Episode 4

The Challenges AheaD

Nadya Tolokonnikova, Pussy Riot

  Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alyokhina - Pussy Riot

Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alyokhina - Pussy Riot

“What Alexandra Kollontai means to us is precisely what we want to see more in Russia  – it’ s what Russia excels in… used to excel in, possibly even more than other countries – and I would really like to see my country at the forefront  - at the forefront of a worldwide movement rather than lagging somewhere behind, always playing catch up.

Alexandra Kollontai, together with the women she was working with, were tackling feminist issues, promoting feminism – and achieved some amazing things. Russia was one of the first countries to grant voting rights to women.”

“It was undoubtedly a great misfortune in historical terms that in Stalin’s time and already toward the end of Lenin’s rule all these feminist achievements that Alexander Kolontai and her comrades were able to promote were wiped out.

And now we are still reaping the consequences of the misfortunes that were brought to this country by Stalin – by his anti-feminist policy, his abolition of the right to abortion, his definitive attitude to women as primarily a reproduction organ of humanity.”

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Masha Alyokhina, Pussy Riot

“The name of our band is perceived as nothing else but “vaginas on the loose “, which is  not quite right, to put it mildly, as Pussy is a multi-layered word with many meanings.  The primary meaning is “pussycat”, and that can be interpreted any way you want.

The same has happened to Alexandra Kollontai,  and to whatever relates to GLBT and transgender issues. People constantly reduce women’s rights to questions about what are your favourite positions in bed.”

“So if a woman is engaged in public and political life, she has to be against abortion. She has to be in favour of preserving the family, and must promote the model of a conservative woman in every shape and form.  A few years ago they tried to bring in a requirement for a woman needing an abortion to get her husband’s signed approval.  There were discussions about introducing “A period of silence” - a period of a week or even 2 weeks – for a woman to be denied an abortion.  As a result of a feminist campaign the bill was not passed. But this issue has not been taken off the table and therefore this law can always be adopted.”

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Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Undersecretary General and Executive Director of UN Women

  Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the UN

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka at the UN

“Poverty has a woman’s face because the majority of the people who are poor, are women.  As we think about how we are going to engage  the world in the post 2015 Agenda, it is important that we address poverty and violence against women, together.  Because we will not achieve the sustainable development goals without addressing issues that impact on women.  The biggest and the most critical issues of the 21st century will need us to address gender equality - whether we are talking about poverty  or peace.   Addressing the issue of women is actually a pre-condition for success in all these areas.”

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Lindiwe Mazibuko, Former Leader of the Opposition, National Assembly, South Africa

                        Lindiwe Mazibuko

                      Lindiwe Mazibuko

“I think if you challenge those things systematically you force people to think about things that would ordinarily pass them by.  You can shift the narrative and shift perceptions about how women can occupy political leadership.”