News / Europe

Women's Rights Activists Encouraged by New French President

Women's Rights Activists Encouraged by New French Presidenti
|| 0:00:00
X
Lisa Bryant
May 29, 2012 8:59 PM
2012 may mark the year of woman's rights in France. Newly elected president Francois Hollande has ushered in the country's first gender-balanced cabinet. His partner, journalist Valerie Trierweiler, is the country's first unmarried "first lady." And earlier this year, the government scrapped the honorific "Mademoiselle" -- or "Miss" -- from its official documents in favor of the more equalizing "Madame." But are these changes merely symbolic? Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA.

Women's Rights Activists Encouraged by New French President

Lisa Bryant
PARIS - 2012 may mark the year of woman's rights in France. Newly elected president Francois Hollande has ushered in the country's first gender-balanced cabinet.  His partner, journalist Valerie Trierweiler, is the country's first unmarried "first lady."  And earlier this year, the government scrapped the honorific "Mademoiselle" - or "Miss" - from its official documents in favor of the more equalizing "Madame."  But are these changes merely symbolic?

The easy part of Olivia Cattan's day ends at lunchtime, when she leaves her work as a pre-school assistant and starts her other job as a journalist and founder of the feminist organization "Paroles de Femmes," or "Words of Women."  

Cattan has advised France's new President, Francois Hollande, on women's issues and Mr. Hollande's cabinet includes an equal number of male and female ministers.

It also includes a new ministry of women's rights, headed by 34-year-old Najat Vallaud Belkacem.

Cattan says those are promising first steps.

"It's a fantastic gesture for Mr. Hollande. It's like a page has been turned. It's the first parity government in France. He's really turned a page in terms of French feminism," Cattan said.

France also has a new, unmarried "first partner," journalist Valerie Trierweiler, who accompanied Hollande on his first official visit to the United States.

"It [the partnership] shows that you don't have to get married to live with someone. We have the right to choose the kind of lives we want," Cattan said.

Women's issues have been in the spotlight in France for other reasons - notably for the sex-scandal allegations dogging former International Monetary Fund chief  and French politician, Dominique Strauss Kahn.

Economics and minority rights professor Anne Boring says the Strauss-Kahn scandal has shaken the society.

"Now women are more willing to say what has happened to them or to denounce violence against women," Boring said.

On the streets of Paris, the French appear to be pleased with women's new assertion in political life.

Among them,  40-year-old businessman, Jean-Michel Bambois.

"It's good not to differentiate between women and men. What counts is their competency," he said.

Theater director Nadia Vonderheyden also praises recent changes, including the elimination of the term "Mademoiselle," or "Miss," from French government documents.

"Things are beginning to reflect, just a tiny bit, the reality in French society, which wasn't the case before," she said.

But Professor Boring says women must still fight to get ahead.

"France is a country where women are still discriminated against in the workplace and salaries of women [with] similar qualifications are much lower than the salaries of men," she said.

Rights activists like Olivia Cattan say they will be watching closely to make sure France's new government makes good on its promises of promoting women's equality.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid