News / Europe

    Women's Rights Looking up in France

    French President Francois Hollande gestures as he speaks to reporters upon his arrival for an EU summit, at the European Council building in Brussels, May 23, 2012.French President Francois Hollande gestures as he speaks to reporters upon his arrival for an EU summit, at the European Council building in Brussels, May 23, 2012.
    x
    French President Francois Hollande gestures as he speaks to reporters upon his arrival for an EU summit, at the European Council building in Brussels, May 23, 2012.
    French President Francois Hollande gestures as he speaks to reporters upon his arrival for an EU summit, at the European Council building in Brussels, May 23, 2012.
    Lisa Bryant
    France may remember 2012 as the year of women's rights.  Newly elected President Francois Hollande has ushered in the country's first gender-balanced cabinet. His partner, twice-divorced journalist Valerie Trierweiler, is the country's first unmarried "first lady." And earlier this year, the government scrapped the honorific "Mademoiselle" from its official documents in favor of the more equalizing "Madame." But are these changes just 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 advised President Francois Hollande on women's issues during his campaign.

    As France's new leader, Hollande appears to be acting on her advice. His Cabinet includes an equal number of male and female ministers. It also includes a new ministry of women's rights, headed by Najat Vallaud Belkacem, 34, who is also the government's spokeswoman.

    Cattan says Hollande's initial gestures are great. She says his parity government amounts to a new page for French feminism.

    France also has a new, unmarried "first partner" - journalist Valerie Trierweiler, who was a key advisor during his campaign.

    Cattan adds that the first couple shows that marriage is not a necessity. French women have the right to choose what lives they want to lead.

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

    Economics and minority rights professor Anne Boring says the Strauss-Kahn scandals amount to a wakeup call.

    "I do think the Strauss-Kahn affair has had quite a strong impact on the French society," said Borning.  "Now women are more willing to say what has happened to them or to denounce violence against women."

    On the streets of Paris, businessmen like Olivier Bambois, 40, appear pleased with women's new assertion in political life.

    Bambois says it's good not to differentiate women and men in the workforce and in politics, what counts is their competency.

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

    Now, Vonderheyden says, the government is beginning to reflect the reality of French society.

    But professor Boring says French women still have a long way to go.

    "France is a country where women are still discriminated [against] at the work place and salaries of the women at the same stage of qualification are much lower than the salaries of men," Boring added.  "Women tend to slow down their careers much more than men do."

    And she says only time will tell if Hollande's first steps to promote women's rights are effective.

    "One of the guidelines is can he actually maintain parity within the government?  The women who are in [ministerial] positions now - they have a huge responsibility - because they need to show that they are as able as men to do the job," Boring explained.

    Cattan, too, says she will be watching closely to see if France's new president makes good on his promises to promote women's equality.

    You May Like

    Russian-speaking Muslim Exiles Fear Possible Russia-Turkey Thaw

    Exiled from Russia as Islamic radicals and extremists, thousands found asylum in Turkey

    US Presidential Election Ends at Conventions for Territorial Citizens

    Citizens of US territories like Guam or Puerto Rico enjoy participation in US political process but are denied right to vote for president

    UN Syria Envoy: 'Devil Is in the Details' of Russian Aleppo Proposal

    UN uncertain about the possible humanitarian impact of Russian proposal to establish escape corridors in Aleppo

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Busi
    X
    July 28, 2016 4:16 AM
    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Philadelphia Uses DNC Spotlight to Profile Historic Role in Founding of United States

    The slogan of the Democratic National Convention now underway in Philadelphia is “Let’s Make History Again” which recognizes the role the city played in the foundation of the United States in the 18th century. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, local institutions are opening their doors in an effort to capitalize on the convention spotlight to draw visitors, and to offer more than just a history lesson.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora