The Women Taking The Fight To Lukashenka
It's been more than 50 days since anti-government protests started in Belarus following the alleged reelection of Alyaksandr Lukashenka in a disputed presidential vote. One noteworthy feature of these demonstrations is the leading role women have played in events. Not only is the main political challenger to Lukashenka a woman, there are many prominent female opposition figures and protesters as well. That's despite Lukashenka dismissing women as "poor thing[s]" that would be crushed under the burden of the presidency.
What started as peaceful gatherings of women wearing white, bringing flowers, and showing solidarity, has turned into protests where police don't hesitate to use violence when detaining hundreds of female demonstrators. Yet, Belarusian women don't seem to be intimidated and are continuing to demand political change in their country.
Who Are The Women Supporting Political Change In Belarus?
Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya decided to run for president after her husband was arrested and blocked from registering for the vote. She joined forces with Maryya Kalesnikava and Veranika Tsapkala, whose husband was also barred from running for president. They have been leading a pro-democracy movement and campaigned as a trio to oust Alyaksandr Lukashenka.
The Coordination Council
On August 18, Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya announced the creation of the Coordination Council, which was established to facilitate a transfer of power. As many as 600 people are said to be involved with the council, and seven, including Maryya Kalesnikava, are part of the presidium. Many have been detained or forced to leave the country.
Besides attending regular pro-democracy protests, women have also organized women's marches to show solidarity and support to the opposition.
How Are Women Keeping The Pressure On?
After a state-sponsored exit poll indicated an overwhelming victory for Alyaksandr Lukashenka on August 9, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets. Since then, pro-democracy rallies have continued to keep pressure on the Minsk government. Here's an overview of the protests that were organized and attended mostly by women and how they have evolved over time.
Why Have Women Been So Heavily Involved In The Protests?
There are probably many reasons why women in Belarus have joined the protests in such large numbers despite the violence used against them, but the emergence of Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya has undoubtedly been an inspiration. The story of a stay-at-home mom who became the leader of the Belarusian opposition in just a few short weeks may have motivated other women to take to the streets and demand political change.
Also, Alyaksandr Lukashenka has claimed that the Belarusian Constitution is not for women and that society has not matured enough to vote for a woman as president. Perhaps they've decided to prove him wrong.