Poland: Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka

I believe Poland soon will be among countries realizing equal rights policy for everyone, regardless of their gender.

— Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka

Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka went into politics in 1991, shortly after Poland’s political system had transformed from communism to democracy. An ethnographer specializing in Mongolian culture, she quit her scientific career and was a co-founder of the Union of Labor (she left the party in April 2004). She was Poland’s first Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Status of Men and Women. Fifteen years after the beginning of her political career she became Deputy Prime Minister. She is known for her uncompromised fight for human rights, especially those of women and sexual minorities.

“Patriarchy! We give you five years at the most. Until the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day in 2010!” Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka, Deputy Prime Minister, was shouting from a moving platform during the International Women’s Day demonstration in Warsaw. This demonstration is organized regularly by an informal coalition of Polish women’s organizations. Izabela Jaruga-Nowacka was present this year, the year before, and the year before that – in fact, every year since the early 1990s. She was there when she won a seat in parliament (first in 1993, then in 2001), when she became Poland’s first Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Status of Men and Women in 2001 and finally as Deputy Prime Minister in 2004. From a truck she was talking to thousands of women, men, and children. She thanked “the real men of all sexual orientations who are not afraid to fight for equal gender rights.” Then, with her bodyguard trying to be invisible, she walked with the rest of the demonstrators. On the way, as usual, they met a right-wing counter demonstration with slogans aimed at her personally. Izabela is well known for her uncompromised stance on women’s rights. She stands for: the right to abortion (which in Poland is allowed only when a woman’s life is in danger), equal gender representation in the workplace, family, and politics, and for registering homosexual partnerships. Bishop Tadeusz Pieronek called her “feminist cement which will not alter even if treated with acid.” That statement did not make her back off. “I think Poland will soon be equal. We have equality in our Constitution and I feel it is my duty to fight for women’s rights,” she says.