Legally Mom: It’s Important to Know
What allowances and support can parents of one child or several children receive in Russia? What should a woman remember when applying for a new job? How can a mother on maternity leave start her own business? In her interview with our journalists, Elena Grin, PhD in Law, answered these and many other topical questions. Together with her like-minders, experts in law, she founded the Legally Mom online project. It not only gained great popularity on the net but also was recognized as one of the best volunteer initiatives.
PhD in Law, Deputy Head of the Department of Intellectual Rights at the Moscow State Law University, member of the scientific advisory board at the Intellectual Property Rights Court, expert of the All-Russia People’s Front, co-founder of the Legally Mom centre of legal support, founder of the Legally Mom project
Legally Mom is a project on Instagram and a separate web-portal. It has more than 100 thousand active subscribers on social networks who are parents from all regions of Russia. As part of the project, highly-qualified lawyers talk on topics relevant for young families, answer mothers’ questions, and even provide assistance in solving certain legal situations. The project’s experts include Elena Grin, Viktoria Rashina, and Tatyana Shilyuk.
According to Elena Grin, the most popular topics for subscribers can be divided into three main sections. Firstly, young mothers are interested in everything related to benefits and payments. Today, the state provides families with significant support but sometimes society is not sufficiently informed about the existing opportunities. Secondly, many questions of subscribers concern enrolling children in educational institutions: kindergartens, schools, and universities. Thirdly, experts regularly talk about the options of using maternity capital.
Of course, the project’s content is not limited to the listed topics. Experts prepare daily materials in various formats from small posts to detailed checklists and webinars to answer almost all legal questions of young parents.
– Please, tell us about your work go during the pandemic? What questions were experts most often asked?
– When the pandemic started in the world and a high-alert mode was already announced in Russia, I was invited to head a volunteer foundation for women’s rights within the framework of the All-Russia People’s Front. We helped people solve urgent legal issues online. I supervised the activities of law students and was actively involved in the work myself.
We started by answering questions related to work. Unfortunately, there were more and more cases of illegal dismissals of women, including single mothers, during the pandemic and crisis. We responded quickly to appeals and helped to solve such problems.
Children’s allowances, which the government approved during the pandemic, were the second topic important for us. We helped parents to figure out how and where to get such benefits and how to do that remotely.
We have been consulting Russian citizens for two and a half months. During this time, we received more than a thousand appeals and about a hundred letters and calls per day.
We carried out our activities voluntarily. I volunteered simultaneously with my main work at the university: during breaks from lectures and professional obligations of the head of the department.
I was pleased that students not only approached the educational process responsibly and attended all online classes during the pandemic but also became volunteers willingly to provide legal support to those who needed it.
The pandemic brought us together and most, importantly, made it possible to show the importance of a sincere desire to help and love for people in our work. It was not an easy business, but knowing that we can bring real benefits gave us incredible feedback. We solved each person’s problem as our own. That is why we felt satisfaction when helping people.
– It’s difficult to imagine where you get so much power and energy. You are a professional, a teacher, and a mentor to students. Volunteering is not just an addition to your core business but an important part of your life...
– Helping people is my dream. I created the Legally Mom project with that thought. When I gave birth to children I realized that parents often face situations which are quite difficult to understand without a high level of legal literacy. Receiving allowances, preparing documents, and interacting with various structures require additional knowledge. Then I understood that, as a lawyer, I can be useful to many mothers and make their life easier.
Today, one can find a lot of legal information and consultation services on the net. However, not all the content is reliable. Law is an area in which misinformation can sometimes cause serious harm to a person.
That is why I, as a highly-qualified lawyer, see my mission and responsibility in sharing quality information aimed at real problem solving with other people.
– You posted much information about different allowances on your social media pages. Sometimes parents even don’t know about their right to receive certain benefits. What benefits can mothers receive today and in what situations?
– In fact, now benefits are divided into two groups: ordinary ones and special ones that were approved during the pandemic.
The first group of benefits includes, for example, maternity allowance. It is paid to mothers when just registering at a health clinic. Further benefits are provided for families with children aged 0-1.5 years and then those with children aged 1.5-3 years.
Special allowances are provided for certain categories of citizens with children. However, they are usually narrowly focused and families are already informed about them. Such benefits include those for the poor, citizens with many children, and families raising children with disabilities.
Since this year, women giving birth to their first child began to receive maternity capital. Previously, this support measure was available only after giving birth to the second child and subsequent children.
‘Pandemic’ benefits were also provided for children of different ages. Thus, Russian parents with children aged less than 3 years received 5 thousand rubles for each child for three months. In June and July, the state allocated 10 thousand rubles for each child from 3 to 16 years old.
– Women’s labour rights is another focus of your blog. What problems do moms and expectant moms face when seeking employment? What is important for them to know to avoid these problems?
– The main thing that I would advise women seeking employment is to study the contract carefully. When you sign a document, it is important to understand very clearly what conditions you agree to. The situations that an employee may face in the future directly depend on that.
It is also important to distinguish between an employment contract and a civil contract. According to the second type of contract, the employee is an individual entrepreneur. Accordingly, many benefits related to pregnancy and childbirth are available to him or her at the minimum level. However, a civil contract has its advantages. The main thing is to understand all the nuances before signing a document.
– You talk a lot about how women can fulfil their potential in their profession. There is a post where you motivate women to shift to self-employment. Why is it convenient and profitable for women?
– Self-employment is a simple but effective legal mechanism for running a legal business. Of course, it is not suitable for large entrepreneurs but it is irreplaceable for some small projects that are convenient for moms on maternity leave.
Baking cakes, creating jewellery and toys, sewing clothes, and other activities are very popular ways to earn money among talented creative women who want to do business but do not want to immerse themselves in the complex nuances. Moms, as a rule, do not have time to make reports and accounting calculations. However, this does not mean that they can’t start their own business.
It is important to understand: if you make a profit from your project, you must pay taxes. Otherwise, this kind of activity will be illegal. Registration of self-employment status is an ideal solution to that problem.
It is simple and accessible, registration takes only a few minutes and does not require legal assistance. Anyone can do that using the Russian official application called Public Services.
– You communicate a lot with your subscribers. Can you describe a modern woman based on your experience?
– I am glad that mothers become more and more active every year. I can confidently say that these are progressive, caring, and thoughtful women. Our subscribers are always eager to learn something new. They are not afraid to ask questions and broaden their horizons. It seems to me that we can create a collective image of a modern mother by focusing on our audience.
Many subscribers often write that they managed to not only solve their problems but also help their friends thanks to our advice and recommendations. This is a bright example of how great a woman’s soul is. By helping a woman, we help many people.
Modern women are unique because they are persons of many talents. They develop, fulfil themselves in the profession, and act as active citizens. And at the same time, their families and children are still in the first place for them. They always take care of their loved ones and people around but, at the same time, they do not lose themselves.
– Social media are a powerful tool of influence. What values do you strive to transmit to society through your project?
– The concept of our project was based on one important principle: all experts must practice law on a professional level. Our approach to content creation is very responsible. We always carefully consider the information we broadcast to the audience. We have a kind of rule according to which our materials must be useful, reliable, well-structured, and easy to understand for people who are not good at law.
First of all, we strive to improve the level of legal literacy in society. It is important for us that people understand what rights and opportunities they have and what support measures they can use. Moreover, they should not be afraid of situations requiring documentation and other formalities.
We cooperate with different legal structures actively. If we notice any flaws in the legislation or find it difficult to answer the questions of subscribers, we send requests to the Presidential Administration or other authorities.
Besides, we strive to teach our subscribers to always think positively. This does not mean that we have to be happy about the problems. However, we never have to give up. Firstly, any problems can be solved if we have a systemic approach to the matter. Secondly, you will surely find people in the world who can help you.
Viktoria Yezhova, Global Women Media news agency
Translated by Nikolay Gavrilov