Press Briefing on 2015 Women Policy, “Neighborhood Communities and Social Economy that Women Create and Enjoy”
Date March 5th, 2015 | Venue Briefing Room, Seoul City Hall
It is a pleasure to be here today. The 8th day of March is International Women’s Day. Since I took office, it has become a routine to announce gender equality policies in a press briefing. No matter how busy I am, I always do this briefing myself. The reason is simple: We cannot draw substantive blueprints for the future of Seoul without serious consideration and political support for women.
Since Seoul’s vision to change women’s lives was announced in 2012, every year we have announced and implemented specialized policies to focus on for the year, such as the Women Relief Metropolitan City in 2013 and the Women’s Employment Master Plan in 2014.
Shall we look into the achievements following these? When I first came to the Seoul Government, there was only one female executive working in an office of level 3 or higher. Now, however, six female talents are playing active parts for Seoul citizens. Women’s fear of streets at night is also decreasing little by little, and we have been steadily striving to create better jobs for women by changing their temporary positions to regular positions.
Nevertheless, we still have a long way to go. Seoul women’s lives must get better. The Seoul Metropolitan Government’s efforts continue this year as well. Even if it is not enough, we will continue making concrete efforts for the better lives of women.
Before I tell you about the policies in detail, I would like to tell you a story about my recent visit to Haesong Community Child Center in Jongno-gu. I went there to encourage the staff of the center before Christmas, but instead I received the huge Christmas present of seeing what was happening there. The residents were making a neighborhood library and running a crafts community through the parents’ community, volunteers were organizing a book club for the seniors, and artists and a sewing factory owner were making environment-friendly upcycling shirts. Lives with better parenting, education, culture, and jobs were being created in the neighborhood, in the community.
More surprisingly, this was not the only case. In surprise, I observed them, and I realized there were women at the center of all of these efforts. That realization gave me a broader, practical epiphany, and as a result, the Seoul Metropolitan Government is changing its direction of its gender equality policy: from “Seoul to change women’s lives” to “women to change Seoul’s lives.”
I kept thinking, “How can these women’s activities and voluntary organizations lead to permanent jobs?” Without economic rewards, these community activities on the level of volunteering would only stay at the elementary level. In addition, even though a majority of those who work in neighborhood communities are women, men account for a majority of resident representatives and CEOs of social economic corporations by far. We decided that this is a part of the problem as well. To find an answer to these problems, let’s take a look at the case of Bologna, Italy. The women employment rate in Bologna is 64%, one of the highest in Italy. The reason is simple: The citizens participate in cooperatives in their everyday lives. The cooperatives started with women’s voluntary activities, which led to jobs in social services. That is why the women’s employment rate is so high and their lives are stable. Is this impossible for Seoul? Is it a mere dream to revitalize neighborhoods with women at the center, leading it to a social economy to increase the rate of women’s economic activities, which has stayed around 50% for 10 years? We took note of the possibility. From 2015, we will steadily promote neighborhood communities and social economy that women create and all enjoy during my term.
First, we will help women’s neighborhood activities enter the social economy. After that, we will establish 100 public childcare centers operated by female residents by 2018. We will promote the Seoul Karabak Project, which benchmarked the Karabak Project in Italy, wherein local women organize cooperatives to provide childcare, meals, and even house repairs as social economic entities.
For senior care, we will secure another 100 daycare centers and consign 10% of them to social economic entities.
We will address the issue of underfed children with women’s neighborhood activities. Through the so-called “Home-cooked Meal Project,” we will directly provide those children with environment-friendly food and spread women’s working communities based on that project.
We will support the establishment of cooperatives for women with higher educational background whose career is discontinued. We will promote cases like the Math & Science Educational Recreation Cooperative, where these women majoring in science and engineering organized a cooperative and entered an after-school program. For example, we will adopt a free semester system to convert increasing demands on career education to jobs for women with higher educational background in the region. Through cooperation with the Office of Education and Schools, we will expand various cooperatives based on schools in the areas, such as school cafeterias and uniforms.
How, then, can local women find out about these jobs and participate? We are going to hold job road shows under the title “99 World-changing Jobs for Women,” and hold a briefing session in each town.
Second, we will revitalize a variety of women communities that can form the basis of the social economy. Based on this support, we will help organize communities tailored to different life stages. We will put emphasis on supporting health communities for women in menopause. Local health centers, local women communities, and medical cooperatives will participate in creating an ecosystem of local women’s health. In empty spaces, assigned personnel will operate women health cafes to conduct health programs for local women, offering spaces for activities of voluntary communities for local women’s health.
To prevent the disconnection and isolation of elderly women, we will promote communities of aged women based on “Nono Care” in 25 districts by 2018. Communities for aged women who raise grandchildren will be strengthened as well.
Many burdens related to housing, food, health, and lives of single-woman households can be shared with others. By 2018, over 20 communities for single-woman households will be supported by the government.
In the area of safety, women are no longer passive objects. The Safe Town project will be expanded into 25 districts, with women as the main agents of safety. We will also support 300 communities for parents to share concerns of parenting by 2018, and 100 joint childcare groups will be supported by 2018.
Third, we will help women be the leaders of their own communities. Along with a reform in functions of the East Neighborhood Welfare Center, we will expand training and roles of neighborhood officials, of which women account for the majority. Through this, we will help them perform as local leaders who have a perspective of gender awareness.
Furthermore, considering that most leaders of cooperatives and social enterprises are men, we will strengthen the network of female social economy figures with training courses for female social economy CEOs and the creation of networks for mentors and mentees. Social economy guides, who serve as guides by offering advice by stage, from organizing small voluntary groups for women to entering the social economy, will be trained and supported.
Fourth, we will establish the foundations for sustainable community activities by women. We will spare space for regular communication and meetings to support women’s voluntary activities and groups at the elementary level. We will also enhance networks with local human resource development centers for women, neighborhood community support centers, and social economy support organizations to form a sustainable ecosystem of communities. We will also systematically organize facilities for women and families by expanding facilities that can be hubs for these community activities in each district.
For example, Space Sallim, which will be established in Daebang-dong, Dongjak-gu, will be a facility with a brand-new concept completely different from the existing facilities for women and families. It will be a space that allows women to discover their potential and realize an alternative self-sustaining economy instead of simply offering one-sided support. In Nowon-gu, a facility tentatively named “Northern Plaza of Women’s Start-up” will be established. It will build a foundation for women to start business mainly by handcrafts to be a hub of crafts, women’s startups, and other social and economic benefits, with spaces for cooperatives and neighborhood community centers.
Additionally, a Women’s NGO Center will be set in the Eunpyeong-gu Seoul Innovation Center to support the growth of grassroots women’s groups. With regard to these plans, in the former site of the Seoul Eastern District Court, we will build spaces to support caring workers and to activate cooperatives, for women and families to enjoy their rests.
If these plans work out, what will happen to Seoul? We will see quality jobs with which women can work flexible hours, contribute to local communities, and earn economic rewards. The quality of social services will be improved and local economies will be revitalized. Is this only wishful thinking?
Cooperation between different centers is critical for this policy led by women. In particular, Seoul will make active efforts to induce cooperation of autonomous districts, which have the authority to entrust facilities such as public day care centers. We will also request the central government for active cooperation because it has the right of approval of living cooperatives and care cooperatives.
We would like to strategically work to make sure women’s activities within the communities lead to employment. In this way, we will take each step to realize the dream of sustainable communities of women in which women take the lead in reviving neighborhoods and Seoul as a whole. Please watch and root for us. Thank you very much.