When it comes to the survival of the Estonian nation, the responsibility cannot be put on the shoulders of women alone, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said in his Mother’s Day speech on Sunday.
Speaking at a ceremony at the Estonia Concert Hall in Tallinn, the president was critical of sexist jokes over the pay gap and the public discourse that makes women solely responsible for the birth rate.
“For some reason, it is common in Estonia that the majority of the society considers talk of gender equality as a tedious obstinacy of a child. Then there are jokes about how there has to be 2.5 women on the boards of companies. How the scarcity of women in parliament is the women’s own fault. There is talk of some Western political correctness, while at the same time we feel the need for Western values particularly urgently in these troubled times,” Ilves said.
The president talked about statistics that indicate the position of women in Estonia. “Women are more law-abiding than average, they are more educated, there are more women in the society... and they earn a lot less for the same work,” he said, adding that the majority of people who are leaving Estonia are young educated women.
“What has been the response so far? Another conference. Titled 'Why Aren’t Estonian Women Giving Birth?' It's clear who is held responsible,” Ilves said.
“Instead of making women solely responsible, one should ask and hold conferences on these issues: what are Estonian men doing so that women feel safe enough to make their homes, families and futures in Estonia; why are employers, whether male or female, often placing less value on the work of female employees; why are Estonian men reckless about their health, drinking, eating, working, sitting, falling or driving themselves to death and leaving their families on their own,” the president said.
He also highlighted the disparity of the life expectancy of women and men and the difficulties single mothers face getting alimonies.
According to Ilves, the main issue is not why Estonian women are not giving birth, instead it is why aren’t Estonian men being responsible? “Every mother, every woman expects security. And trust is part of that. The knowledge that people won’t let you down,” Ilves said.