After spending some time in Moscow, we went to a small town called Suzdal. While in Suzdal we were greeted by the most wonderful host who was so friendly and happy to see us. Because we were only spending a night in Suzdal, our itinerary was packed with activities. Before finishing for the day, our program leader had organized a round-table discussion with the help of the Suzdal host and a high school in Moscow. We all wrote down questions for the Russian students and they wrote questions for us. We were encouraged to ask about whatever we wanted so some of the questions were about rather sensitive subjects.
One of the students from USF asked a questions regarding the role of women in Russian society. The USF student wondered if the Russian students viewed Russian society as mainly matriarchal or patriarchal. As the Russian students were only between the ages of 14-16, some of them became quite uncomfortable. Part of this I believe was due to the language barrier and their age, but it appeared that it was something they did not discuss very often.
Because of the silence from the Russian students, the female host decided to step in. She thanked us for asking the question and then proceeded to give her opinion, which she did stress was just her personal opinion. She did say that the man is usually the one who supported the family and that the wife usually decides at home and has influence over her husband. This is the traditional way in Russia and it is a lot of the time how women prefer it she said. However, this can also lead to problems when the husband is unable to care for his family or when the man is absent. She stated that alcoholism is a big problem in Russia and that a lot of families are left in poor conditions because of this. In addition to this, one of the students did share that her mother was a single mother and that it was difficult getting by when she was younger because her mother would have trouble finding a well-paid job. This is not uncommon around the world so although it was sad to hear, it did not necessarily shock me, which is saddening in itself.
I believe that the UN sustainable development goal number 5 of achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls is important in this aspect. Girls in Russia are raised in a way where they start believing from a very early age that they need to get a husband to support them. In a lot of ways this is true in Russian society and I believe that there should be more opportunities for Russian women and girls to live independently if they so choose or if needed. At the same time, I believe that it is still important to respect the wishes of women and support their decision to marry and be supported by their husbands if they so wish. However, I believe that there should be options available for those who do not wish for this or who are unable to do this.