15 december 2010

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with activists from the Union of Russian Women public organisation

“Starting next year, we will launch a large-scale healthcare modernisation programme. About 25% of this programme’s allocations, or nearly 150 billion roubles, will be spent on children in the next two years. This is largely linked with women giving birth,” the Prime Minister said during the meeting.

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Good evening. First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the 20th anniversary of the Union of Russian Women. Since its founding, your organisation has become an effective public voice. One way or another, your proposals and initiatives can be seen in legislative motions, bills, laws and in regional programmes being implemented at the federal, municipal and regional levels. Today, I suggest we discuss several topics. Naturally, the first rather serious issue is women’s labour rights. The second issue deals with motherhood-and-childhood protection. As you know, we are working on a large social programme that focuses on women and children. The third issue involves social support. I’m talking about families with many children, parentless children, orphanages, etc.

As far as the first issue is concerned, we made a rather substantial effort to support the labour market last year. Legislators directly involved in this project have an insider’s knowledge of these issues because they were the ones who made the decisions to allocate the required resources.

Remarks: Yes, yes.

Vladimir Putin: Obviously this concerned all Russian citizens, including women. It focused on professional retraining programmes. We also proceeded from the premise that women resuming work after maternity leave would also take advantage of these programmes. Let’s assess their effectiveness. If you think that some additional measures are essential, then I will be happy to listen, and we will be able to modify our programmes. 

Motherhood-and-childhood protection is the second thing. Indeed, this is a large-scale, multi-faceted programme. I would like to point out that birth certificates, initiated by us several years ago, are fulfilling their function. This is not to mention the indexation of maternity capital every year, just as we promised. Such capital now totals 343,000 roubles and will reach 365,000 roubles in 2011. Moreover, we have allowed recipients to use this capital ahead of the agreed upon schedules for mortgage payments. Hundreds of thousands of people have already taken advantage of this right.

Incidentally, 1.2 million women have taken advantage of motherhood-and-childhood protection measures, including birth certificates and other forms of state support, this year. These programmes have catered to 1.9 million children under 12 months old. We will index every child benefit starting January 1, 2011.

I suggest discussing these issues. But if you have any other additional ideas and proposals, then I’m open.

Yekaterina Lakhova, Chairperson of the Public Organisation Union of Russian Women: Mr Putin, first of all, I would like to thank you for assessing the activity of what I think is a republican organisation representing various regions, including Tambov, the Tver Region, the Komi Republic, the Kursk, Volgograd and Kemerovo regions. I would like to say that we have 82 regional chapters.

Naturally, we should review the results of the past 20 years. You noted that women had unexpectedly displayed this initiative when the Soviet Union was disintegrating and established the Union of Russian Women, a legal successor to the Soviet Women’s Committee.

Today, we remain impressed by our event dedicated to the 100th birthday of Valentina Grizodubova, the first chairperson of the Anti-Fascist Committee of Soviet Women. Female and male pilots and test pilots, including Marina Popovich, spoke during the event. It occurred to me how patriotic and brave they were.

To be honest, we are marking this event by summing up the year’s results. When we sum up, we are prompted to say: “And now let’s talk about the most important things – love, women and the family.”

Women’s organisations consider 2010 to be a crucial year because the president has mentioned birth certificates, a rather unusual development, and obstetric aid, at such a high state level for the first time. Everybody said he had invented some fancy word combination “obstetric aid.” We explained what it was all about because people have simply forgotten about it. He spoke on the protection of motherhood and childhood, as well as the need for a differentiated approach towards child-care benefits. And, most importantly, a clear policy with regard to orphaned children has been charted. This is a shameful problem for Russia. We realise that the number of orphans does not diminish. But they must be brought up in families, something that cannot be replaced by a state institution. Federal funding is being allocated for this purpose. Everyone was really excited to hear about the specific allocations.

I would just like to tell you that women probably have that self-preservation instinct. God has probably invented two different human beings. We passed five programmes in the 1990s, the most difficult period. One of them was called Strong Family–Healthy State. We are now talking about a programme of social security, sustained development, culture, spirituality and a healthy lifestyle, plus new ideas, positive actions, innovation, etc. And, of course, guaranteed rights for men and women. I think this goes hand in hand with those programmes that began as early as 2000. The most difficult four years had passed, and we had started working at the municipal and regional levels. Mr Putin, a rather painful issue remains. We can talk about children as much as we like. But children will continue to roam the streets, there will be orphans, teenage crime, children will run off from schools and will be subjected to violence as long as families continue to face problems, and as long as inadequate living standards and a crisis in family values persist.

That’s why we allowed the regions to set limits to various prerogatives on family-related issues. We had to spread the positive experience of those regions which started establishing family services, which are not waiting for someone to come, but which are exposing problems and initiating preventive programs. This is probably the most important issue which we need to resolve with you. We are therefore grateful how you have assessed the work of our organisation.

Vladimir Putin: I don’t think you have recalled the president’s latest state-of-the-nation address by sheer coincidence. The main points of his address included a review of everything the state has been doing in the past five, six or maybe seven years. We approved a programme, followed by two others. One step is a continuation of the previous step. I don’t have to remind you that the nationwide demographic situation was quite difficult. It appeared that we would never alleviate this demographic slump. It was terrifying to seriously consider this problem. We made the first decision concerning maternity capital, birth certificates, etc.

Yekaterina Lakhova: And benefits to women.

Vladimir Putin: … An entire range. In his latest state-of-the-nation address, the president prioritises the continuation of this most important aspect of state activity. I personally heard nothing unusual.

Yekaterina Lakhova: This is absolutely correct.

Vladimir Putin: This implies progress along a key aspect of national activity, namely, promoting birth rates and reducing mortality rates. Starting next year, we will launch a large healthcare modernisation programme. About 25% of this programme’s allocations, or nearly 150 billion roubles, will be spent on children in the next two years. This is largely linked with women giving birth. 

Yekaterina Lakhova: Mr Putin, you have started talking about demography and birth certificates. Neither prenatal clinics, nor maternity wards have ever received so many assets based on the introduction of birth certificates. Sorry, but they had to soak gloves in buckets. Now, they have disposable instruments and clothing. They can even treat anemia thanks to birth certificates. Our prenatal clinics provide women with medications free of charge.

Vladimir Putin: Medications and vitamins.

Yekaterina Lakhova: And vitamins. This is what we need. A United Russia project coordinator is sitting here. We coordinate such projects in the Tambov Region and the Komi Republic. I know that they are active in this. Notably, they are implementing the Quality of Life programme. They have appointed a person to the centre. We are implementing some rather interesting and unusual innovations. Although the situation varies from region to region, there are some interesting comments and proposals.

Olga Savastyanova, Chairperson of the Public Organisation Women’s Union of the Republic of Komi: Mr Putin, may I take the floor? You have noted that we really should set these tasks. It is very important for us that the relevant programmes have been announced, adopted and have received funding.

Ms Lakhova has discussed the family service. Our specialised committee conducted a seminar just last month, and we went to a daycare centre in Moscow. After that, I asked this question at all other daycare centres. Consequently, we asked about current problems, including children’s health, their development, and how these issues are handled with parents. You know, one daycare-centre manager, a medical worker, told us that they didn’t know many parents very well because nannies take their children to the daycare centre. This is one thing. Second, I was deeply shocked when nannies bringing children to daycare centres said they had been instructed by the parents to take children to daycare centres while they were still asleep and bring them back while their parents are still at work. In effect, everything is done in such a way that parents don’t see their children in the morning or in the evening.

You know, this is the first time that I have come across this. Is this some kind of a trend? About 40% of our children are born in single-parent families, mothers, obviously. The issues raised by you make it possible to finance child-education projects.

Of course, we are now pursuing numerous problems linked with the negative consequences. We want to do some preventive work. We often help families when they have found themselves in difficult and critical situations. Quite possibly, we are paying for these consequences, while saving on a preventive approach. This is an important consideration in this case.

Surely, this has yielded substantial results within the context of the issues you mentioned under the new programme. I can say that, despite the crisis, republican unemployment levels have remained virtually the same, that is, some 1.5%-1.8%. There were some ups and downs, but in effect, we have managed to stabilise this situation.

Vladimir Putin: This is very important, something we should discuss today. This is because the family, children, as well as benefits for mothers and children, are all priority issues. But it is no less important to help women with their careers and lives and to help them achieve success. Naturally, this has become increasingly important since the crisis. If you are saying that our programmes have facilitated the achievement of this goal, then this is, of course, a valuable assessment.