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Poland’s Women’s Rights Groups Face No Funding

In Poland this fall, women wore black clothing and held black umbrellas with silver letters spelling out, “Enough Hell For Women,” indicating the death of their rights. Thousands of women from 60 cities participated in marches on the anniversary of the Black Monday protests.

The ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) recently introduced a bill that limits the sales of emergency contraception. Poland’s Prime Minister of Health, Konstanty Radziwill, said the law allows women to receive medical advice regarding if the substances negatively affect health.

However, the protests have caused controversy because, after these protests, police in various Polish cities raided offices at two women’s rights organizations – Women’s Rights Centre and BABA – because they sought evidence linked to irregularities of justice ministry employees. The raids occurred in Warsaw, Gdansk, Lodz, and Zielona Gora. The police seized documents and computers during this time, which hindered productivity at these organizations. However, the police said they were not investigating the Centre itself. Anna Glogowska from the Centre believes the raids functioned as a scare tactic because people in power do not approve of the group’s activities.

“I’ve got the impression that the raids are an attempts to scare us and anybody else involved in activity disliked by those in power,” Glogowska told the Telegraph.

The head of Polish Women’s Strike, Marta Lempart, noted how these raids seemed suspicious since the justice ministry already has the necessary documents, which are not difficult to access.

“This is an abuse of power because even if there is any suspicion of wrongdoing, an inquiry could be done in a way that doesn’t affect the organizations’ work,” Lempart told The Associated Press.

In addition to these raids, organizations who do not share the same views as the Law and Justice Party do not receive much funding. The National Freedom Institute-Center for the Development of Civil Society (NFIC) grants €25M each year to NGOs, €15M the Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Protection previously distributed, and €10 million the government seeks to gather from a gambling tax. The Centre stopped receiving funds from the finance ministry in 2016 – the sole apparent reason being they only supported women.

Funding currently comes from ministries and local administrations, but the NFIC is now the new funding body. Progressive NGOs that do not align with their views – such as those dealing with immigration and women’s rights – receive less funding than other organizations that support their ideals, according to Politico.

“This is total manipulation of civil society. PiS is just going to buy NGOs now,” said Ewa Kulik-Bielińska, director of the Stefan Batory Foundation, one of the leading grant-making NGOs.

Another NGO, the Association for Legal Prevention (SIP), received less government funding. Aleksandra Chrzanowska from SIP said the staff for her organization, which provides legal assistance to refugees and asylum-seekers, was cut in half. Other NGOs that the NIFC approved of received SIP’s funding.

“The government doesn’t want to accept refugees. Therefore it doesn’t see the need to finance activities aimed at supporting or integrating them,” said Chrzanowska.

Women in Poland continue to fight for their rights and make their voice heard. However, they experience suppression from those who do not agree with their views and continue receiving the funding necessary for their organization’s operation. As a result, women’s rights in Poland still remain restricted in comparison to other women around the world.

Featured Image by Giuseppe Milo on Flickr

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