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What is gender mainstreaming?

Gender mainstreaming aims to change current policy-making practices, decision-making, actions and practices that don’t take into account the unequal situation of women and men, and to integrate the goal of gender equality into all public decision-making processes. The aim of gender mainstreaming is to ensure the well-being and inclusion of both sexes – women and men – in the planning and development of society.

The European Council’s definition of gender mainstreaming emphasises the need to transform decision-making processes: “Gender mainstreaming is a process of (re)designing, perfecting, developing and analysing policies whereby everyone participating in policy-making integrates the gender equality aspect in all policy areas at all levels and in all stages as part of their daily work.”

The gender mainstreaming strategy is implemented in policy areas that do not have gender equality as their main objective, but are geared towards other goals, such as promoting healthy lifestyles, sustainable development, promoting entrepreneurship, developing agriculture, increasing the employment of people with low qualifications, increasing digital literacy, etc. Public institutions will have to change their current approach in the way they carry out their functions and tasks. Until now, general categories such as person, resident, etc. have been used in policy design and impact assessment, but the gender mainstreaming strategy introduces more detailed categories such as gender, age, etc.

In order to make decisions and assess their potential impact, the necessary data and information must be collected and analysed for the two largest social groups – women and men. In doing so, it must be kept in mind that the interests, opportunities and needs of both men and women are equally valued and taken into account, and that both men and women benefit equally from the policies implemented.

Example of implementation of gender mainstreaming

The City Government of Botkyrka, Sweden, has implemented the gender mainstreaming strategy in planning its work since 2009. The aim is to give all city residents equal opportunities to have a say in shaping the city’s environment and to ensure that men and women, boys and girls, have equal access to public services.

The governing system of the city government has been redesigned to allow for gender mainstreaming in all decision-making processes and activities, including in the budgeting process:

  • statistics on people are collected and analysed by gender;
  • the quality control systems set up in nursery schools and schools include indicators broken down by gender;
  • gender equality experts have been recruited to support teachers in their work;
  • the staff of the urban planning department have been trained on issues concerning the safety of men and women, boys and girls;
  • the places in the urban space that don’t feel safe to women or men have been identified;
  • the access of boys and girls, men and women to the public space and how people of different genders use it has been analysed;
  • the city government has drawn up a gender equality action plan covering all areas of action.

The staff of the city government have also highlighted the positive fact that gender mainstreaming in their daily work has led to a number of broader and larger changes in the way the city government works, which has significantly improved the quality of services and the satisfaction of city residents.

If you feel that you’ve been treated unequally, please contact the Equality Commissioner by e-mail at avaldus@volinik.ee or telephone +372 626 9059. The anonymity of the person is guaranteed when contacting the Commissioner.