Many Nordic municipalities and county councils work with gender mainstreaming, but their results are not widely known. Last week, representatives from eleven municipalities met to discuss strategies for how to reach out and engage more people in the gender equality work. Marit Tovsen from the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities helped arrange the conference.
In what way can it be difficult to reach out to people with the gender equality issues?
‘The challenges vary across the Nordic region. The Danes tend to think they have already achieved gender equality, so it’s difficult to make people understand why these issues remain important. Sweden is different in that the municipalities have worked systematically with gender mainstreaming for many years and there is a stronger awareness that the gender equality objectives have not been fulfilled. Norway falls somewhere in between. Fairness and equality issues are receiving a lot of attention, but the municipalities are more interested in ethnicity and integration. Some municipalities apply a gender perspective on these issues.’
What’s your advice to other gender mainstreaming workers? How can you reach out?
‘It’s important to adapt the argumentation to the target group. When talking to politicians, show them facts and statistics. You should also explain the core of gender mainstreaming work: that it increases the quality of the services provided to citizens. For example, viewing preschool services through gender equality lenses or thinking gender in urban planning can improve the lives of both women and men. Not everybody understands what the concept of ”gender mainstreaming” means, so it’s important to explain it clearly.’
What strategies did you talk about at the conference?
‘We talked a lot about the importance of working systematically and over a long period of time. That’s important if you want to achieve change. One issue that has been addressed is how to gain political approval for the gender equality work and how to get the resources you need. It is also important to spread awareness of the gender issues among leaders and key persons in the organisation. It might for example be beneficial to get the HR manager on board.
What are the biggest challenges in the work with gender mainstreaming in the Nordic region?
‘The biggest challenge is to never sit down, but to always keep working. Successful gender mainstreaming is not possible without continuity and a long-term approach.’
What are you gaining from the Nordic cooperation around these issues?
‘Gender equality is a central element of our Nordic model. We think the same things but do things differently. We can learn from and inspire each other.’
This is an article about one of the projects granted funding through the Nordic Gender Equality Fund.