Mostar 2/11


Speech at Mostar conference 121102

Via Skype;

Dear friends,

My name is Fredrik Lundkvist. I work as a medical doctor in a small non profit hospital in Stockholm, Sweden (I am saying this since you might be noticing the ”scrubs” I am wearing). But I also work for SALAR (the Swedish association of local authorities and regions) with international development aid, specifically with gender issues. I am very sorry that I can not be with you in Mostar today, but a trip to Mostar was at this time impossible to combine with my work at the hospital.

I will make a brief presentation of SALAR, gender mainstreaming at the local level in Sweden, some current international perspectives on gender issues and talk about the current cooperation between SALAR in Sweden and SCTM in Serbia. Then there will be room for some questions and comments in the end.

SALAR represents all municipalities and regions in Sweden. All municipalities are voluntarily members. This gives the association a strong position as an interest and employers organisation - but it also gives SALAR mandate to work with policy issues, such as gender equality. Since a few years SALAR, via specific funds from the swedish government, has spent about 25 million euros to support further development of gender mainstreaming at the local level in Sweden. Most of these funds has been spent on local development; practical projects, analyses and trainings at the local level.

Part of SALARs efforts to promote and support gender mainstreaming nationally is also reflected internationally. Via CEMR, SALAR supports ”the observatory”, a project that I will talk shortly about later.

Sweden is sometimes referred to as a model welfare state, but the implementation of the welfare, the responsibilities for the welfare production is mostly a question for the municipalities. It is the municipalities that produce the welfare services, like schools, kindergartens, elderly care etc that we need to be able to live good lives and also live more equal lives. A famous swedish poet, Kristina Lugn, once wrote that ”true love is a municipal issue”. There is a lot of essence in that quote. Much of what we used to call ”love”; care for children, elderly, family issues, is today a municipal responsibility. And the amazing thing about the modern welfare system is that neither women nor men no longer have to chose between work (a working career) or love (care for family, for relations, for people around us in need of help). We can have both. We all, both women and men, can have both a working career and a rich family life, both work and love, in our lives. And this is mostly thanks to the municipalities and the services they provide!

A more bureaucratic way of putting it is to say that the municipalities are the level of governance closest to the people. And that is a unique position, when it comes to gender equality, to have the position closest to the people. Again: ”true love is a municipal issue”.

Municipal, local initiatives have many tames shaped the agenda for gender issues in Sweden. Several times, projects and efforts in individual municipal activities has had i big impact at a both national and international level. I know that Linda from Umea municipality at an earlier conference in this project talked about a car park facility, what gender issues can be in such a facility. And the last I heard from that car park facility was that they were on their way to Brazil to talk about their project at an international conference about city planning.

Another example I would like to tell you about is two kindergartens in Gavle municipality, in the middle of Sweden. In an effort to confirm equal treatment of boys and girls at the kindergarten, the pedagogues videotaped themselves, and documented quantitative facts about how they treat boys and girls. They were shocked to discover how they speak out boys names more then twice as often as girls names, how they encourage girls to be even better at social relations, empathy and solidarity, communication (things that many girls are already good at). Boys on the other hand were encouraged and got positive feedback on practical things (things that many boys are already good at).

Many situations at the kindergarten supported stereotypical gender patterns; for example the lunch table. Most of the time the pedagogues put one boy, one girl, one boy, one girl etc all around the table. One rule was; never put two ”messy” boys next to each other. And the result: boys did not have to learn or train communication during lunch. Many boys could just say ”ööööh”, and the girl next to him, even at 3 years of age, understood ”he wants the butter”, and passed him butter. And then he said ”ööööh”, and the girl on the other side understood that he wants the milk, and passed him the milk.

Instead of this stereotypical reproduction; the pedagogues engaged in ”compensatory pedagogics” where they trained boys in what they are not good at and girls in what they are not good in. To give each child the broadest possibilities. Each and every kid should be trained and geet positive feedback for both stereotypical male and stereotypical female activities. For example: To break patterns - for a while just boys were put around one table at lunch. So when one boy said ”ööööh” cause he would like the butter, the boy next to him replied ”öööööh”, because he wanted the milk. Now - to get the butter and the milk, they had to start trying to improve their communication. With such adjustments of the everyday activities - there were many more - the pedagogues challenged stereotypical gender patterns and trained kids to be better at what they are not already good at.

There is, today, a strong linkage between the local level and the international level. This project (arranging this conference) has been using the CEMR declaration (an international policy document) to facilitate practical work on gender issues at the local level. And at the international level, there are several processes connecting experiences from the local level together. One such process is the Observatory project.

On 8 March 2012, at International Women’s Day, local and regional elected representatives from a number of European countries launched the ”Observatory of the Charter on Equality of Women and Men in Local Life”. The Observatory has been created in support of the Charter, that was launched in 2006 by CEMR and which now boasts close to 1 300 signatory municipalities and regions. Many local, regional, national and international efforts to achieve a greater degree of gender equality has used the charter as a foundation, for inspiration and support. For example this project ”Promotion of European charter for equality of women and men in local life”.

The observatory will, as the name suggest, observe the use of the charter in european municipalities. It will help out drawing-up, implement and monitor local action plans and policies. It will also provide a platform for exchange and cooperation between local and regional governments and their national representative associations, as well as training sessions with experts in the field of gender equality.

How the observatory will work practically is still being processed. 1 300 signatory municipalities is a lot to survey. They are currently forming a network of national rapporteurs. They are also happy for contact with networks of NGO:s supporting the charter, projects based upon the charter etc. One function of the Observatory is the possibility to ”lift up” constructive and progressive local work on gender issues; wether it is in Sweden, France or Serbia. In many ways I think that good quality and successful work on gender issues from this region will be much more interesting then for example from western Europe.

The main point, objective with the Observatory is to survey and gather information. From examples like the kindergarten i just talked about. But we must not stop the process at single, isolated projects. We need to put our experiences of these type of projects together, for example via conferences like this and via the observatory, and then draw political conclusions - about how to change the society as a whole not only where these isolated projects have been implemented.

This leads me into some more personal advice. It might be a little outside my mandate. But concerning how gender issues currently are developing in europe; there is room for some reflections. A few years ago I attended an expert meeting for gender specialists at CEMR, with representation from all around Europe. The swedish government expert talked about the swedish national plan for gender mainstreaming of all political issues. Unfortunately this plan had not been implemented properly. So now the government was working on a plan for how to implement the plan to gender mainstream all issues. I asked what they were planing to to when this plan was ready? Well of course - then the plan has to be implemented; that is to implement the plan for how to implement the plan for how to mainstream (and mainstreaming itself is how to implement a gender equality policy).

Together we, at the municipal level, and in NGO:s, and those of us who are genuinely interested in gender issues must stop this ongoing bureaucratization of gender issues. I think that NGO:s and municipalities - that both work close to and with the actual, practical living conditions for people - together have a big responsibility - to keep gender issues less bureaucratic. Gender issues are among the most creative, interesting and challenging issues imaginable. We must not let them be kidnapped by bureaucrats.


SALAR and SCTM has recently started a bilateral cooperative development program: ” Support to Local Governments in Serbia in the EU integration process”. One out of five components of the program is gender equality. A lot of different types of activities, like studies, analyses, trainings, policies etc are organized around a ”Gender Working Group” (GWG). The GWG consists of municipal representatives from seven different municipalities, experts in different fields of gender equality like gender budgeting, gender and environment etc, trainers, staff at the SCTM and a representative for the national gender directorate.

In the beginning of the process we invest a lot (of resources and energy) to build up a base of experience and knowledge in the GWG. One important part of this build up is that we do a lot of local analyses of gender issues; like for example public procurement (Pavle from Zrenjanin), support to women s organizations (Jasna from the general directorate), free legal aid (Zeljko from Žagubica), terms and conditions for student exchange (Liljana from Majdanpek). And more then ten other analyses. Our strategy is that the GWG will be the driving force of our future activities to strengthen the structure and function of gender issues at the local level in Serbia. The GWG, connected to the SCTM, will ensure ownership and sustainability of our work.

In october we did a study visit to Sweden, studying swedish examples of gender mainstreaming at the local level. (Picture of GWG outside Vannas municipality). One of the more important outcomes was the participants reactions on how local politics in sweden is an inclusive and open process. Therefore we will focus on the political role and responsibility for gender issues at the local level. Also we arranged training of the GWG in feminist theory and individual guidance of the participants projects.

Using the experience we build up of local projects on gender equality around Serbia and in the SCTM, the GWG and a pool of international and local experts - we are going to build a good, concrete and relevant policy for gender equality at the local level in Serbia. The CEMR charter will be ”adjusted” and made relevant to the local serbian context - that means complemented with concrete local examples and suggestions.

Of course we have a lot of other interesting and creative work ahead of us; SALAR and the standing conference. Look out for our future activities! See you on the barricades.