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Frontpage News 2015 Supporting women through bilateral cooperation

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Photographer: Christophe Vander Eecken

Supporting women through bilateral cooperation

Through the gender equality and domestic and gender-based violence programmes, organisations in donor and beneficiary countries are teaming up to support equality.

Strengthening bilateral cooperation is one of the key objectives of the EEA and Norway Grants. On the occasion of the International Women’s Day, we take a closer look at how bilateral partnerships are benefiting Estonian and Norwegian organisations in their fight for an equal society, free from gender-based violence. 

Empowerment through cooperation

“There is a strong belief in Norway and the other Nordic countries that we have achieved gender equality while in truth, significant work remains to be done,” says Rachel Paul from the Norwegian Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud (LDO).

The LDO is a programme partner in the Spanish ‘Gender Equality and Work-Life Balance’ programme funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants. Paul notes that this common misconception about Nordic equality present a challenge for organisations working on gender-equality, as it can hinder proactive work and mobilisation. However, by cooperating with partners across Europe these organisations often feel empowered.

“In all uphill struggles there is a certain strength in knowing you have allies with whom you can work and form networks,” she explains.  

In Estonia, the ‘Domestic and Gender-Based Violence’ programme, funded by Norway through the Norway Grants, is run by the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs. The Norwegian Directorate of Health works closely with the Ministry as a programme partner. Pille Ruul, Programme Coordinator at the Ministry, takes the same stance as Paul:

“While working with our Norwegian partner we have found that we have the same concerns and work towards the same objective. It is very good to see that we are both on the same track,” she says.  

Increased knowledge

Knowledge and experience exchange is one of the key benefits of cooperation.

“Through the Grants, we now have a great opportunity to take advantage of decades of Norwegian experience and knowledge,” explains Ruul but likewise emphasises that the Estonian organisations are not the only ones gaining new knowledge.

“The cooperation brings learning opportunities on both sides – by sharing practices you always learn something yourself,” she continues, mentioning a project targeting intimate partner violence as an example. “The project will calculate the cost of intimate partner violence for Estonian society – a process which will definitely be of value for the Norwegian project partner.”  

Paul also sees knowledge exchange as a two-way street:

“We are bringing in a lot of knowledge and experience to Norway from Spain through the programme. This is something I expected from the start, but I am nonetheless amazed at how much we are learning,” she says.

Enabling partnerships

As a programme partner, the LDO actively advocates bilateral cooperation through the Spanish programme. “When we know that a project is being proposed, we contact relevant institutions in the donor countries that might be interested and try to set up consultative meetings,” explains Paul. “We have also held matchmaking meetings where we invited representatives from Norwegian and Icelandic organisations to Madrid to meet potential Spanish partners.”

Several partnerships have now been funded through the programme, including a comparative study on policies and laws in Spain, Iceland and Norway, a project working to provide coordinated support for victims of gender-based violence, as well as a project aiming to help victims get into work-life.

In Estonia, the Ministry has worked actively with the Norwegian Directorate of Health in encouraging partnerships. “Before the launch of the programme, we compiled a list of Norwegian organisations combatting human trafficking and gender based violence. With over 40 organisations on the list it was a great tool for connecting potential project partners,” she explains. “We have also held matchmaking seminars, and arranged both expert and study visits between the two countries.”

Looking towards the future

Maria Thorsnes is programme manager in the Financial Mechanism Office for the gender equality and domestic and gender-based violence programmes under the EEA and Norway Grants. She agrees that the beneficiary countries are interested in the Nordic model on gender equality and that they really want to learn from Norway and Iceland in this field.

“But in the concrete partnership cooperation we see that the learning goes both ways. We hope that a lot of the successful cooperation may lead to further collaboration in the future as well,” Thorsnes says.

Ruul holds the same hopes. “We are looking at the long run. The programme not only provides financial support for current projects – it also gives us very good contacts for the future,” she explains.  “We have had an excellent cooperation with our Norwegian counterpart and we are quite sure we will remain good partners well after the programme period ends.”

Various partners

Of projects currently underway under the gender equality and domestic and gender-based violence programmes, around one third of the projects have one or more partners from the donor states.

Some examples of project partners are:

-The Norwegian Secretariat of the Shelter Movement

- NHH Norwegian School of Economics

- The Crisis Center in Glamdal (Norway)

- Skeive Filmer The Oslo Gay and Lesbian Film Festival

- Reform - Resource centre for men (Norway)

- Center for Gender Research at the University of Oslo

Find more projects with donor partners under the gender equality and domestic and gender-based violence programmes here.

Read more about the Estonian ‘Domestic and Gender-based Violence’ programme

Read more about the Spanish ‘Gender Equality and Work-Life Balance’ programme