The governor of the Region of Attica, Rena Dourou, participated on April, 21, to the Wilson College Signature Lecture Series. "A new face for Greece. What difference can a woman make?", was the title of her lecture.
Follows the full text of the lecture:
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to thank Wilson College Signature Lecture Series for the invitation and the organization of this lecture today.
Mostly I would like to thank you all for coming.
A lecture about the undergoing change in Greece.
And about the role that the most important region of the country could play in this change. A region that for the very first time since the creation of modern greek state is headed by a liberal woman politician, elected and not appointed in such a high office.
And if I may speak for myself, I always considered politics not as career or a way to self-promotion, but as an unrewarded necessity of dealing with the public issues.
I am very proud for not being part of the establishment and since I remember myself in politics I was member of a small democratic left party of the opposition.
A party that was preaching a new language in greek politics about the strengthening of the democratic institutions, the respect of different identities and the right of the greek people to a decent future through the universal values of freedom, democracy and social justice.
Since then, I made no concessions to my beliefs and I always spoke my truth under any condition.
As I did during the May 2014 campaign – even when my team tried to prevent me of doing so in various cases.
And I think that one of the reasons we won the last May local election was indeed the fact that we spoke the truth to the people. We spoke the truth about the difficulties ahead, about the need of speaking less and acting more.
We promised nothing but hard work and serious commitment.
We also asked from people to undertake the responsibility as citizens for hard work too.
And against all odds, we won this election.
We won this election although our opponents had the support of the then two party government and the vast majority of the mainstream media. Both of them tried, and succeed in some level, to make the total black out on our campaign.
But we managed to get through to the people by a door to door campaign in the 65 out of 66 municipalities of Attica. Never happened before.
We also had to overcome another obstacle; The stereotyped, sexist campaign of our opponents, trying to mispresent our agenda and present me as a young woman with no experience, no knowledge at all in running the local affairs. As someone irresponsible who does not deserve to be elected. You have to consider that being a woman in the eyes of our opponents was a handicap. It turned out to be an advantage.
This was a victory just a few opinion polls predicted.
Maybe because it was not a simple political victory.
It was a victory against prejudice towards women.
A victory against the establishment that run the country during the past forty years, with men politicians monopolizing the power.
So it was a historic first victory for the forces of change, for the forces of the renewal of the way politics is done so far in Greece.
But for our team, for our staff, it was also the beginning of a new era.
An era with a woman in the head of the most important greek region. Could this fact alone make the difference?
Could the new governor of Attica represent the new face of Greece?
I think that it is more useful to reformulate the terms of the question.
Let's put it in the following way: do the forces which have supported my candidature in the Region of Attica represent the political and social renewal which is necessary in Greece?
Do these forces realize the capital change they brought in the head of the most important region of the country?
In order to give you some answers, we have to take into consideration our electoral agenda. We have stressed the need of the citizens to change their lives, by taking themselves the proper initiatives, by breaking the rules imposed by a way of governance based on clientelism, nepotism, corruption and, off course, sexism and discrimination against women.
Judging from the results of the local elections and from the fact that the majority of voters rejected the stereotyped sexist campaign of our opponents, it seems that our message got through to the majority of people.
But this is not the end of the story. It is just the beginning.
And as Eleanor Roosevelt once said : "A woman is like a tea bag - you can't tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water". And right now I'm in the "hot water" of governing the most important -by all means- region of the country and this is a unique experience. Dealing for instance with the classic approach of women in politics: either "bitch", in the case of a serious and strong woman or "bimbo", in the case of a more low profile. This is a common trend not only in greek politics.
But in the case of greek politics, my case goes well beyond of the sole gender issue. It has to do with a broader transformation of the greek society which is underway.
This transformation is about to address, except for the urgent humanitarian crisis and the creation of a new growth model with decent jobs, the major problem of the credibility of politics. During the last forty years, political commitments did not implement. Citizens were systemically fooled by politicians. And politics were used, not for real growth and prosperity of the country, but for preserving the political status quo.
This status quo which led the country to the current two fold crisis. A deep crisis of democracy and an economic crisis. The austerity policies imposed, since 2010, by the same power parties in order to deal with the debt problem, led the country to the actual dead end. And made nothing than creating a democracy crisis in the birthplace of Democracy and leading to the rise of the xenophobic forces of neonazism in the country which was remarkably singled out for its heroic fight against the nazis during the Second World War.
So, this is, in a very brief way, the context in which we have to answer the following question:
being a woman gives automatically more credibility to politics and political commitment?
I believe that things are much more complicated, and as contemporary gender theorists, like Judith Butler have established, we should emphasize on the changing variable, depending on the social context and the period of time.
These two conditions, the social context and the special period of time, as I briefly described them, play a significant role nowadays in Greece and in the case of the Region of Attica.
Thus, the change in the head of the Region is bearing a new meaning for two reasons: because of its timing and its political importance. It marked the need for a real "katharsis".
For a deep political change.
And a new start.
It marked the clear will of the people to make things different by bringing for the first time a liberal young woman in the head of the most important region of the country.
In that sense, the difference can be realized by the forces supporting a candidature.
By their will to take themselves the proper initiatives in order to proceed to a capital change. A change coming bottom – up and not imposed by the government, as it was the case until now.
Thus, I do not feel my office in the Region as an exception. But as a challenge.
That is why we already have started the hard work, having on our side the people who gave us the May victory.
Our work aims at making the region of Attica a serious global player, in the european and the international level.
Attica has the potential to act as global player thanks to its unique history and rich culture but also thanks to its future.
The huge perspectives of the new power paradigm we promote in the Region.
A new power paradigm based on the common perception of the basic values all democratic societies are sharing: the ideal of freedom, the rule of democracy, the value of social justice, the fight against corruption and nepotism.
We implement this new power paradigm by acting in four levels.
First, we try to create the proper conditions for prosperity for the citizens, by addressing the humanitarian crisis and promoting a new growth model.
Second, we try to restore credibility to politics by keeping our commitments.
Third, we try to promote a win – win environment for foreign investments by simplifying the procedures and fighting the red tape.
Fourth, we keep struggling against the forces of hate, the forces of neonazism, represented in the Parliament and in our Regional Council.
It is not an easy task.
But it is a necessary one.
For Attica. And for Greece. But also for every democratic society in the world.
The stakes are high and there is no magic solution ensuring the success of the new power paradigm.
But we owe to our people to fight for this goal. Even if the time runs rapidly.
That is why we have to act urgently.
And that brings me in mind a story about the great French marshal Lyautey, who once asked his gardener to plant a tree. The gardener objected that the tree was slow growing and would not reach maturity for one hundred years. Lyautey replied : "In that case, there's no time to lose. Plant it this afternoon".
Ladies and gentlemen,
We, the new elected regional adminstration of Attica,
we have already started planting the seeds for political, economic and social renewal of Attica.
The seeds of a decent future for all its citizens.
The seeds of a new Greece.
Thank you for your attention.