‘Both women and men have the right to an equal return on their taxes. It’s a matter of democracy and quality. The city has an obvious obligation to see to the needs of both genders,’ says Ann-Sofie Lagercrantz, process leader for the city of Kalmar’s project for sustainable gender equality, Hållbar Jämställdhet.
Gender equality can be a matter of life or death – and of equal participation and opportunities in society. In one city, 80 per cent of the resources for school children with special needs went to boys, and in another, women with home care received fewer service hours than men with the same care needs. And in one county, women had to wait longer for an ambulance, according to statistics from the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SALAR).
In response to these and similar problems and to achieve sustainable gender-equal community services, SALAR is running a programme for sustainable gender equality from 2008 to 2010. The Government is supporting the initiative with a 145 million SEK grant. The purpose of the programme is to gender mainstream all municipalities, counties and regions. A total of 84 development projects are currently in progress across Sweden.
National initiative gives muscles
The city of Kalmar has had a gender mainstreaming strategy in place since 2003 when its current gender equality programme was adopted. Yet no tangible differences were noticed until the city was granted 4.2 million SEK from SALAR as part of its programme for sustainable gender equality.
‘The fact that the Government and SALAR are choosing to focus on the issue signals that it is tremendously important.’
‘It has given us muscles, resources and a network at the national level. The fact that the Government and SALAR are choosing to focus on the issue signals that it is tremendously important. The networks that SKL is providing are giving not only our gender equality experts but anybody in our organisation an opportunity to exchange experiences and connect with research,’ says Lagercrantz.
The city of Kalmar has already completed a gender equality project funded by the European Social Fund. The evaluation of that project shows that while the city’s gender equality developers received extensive training on the topic, the politicians, city managers and other key persons were never reached. The regular chain of command had been sidestepped. The results show that gender equality was never fully adopted across the organisation.
All city departments are on board
Today the gender equality work is carried out within the regular management structure. A development plan for gender equality, specifying goals, performance indicators, measures, deadlines and who’s in charge of what, has been established. Important success factors include engagement of all of the city’s departments and that everybody knows their responsibilities.
‘The department heads have to ensure that the gender equality work is carried out according to the programme, and all managers at all levels have the operational responsibility for the work. There is a central perspective as well: the entire organisation must move forward – no individual department is allowed to sit down. To this end, each department has access to gender equality developers,’ says Lagercrantz.
Knowledge facilitates success
Two other success factors are increased knowledge about gender equality and gendered statistics. Managers and politicians have completed different types of training such as a gender equality course provided by the Swedish National Defence College and a special programme for school leaders. A transition from opinions to knowledge has resulted in an increased demand for active gender equality work. Gendered statistics are used to unveil important gender differences and form a crucial basis for gender-equal decision-making.
‘This autumn, two new community youth centres will re-open with many interesting changes in design and content.’
The objective of the development work is to integrate a gender perspective across the organisation, and then for the changes to be maintained after the funding from SALAR runs out.
‘This is happening and will continue to happen in many different ways. We’re for example starting to gender-equality certify schools, and we’re also focusing on ensuring gender-equal treatment within social services. This autumn, two new community youth centres will re-open with many interesting changes in design and content. The purpose is to break gender-stereotypical patterns. We’re also trying to make the meaning of gender mainstreaming more visible, for example through cinema advertising targeting young people, which is a broad and important target group,’ says Lagercrantz.