Fem. Russian Women meet American women

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From New York by Jan Fox

A group of 25 Soviet women arrived here this week to launch a two-week
visit that will take them to ten cities across the country, before they
gather in Washington with American women later this month to develop a
common agenda.

That agenda -- titled "From day care to disarmament: a woman's vision
for the 21st Century" -- will be presented to Presidents George Bush and
Mikhail Gorbachev at the U.S.-Soviet summit May 30-June 20.

Among the delegation of Soviet women are organizers of women's
political groups, journalists, lawyers, trade unionists, workers,
academicians, a physician, an actress, a philosopher, and a film producer.

Their visit was organized by Women for a Meaningful Summit, a network
of women's organizations.

"The views and needs of women must inform and shape all decisions
about the fate of the Earth," said Cora Weiss, coordinator of the visit.
They will discuss issues of disarmament, development, ecology and equality.

Six of the Soviet women spoke to an overflow crowd at Hunter College
May 2 about the changing role of women in Soviet society. The entire group
of 25 were on the stage and any of the women who chose to respond answered
questions from the floor.

Speakers said that perestroika and glasnost mean real plurality and
the end of decisions handed down from above. Open discussions have brought
previously ignored women's problems into the open.

"Women have been under-estimated in their professional and political
qualities," said Olga Veronina, and very few women have positions of real
power. She said the women's movement in the Soviet Union is now at a
similar stage as the movement was at in the United States in the '60s.
Considerable work is going to raise women's conciousness and to encourage
them to participate more fully in political and economic affairs as well as
to make changes in their personal lives.

Nina Belyaeva said that when she heard of feminism defined as a belief
in the equality of men and women, she decided she had always been a
feminist.

A wide range of other issues were discussed, including lower pay for
jobs usually held by women, a need for greater legal protection for women
and children, plans to retrain women who may lose jobs in economic
restructuring, control of family size, the departure of some Soviet Jews,
lesbian and gay issues, care for the elderly, availability of maternity
leave for fathers and grandparents, not only for women, and the
misunderstanding that perestroika means a move toward capitalism.

The delegation split into smaller groups and visited a Bronx day care
center, met with people with AIDS at the Gay Men's Health Crisis Center, a
YWCA and the Barnard Women's Research Center. On Tuesday night they were
hosted at by Mayor David Dinkins and his wife, Joyce.


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