Kleri Angelidou is a well known philologist in Cyprus and an awarded writer and poet. She has served as a Minister of Education and Culture in Cyprus and as a Member of Parliament. Kleri is an honorary member of the International Women’s Association and she is also the Honorary President of the Greek Language Association and the Lions Club Arsinoe.Kleri Angelidou has been awarded with an honorary PhD by the University of Athens and also by the University of Middlesex, London.
Greek Cypriot women have seen a gradual change in their role as players in the economic revival of the country since the Turkish invasion in 1974. This has been achieved through their increased participation in the island’s economic activity, the updating of family and labour law, the public awareness of women’s issues and the government’s policy for the promotion of gender equality. The contribution of Cypriot women in the overall development of the country is evident:
• Women’s share in the total labour force rose from 30% in 1976, to 37% in 1985 and 50% today
• 66.1% of all women aged 18-64 years are integrated in the labour force
• 35% of Greek Cypriot women over 20 completed tertiary level education compared to 29% of Greek Cypriot men
But there is still a long way to go when it comes to gender equality in the workforce:
• Only 16.4% of high posts are held by Greek Cypriot women
• While women are paid an average of 17.4% less per hour than men across the EU, the gap for Greek Cypriot women is 24%
Cyprus is essentially a male society. Patriarchy, the social system in which a male is the family head and primary authority is still very much alive. This is probably due to the political conflict that prevails on the island. The island’s institutions, represented mainly by men, have been focused on the Cyprus issue since 1974, marginalising thus any other important issues such as women’s rights and gender equality. As a result, Greek Cypriot women still have a long way to go through before claiming their liberation from a system which traps both genders.
Traditionally, the expected primary role for Greek Cypriot women has been to get married and have children and all other achievements were perceived as secondary. Nowadays, Greek-Cypriot women are split when asked if they believe that their social role is different from men’s.
Greek Cypriot women do not talk much about themselves, what they want and their achievements. This is due to gender socialization, which promotes the norm for women to speak very little about themselves and when they do, to be judged as inappropriately showing off. Another reason related to women’s socialization is that women are expected to listen rather than speak, and to focus on caring and serving the needs of others, especially their children.
While many Greek Cypriot women work outside the home, they are usually expected to fulfill the traditional domestic roles of housewife and mother. Even when these women have full-time jobs, they usually expect little help from their spouses or male children. To my mind , they are to blame up to a certain extent. Most Greek Cypriot women often forget that apart from children, they have a husband too. This may account for the increase of divorce in the last 20 years.
It was Mao Zedong who first wrote: “ Women hold up half the sky.”