Essay published at The51Percent booklet of the British Council – a global snapshot of issues facing women around the world
For decades young girls in Greece grew up hearing their mothers and grandmothers reminiscing about stories of struggle and bravery from the population exchange in 1922, the resistance during the German occupation in the 40s and the extreme poverty of the Greek society in the years that followed. The Greek mother was always the main figure, the one that kept the family together, the one that created something from nothing. Stories of solidarity and cooperation between families and neighbours were a great part of the narrative of the great struggle of the 20th Century.
In the last few years these stories have emerged again into the everyday narrative, this time not as family tales from the elderly but from the daily news feed: stories of destitution either between the natives or the hundreds of thousands of refugees that cross the country to find a safe place for their children. Again the mother and wife figure is at the forefront. A woman who, no matter the obstacles and defeats, gets back up to her feet, who has always a higher purpose – that of protecting her family – who stays always balanced, resourceful and supportive. A resilient woman.
We live in an era where resilience has emerged as the most valuable skill and attribute. In governance, the economy, in society, resilience is a fundamental quality to overcome crisis and move forward whatever form it may take. Whether this is related to the private or public sphere, the individual or the community, women have proved throughout history that they are, above all, resilient. They have shown that it is more important how you deal with a problem rather than the actual problem itself and this is what determines whether or not you’re going to make it through.
However, Greek women’s resilience is more a hidden skill than an acknowledged attainment. Although Greece has been a pioneer in women’s rights legislation within the European Union, Greek women still face conscious or unconscious biases against them that stem from a general mentality within Greek society. Many people still believe that women are the leaders of the house and family but not the leaders of the nation, the city, or the company.
The issue of women’s rights and the role of women in leading today’s economy, government and society is not only about equal opportunities, it is rather an issue of how our society and especially my country can move towards a new path where everybody wins. But this requires solidarity, mutual support and common effort between women of all ages and backgrounds, whether an immigrant mother or a company executive. There is a need of understanding that how we act today determines our future and the future of our children for the establishment of an inclusive and thriving society.