Interview with Olga Demetriou, Guest speaker at GA4


What inspired you to follow this career?

I was interested in how other people live and I wanted to understand society better, but I wanted to understand it from the ground perspective, so that was Anthropology.

What do you do at the Peace Research Institute Oslo?

PRIO Cyprus Centre is a branch of the Peace Research Institute in Oslo, we carry out research connected to peace and in Cyprus we focus on aspects of peace building around the Cyprus conflict. We look at issues that are connected to the conflict, we try to analyse what the parameters are and we try to produce information for academics, for the public, for policy makers, that would help make better informed decisions about future peace building.

As someone who researches both refugees and gender equality, how do you think the way society sees women differs between Cyprus and a country like Syria?

I think that gender inequality is an issue across the world. It’s an issue in Norway, it’s an issue in Cyprus, it’s an issue in Syria, and I think what we need to understand is that gender inequality, bad as it is on its own, a lot of the time comes with a host of other inequalities. That also plays into the way which we often see the world. As divided into developed and developing countries, into a Christian West and a Muslim East and so on and so forth. So the question about comparing Cyprus and Syria also falls partly into that gap of seeing some countries as more developed than others in terms of gender equality and so on. What I prefer to concentrate on, is how gender inequalities play out on the local level given the specific of the place in question. So for example in Syria we have a war going on, at the same time we have a process of peace negotiations. And in the process of peace negotiations we have great debates and with the Gender Advisory team in which I’m involved we have invited Syrian women in events to talk about their experiences of the situation in Syria at the moment. We’ve had a conference a couple of years ago that included perspective of this sort and we’ve seen that Syrian women have been very vocal about being included in the peace negotiations, about having their say on the peace table, about having gender inequality being addressed in a new constitution or an agreement. Cypriot women also have been waging similar kinds of struggles so there’s actually a lot that connects the experience of Cyprus and Syria. Cyprus is also in a process of negotiating its own peace and in a process of hearing its own women ask for a place at the table as well so that’s very instructive and it’s always instructive to hear how women are waging their struggles against inequality no matter what place they are from.

What do you think must be done to ensure a prosperous future for refugees?

I think that the place to start is to start talking to refugees and to actually start seeing them as individual human beings with human dignity and political identities who have ideas about their own expectations, their options and their plans and I think we’ll start forming more realistic policies about how those expectations can be met rather than having our own biases dictates about how we treat them.

How do you balance a successful career and a healthy personal life?

With difficulty. (Laughter)