By Effie Basdra *

Last week nationwide (Panellinies) university entry exams began.

Thousands of young people threw themselves into battle in pursuit of their “time-consuming” as some would have it dreams of studies and a career.

At the same time, a lifestyle conference on “fertility” – what a word! – was cancelled after President Katerina Sakellaropoulou withdrew her backing of the event.

Organisers had produced a video that declares, “What is the benefit for a woman if she wins the entire world but does not manage to have children?”

It clearly maintains that the sense of social completion of a woman can only occur with procreation, taking us decades back and disputing the personal choices of many women.

I shall not touch upon the programme of the conference, areas of discussion, or speakers. That reflects the vantage point of the organisers.

Yet, many linked the message of the conference to the country’s huge demographic problem, once again wrongly shifting the blame to women.

The demographic problem does not concern only women. It equally concerns men and it has social and economic ramifications. It is a problem for almost the entire Western world.

Obviously, it cannot be solved with messages of guilt such as, “When will you become a mother?”

It requires deep reforms, a serious approach, exhaustive debate, thinking out of the box, and brave decisions on all levels!

On the other hand, today at our universities there has been a lot of talk about empowering women and facilitating their participation in decision-making centres.

Most of our universities have special committees on equality. Yet we are still lagging far behind! The University of Athens (EKPA), the country’s oldest at 184 years old, never had a woman rector though it has a high percentage of women, and the same applies to the University of Thessaloniki!

I believe that the debate that arose over the cancelation of the “fertility” conference has been constructive and productive.

The reactions demonstrate that society is a step ahead of state policies that must change poste haste.

A bitter taste was left by the backing for the conference from the Sate Scholarships Foundation (IKY), the aim of which is to provide equal opportunity and the empowerment of women.

Could the idea have been, “For what do women need scholarships if they are to have children?”

If so, that would be very sad indeed.
* Effie Basdra is a professor at the University of Athens Medical School and a former president of IKY.