but an analysis of all legislative, economic and social policies, and even an interesting and creative approach of male issues.

This is why a re-conceptualizing of the relationship woman - politics and power is needed. Reality has proved the leadership capacities of women in countries with different cultural and civilization models, from Indira Ghandi to Margaret Thatcher, and has illustrated their capacity of imagining and imposing profound reforms under difficult circumstances.

On the other side, the way fishes’ life indicates the level of pollution provoked by technology to the water, the same way regular women’s life shows how good or bad are state’s policies.