The National Strategy of European Year of Equal Opportunities in Norway

The national implementation body in Norway is the Equality and Anti-discrimination Ombud. The Ombud is a public agency established January 1st 2006 which duties are to promote equality and to combat discrimination on the basis of gender, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability, age, and religion. The Ombud receives governmental funding, but carries out its functions free from governmental instruction. The Ombud upholds the law and promotes equality in all areas of society.

The role of the Ombud as the national implementing body is to co-ordinate and supervise the actions of the national strategy as well as to implement some of the activities of the year.

Important social partners and NGOs make up the Norwegian steering committee. Three women’s organizations out of a total of 22 partners are represented in the steering committee. The committee has given their input to the strategy and will regularly assess progress and co-operation at national, regional, and local level. The 15 organisations or institutions that have received funding for their projects are all in the steering committee. Only one women’s organization is involved in the activities. The other participating organizations are different kind of NGOs, schools, labor organizations and the Ombud.

1,2 million NOK has been granted by the European Commission to the Norwegian activities. In addition three ministries have co-financed some of the projects.

Children and young people are the main target group of the Year. However, some of the activities are directed towards the public, the private and public sector, NGOs and political parties. The main channels of information about the year are the website of the Ombud and a brochure distributed to all primary schools and high schools in Norway. The brochure displays the key words “equality”, “democracy”, “human rights” and “representation” on its front cover. Furthermore the brochure describes all the activities arranged for the main target group.

Main areas of activities

Priority has been given to four areas: Employment and work life, Arts and sports, Youth and education, and Information and educational campaigns. The following is a description of the areas:

a. Employment and work life

“This arena is chosen because different minorities in Norway have problems getting in to the labour market. The main goal for the activities within this area is to find concrete measures to promote equality and combat discrimination.” The activities include e.g. a rally race for equal opportunities, a summer campaign about rights for young employees and a seminar on discrimination in the work-life. The activities with a special focus on gender and/or women are none.

b. Arts and sports

“This area is chosen because sport is a nation wide character in Norway. In some municipalities sport is the only leisure activity available for youth. The Confederation of Sports constitutes a major key actor in making tangible changes with regards to equal opportunities and non-discriminatory practices on the sports arena.” The activities within this area are limited to a seminar on how to include women, ethnic minorities, gay people, and disabled people in sports.

c. Youth and education

“Youth is the main target group of the Norwegian strategy, because it is important to involve young people at an early stage in the work on equality and non-discrimination. The aim is to influence young people to widen their horizon with regards to their own possibilities and to advocate for non- discriminatory practices in daily-life interaction.” This is the area that includes the most activities during the year in Norway. The aim of the year for both teachers and pupils is to serve as a tool for reaching the goals within the schools teaching obligations on human rights, democratic values and representation, gender equality, and citizenship. The activities with a sole focus on gender are none. Examples of activities are: Visits to schools by “disabled ambassadors” and by African Youth, invitation to Nobel’s Peace Centre in Oslo and to participate in the production of a “Quilt of equal opportunity”.

d. Information and educational campaigns

“Raising awareness and initiating debate on the objectives of the Year is the overall aim. The ten informational and educational campaigns will reach out to new audiences and stimulate debate among people already involved in anti-discrimination and equality work. This will hopefully initiate the process of practical changes in every-day interactions, legislation and at the various arenas where discrimination still occurs.” The one activity with a sole focus on gender is a campaign against prostitution. One women’s NGO together with other partners is executing the campaign that aim at spreading information on the individual and societal consequences for the sex worker. The target group is men who buy sex.

“The four areas all relate to the six protected grounds of discrimination. 11 of the 24 actions focuses on all the six grounds of discrimination, two actions focuses solely on sexual orientation, another two actions solely on disability, one action focuses solely on religion, one solely on gender, while two focuses on ethnicity and gender. Four of the actions focus on three to five of the discrimination grounds. Each activity has its own target audience that matches an identified challenge.”

“The majority of actions will be carried out at national level, providing a framework for further regional and local action. Through information and educational campaigns, (media coverage of events, newspaper articles, TV debates, posters, post cards, brochures, website, etc), capacity building seminars, workshops in schools and different competitions.” It may be claimed that the activities are nationwide since they are based on on-line activities and/or include invitation to all schools to participate in the activities.

As in the other countries the Norwegian activities are organized around the themes rights, representation, recognition, and respect. From the national strategic plan it follows, that:

Rights

“All, expect one, of the 24 actions are aiming at raising awareness on the right to equality and non-discrimination. The actions will initiate debates on what direct and indirect discrimination implies in practice.”

Representation

“Several actions (20 of the 24) will be carried out in order to stimulate debate on ways to increase participation of groups that are victims of discrimination and to ensure balanced participation among men and women.”

Recognition

“Measures will be taken to promote diversity and equality in all areas of society. This specific objective will be reflected in all the 24 actions during the Year.”

Respect

“All of the actions have respect as an objective. The focus will be on combating negative attitudes, prejudice, and violence, with the aim to promote tolerance and mutual respect in every-day situations.“

The Integration of Gender in the Activities of the Year

The expected results of the Year in Norway are amongst others: 1) Increased awareness on equal opportunities and non-discrimination legislation, 2) Enhanced knowledge on practical discrimination and its effects on individuals and groups, and 3) Improved knowledge of the participating organizations resulting in mainstreaming and incorporation of the principles into their regular activities.

The activities for the Year seem not to be linked directly to gender equality policies but merely to the law on anti-discrimination in Norway (where gender is one out of many grounds of discrimination to fight). This might be due to the lack of women’s organizations involved in the activities of the Year.

Gender is generally well integrated in the strategic plan of the year. However, when it comes to the actual activities carried out during the year, gender and women seem to be lacking attention as a special area of focus.

Since the main target group is young people the activities so far are made up by film competitions, brochures, on-line games, campaigns etc. for young people.

As described in the strategic plan for the Year, the challenges to be met concerning gender equality is “to change men’s behavior and make them stop using violence in close relationships and stop buying sex.”, but the only activity that so far seems to meet these challenges is the campaign against prostitution.

by Rikke Randorff Hegnhøj and Elisabet Rogg

The article was first published in ATHENA. Waaldijk, Berteke; Peters, Mischa, and van der Tuin, Else (eds.) (2008): The Making of European Women’s Studies. vol. VIII. Utrecht, the Netherlands.

 

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