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Frontpage News 2013 Supporting Estonia’s drive for gender equality

Photo credit: Christophe Vander Eecken

Supporting Estonia’s drive for gender equality

Estonia is facing considerable challenges concerning gender inequality. The Norway Grants are  helping the country improve gender equality within society, says Aleksander Ljudvig, Deputy Secretary General on Social Policy from the Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs.

Under the Norway Grants 2009-2014, €2 million are funding the programme on mainstreaming gender equality and promoting work-life balance in Estonia.

“Estonia is struggling with several structural gender inequalities,” says Mr. Ljudvig. “The labour market is highly segregated by gender and the gap between women’s and men’s average earnings is almost 30%.”

Raising awareness

To counter these trends, the programme aims to raise awareness of different actors on issues of gender equality and discrimination and introduce gender mainstreaming into the public debate. One of the most important projects implemented under the programme is implemented by Estonia’s Office of Gender Equality and Equal Treatment Commissioner.

“The project … is aimed at working both with awareness of people and legal professionals as well as improving the quality of legal aid,” Mr. Ljudvig said. “Women’s and men’s roles in society and in regard to family-related obligations are different and often perpetuate historical inequality.”

Funding for key office

According to reports by the Estonian Public Broadcasting and local newspaper Postimees [in Estonian], the office is now getting the workforce it needs owing to the Grants’ support.

Currently, the office’s permanent staff consists of the Commissioner and one advisor. The programme makes it possible to hire new staff for the institution and widen the scope of its work. With the Grant’s support, the staff will be expanded to eight employees.

Deputy Secretary General Ljudvig says that the Grants’ support is vital to Estonia’s efforts in the field of improving gender equality.

“With the support of the Norway Grants, the Commissioner’s office will be able to provide more efficient aid to victims of discrimination, engaging in strategic litigation,” Mr. Ljudvig said.

Partnership opportunities

The programme is also strengthening bilateral ties between Estonia and Norway. The Norwegian Ministry of Children, Equality and Social Inclusion is the donor programme partner, providing its expertise and advice to its partners in Estonia, and also facilitating contacts with potential Norwegian project partners. The Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs is operating the programme.

The main call under this programme was launched the May 31. At a a later stage, it will also be possible to apply for funding through a small grants scheme.