Gender Mainstreaming in Slovakia: Rather Down than Top

(Heinrich Boell Stifftung: Gender Mainstreaming, 2009)

In spite of efforts of women’s NGOs in Slovakia, gender mainstreaming is still a new and unknown concept. When it first appeared on the international women’s movement scene and on the agenda of the EU politics also Slovak NGOs started to highlight it. First attempts date back to 2002 when Aspekt published the translation of the publication by Barbara Stiegler “Wie Gender in den Mainstream kommt” (How Gender Enters the Mainstream) when the discussion about the EU agenda in anti-discrimination and gender policy started.

The next publication was “On the Road to the EU. A Guide Not Only for Women” (2002) published by Aspekt in cooperation with partners in Poland on the occasion of the EU accession of Slovakia. The publication informed about the basic principles of the EU legislation in equal opportunities. It also contained the main philosophy of gender specific approach of the EU to some areas such as employment, labor market, violence against women and others.

However, the expectation that the accession of Slovakia in the EU would start more noticeable changes in social practices has not been met yet. Even after 5 years of the EU membership, Slovakia does not have a conceptual gender equality policy or gender mainstreaming policy that we could evaluate. There are only sporadic initiatives, mainly related to the EU structural funds.


Definition of the concept

Even before the EU accession, women’s NGOs strove to import the strategy of gender mainstreaming to Slovakia thanks to which they gained advantage in their knowledge of the principle. This was useful mainly in introducing terminology and definitions (esp. Aspekt and Center for Gender Studies) but also in initial workshops and gender trainings. For instance, the only governmental website on gender issues and gender mainstreaming features the following definition taken from the Glossary of Gender Terminology edited by Aspekt:

Gender mainstreaming

Means the application of a gender specific perspective in all decision-making processes and utilization of each decision-making process to achieve gender equality. No provision, no policy or decision is gender neutral (in its assumption or implications) and this fact must be taken into account in their preparation and realization.

In the international context, the concept of gender mainstreaming for the first time appeared at the 3rd UN World conference on women (Nairobi 1985) and in the discussion of the UN Commission for the Status of Women about the role of women in society. Although the concept has made its way into many international documents and it is commonly used at national and international forums, its content is often ambiguous and its usage depends on a concrete context: it can be understood as the adoption of “women’s point of view” in decision-making processes at all levels; other definitions link it to concrete actions and strategies aiming at gender equality. A yet another understandings connected with rebuilding of social institutions so that they would take into account women’s needs.

The definition put forth by an expert group of the Council of Europe (1998) takes this complexity and multifaceted nature of the concept into consideration: ‘Gender mainstreaming is the (re)organisation, improvement, development and evaluation of policy processes, so that a gender equality perspective is incorporated in all policies at all levels and at all stages, by the actors normally involved in policy-making.’

In general, gender mainstreaming can be seen as a tool to achieve gender democracy or equality of opportunity. It is a principle putting in the forefront gender relations. The term became commonly known thanks to the EU policy, although its roots date back to the history of the global women’s movement, activities and recommendations formulated at women’s world conferences. The gender specific approach should be taken into account in each political decision – from planning to the final evaluation. In practical terms, gender mainstreaming is becoming a tool to achieve such arrangement of gender relation that would correspond with political goals.

Gender mainstreaming is based on the idea of a complex policy cutting across all sectors. Gender equality can only be achieved when we strive for it in all political areas. In the context of the global women’s politics it means that governments, in all political areas and in each individual case, will assess the impact of their policies on the situation of women and on the way in which the planned measures will improve their specific situation in accordance with the goals anchored in international documents.” (, based on the website

Definitions and translations introduced by women’s NGOs, and Aspekt in the first place, became part of the terminology and political language adopted by experts and the media. In spite of that – in Slovakia like in many other countries – adequate translation of the term “gender mainstreaming” is still problematic, and for the uninvolved the term is incomprehensible and often unpronounceable. Thus, normally the translation “application of the gender perspective” coined by Aspekt is used, but sometimes also “mainstreaming of genders”, “fostering of gender equality” or “implementation of gender equality”.[1]

NGOs and their experts also initiated a number of interesting studies and analyses. For instance, Gender Audit of the EU Pre-Accession Funds 1999–2004 (Gender Studies and ASPEKT, 2005), the ex-ante analysis of the “gender” measures of the grant scheme EQUAL (ASPEKT, 2003) or the gender analysis of the Slovak pension reform elaborated by Oľga Pietruchová (Pietruchová, 2006).


Gender mainstreaming as a Top-Down Process

The Manifesto of the Government of the Slovak Republic of the year 2006, for the first time introduced the gender equality terminology and to the issue of gender is devoted as “much” as a whole subchapter of the social policy chapter. The Manifesto of the Government, for instance, promises “regular monitoring of equality of opportunities of men and women, and creation of institutional structures for mainstreaming gender in all policies and measures…” However, this statement sounds ironic coming from the government that at its beginning had only one female minister. Even after two years of this government being in power it must be said that this proclamation is a typical political formality that has not been visibly translated into practice.

The only positive outcome is the establishment of the Council for Gender Equality (CGE) initiated by the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and the Family. CGE consists of governmental officials at the level of state secretaries (at least theoretically); the local government and 3 places are reserved for NGOs. Besides the CEG per se there is also the Consulting Committee of the CEG based on expertise in the field of gender equality (esp. from NGOs) and the Executive Committee composed only of members of the state and public administration. The establishment to the Council for Gender Equality is meant to secure that each ministry will have a person responsible for putting gender mainstreaming into practice. When this paper was written, the CEG was just starting its work, therefore is not possible to assess its efficiency in implementing the Memorandum of the Government.

At any rate it can be said that with the exception of projects from structural funds the basic precondition – interest of the “top” level in implementation of the principle “down” is minimal and in practice invisible, which corresponds with the state of implementation of gender mainstreaming in Slovakia.


Governmental Twinning Project

The biggest (and basically the only) project on gender mainstreaming coordinated by the government, or implementation of gender policy as such, was the twinning project of Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and the Family SR carried out in cooperation with international partners. These were the French Ministry of Labor, Social Cohesion and Housing together with their partner agency GIP International. Germany was a junior partner of the project. The objective of the project was to “strengthen administrative capacities of the Slovak republic in the area of gender mainstreaming.” (

The project was launched on 20 October 2005 and it was officially introduced on 13 December 2005. It was mostly related to the implementation of European structural funds in Slovakia because attention to the gender aspect is mandatory and gender equality is their horizontal dimension.

From the perspective of women’s NGOs and domestic experts on gender equality, the main shortcoming of the process was that due to the character of the twinning project the involvement of domestic experts in project activities and education was not possible. This created a certain tension. Domestic experts were invited to trainings, but only as listeners. Since representative of the public administration who were the main target group of the trainings and who were the main training participants, were usually complete beginners in the area of gender equality, for representative of NGOs the trainings were not very beneficial. Moreover, the expertise brought in within the frames of this project from abroad had already been available, but it was very little used. Within the frame of the project, the information website on gender equality was created, but after closing of the project the website has not been updated.

When this paper was written, the Institute for the Study of Gender Equality and the Family in All Policies of the Region of Banská Bystrica was starting its activities. The institute was established thanks to the support from the Norwegian Financial Mechanism through the Office of the Government SR. Its initiator was inspired by her participation in the governmental twinning project. However, information available on the internet indicates that the orientation of the institute will mostly be “pro-family”, as its materials mostly speak about the family and children and they say little about women and gender equality.


Education on Gender Mainstreaming

Systematic education in the gender agenda, and hence partly also in gender mainstreaming, is provided by the Center for Gender Studies (CGS) at Faculty of Philosophy Comenius University in Bratislava. The Center of Gender Studies was established in June 2001 as the first academic institution in the Slovak republic focusing on educational and research activities on gender identity, gender specific differences and symbols. Beside accredited lectures on gender studies, including also the theme of gender mainstreaming, the CGS has organized, within the frames of Community Initiative EQUAL, also a summer and winter school of gender studies. In the second cycle of these educational activities participated also experts from Austria who spoke about gender mainstreaming in institutions and advantages following from the decision to introduce these measures (CGS, 2007).

Similarly, the Faculty of Philosophy University in Prešov offers education in gender studies with the main focus on social work. In their reader on “Policies of equality of opportunity for women and men, education and social work” the concept of gender is discussed, but only in terms of elimination of gender stereotype, or in terms of concrete processes (see Tokárová, 2006). Also other universities offering education in social work, philosophy or political science start to create similar study programs (University of Matej Bel Banská Bystrica, College in Sládkovičovo etc.).

Systematic education outside of the academia focusing on decision makers basically does not exist. Even though some NGOs and gender experts offer gender trainings, the demand for this education is basically zero. The only exception is activities related to the EU structural funds where gender mainstreaming is a mandatory horizontal priority.

Projects of the European Community Initiative EQUAL II, thanks to personal efforts of gender experts and the director of antidiscrimination section of the Ministry of Labor,  contain also the objective of gender equally in all four measures. Although the quality of projects varies, several interesting projects in the area of education were implemented. Among them is the project “” ( carried out by Aspekt in cooperation with the NGO Citizen and Democracy (Občan a demokracia), Puppet Theater on Crossroads (Bábkové divadlo na Rázcestí) from Banská Bystrica and the non-investment fund School the Basis of Life (Škola základ života) at the Elementary school Gorkého 21 in Trnava. The goal of the project is to mainstream gender into education as the precondition of the future occupational desegregation. The project covers a whole plethora of various education, research and publication activities. (

The Society for Planned Parenthood carried out the project “Gender Mainstreaming in Reproductive Health Organizations”. Within its frames a group of trainers for gender trainings and gender mainstreaming was trained by two German lectors. The project also published literature on gender mainstreaming in general and health services in particular and also a manual to gender trainings.

Educational activities and gender trainings are closely linked to the question of ensuring the standard of quality. At present, among women’s NGOs there are efforts to introduce certain standardization of gender trainings and gender expertise. Especially within projects funded by the Community Initiative EQUAL there have been several projects offering gender education and certain new approaches and publications at the expert level. It must be said, however, that the quality of these materials varies – usually the best ones are those created by women’s NGOs dealing with the theme for a long time. As a negative feature can be regarded a certain “overload” of the market with materials and studies that not always apply expert, relevant and gender sensitive approaches. On the contrary, some of them are outright counterproductive. There have also been some cases of plagiarism of expert texts, but also cases of gender insensitive research that rather than unveiling gender stereotypes reinforce them through its approach.

It has been repeatedly confirmed that sufficient funds allocated for a certain theme does not necessarily translate into improved quality. On the contrary, they also bring about interest and involvement of actors who have not previously worked with the theme and whose involvement is “artificial” and guided by self-interest.  This experience, together with the fact that on most grant committees there are people who themselves do not understand the theme, can cause – and in Slovakia also causes – certain devaluation of the issues, together with formalization and bureaucratization of the whole process.



The opposition to gender equality and gender mainstreaming comes traditionally from conservative circles. It’s the Christian democracy and conservatives who dismiss the gender agenda for ideological reasons: “The concept of so called gender equality is a typical leftist agenda which tries to deny natural differences between women and men and strives to convince us that these existing differences are due to discrimination and manipulation. They make artificial distinctions between sex and gender, pitch men and women against each other, cast doubt on human nature as well as voluntary relations among people and traditional human institutions. They mistake equality of opportunity for equality of outcomes and equality of all people in their freedom and dignity with egalitarianism enforced by the state. It is a manifestation of social engineering striving to push for social experiments and it deepens the interference of the state in the private life of citizens.” (Hromadná pripomienka, 2007). What is paradoxical is that this public comment was signed only by women, although from the context it is clear that it was initiated by OKS (Civic-Conservative Party) with a predominantly male membership. This very fact points to inadequate reflection on gender equality issues in general.

Also the report on the Mother Centers project “We Perceive the World Differently, Therefore We Can Achieve More Together – Mother Centers in Fostering the Principle of Equal Opportunities on the Labor Market” shows similar lack of reflection. “Experiences with working at centers for mothers indicate that terms like equality of opportunity, gender equality, feminism, gender mainstreaming evoke in women  nervous feelings in their stomach and rejection. They reject the terms as such. These are often uttered formally, or by people who give them the meaning of the “wrestling ring” with the other sex.” (UMC, 2006) Thus it is apparent that although the terminology evokes negative feelings, on the basis of personal experiences women identify with the content and intensions of these principles.

In general it can be said that the biggest obstacle to gender mainstreaming in Slovakia is not a strong opposition but the lack of interest and political will of those responsible for its implementation.


Feminist Critique of Gender Mainstreaming

Thanks to the lobbying of women’s organization, gender mainstreaming became part of the EU antidiscrimination policy and, if applied correctly, it is an efficient tool to achieve positive social changes. Its implementation in Slovak conditions is a long and uneasy process, but at present it is perhaps the only way to introduce at least minimal measures to strengthen gender equality in practice.

Nevertheless, after first years of its implementation critical voices can be heard from the international women’s and feminist movement. It is not clear to what extent is this strategy useful for authentic women’s movements and to what extent it can lead to weakening of political actors but also to cutting off of their funding. Other questions emerge too: What has actually changed in women’s situation due to gender mainstreaming? Is gender mainstreaming just a slogan or really a possibility to establish equality of opportunity of women and men? Is gender mainstreaming a principle which can bring about changes in decision-making processes or is it rather a strategy to maintain a patriarchal system? What does it bring to members of women’s NGOs and the target group which they take care of? To what extent is gender mainstreaming known by the politically responsible persons and to what extent has it already been implemented?” “How has gender mainstreaming changed women’s situation? Is gender mainstreaming just a slogan or a real possibility to create equality of opportunity for men and women? Is it really the principle that can bring about changes in decision-making processes or is it rather a strategy to maintain the patriarchal system? To what extent do political actors really know gender mainstreaming and to what extent is it really implemented?” (Sister Cities Going Gender, 2005)

These questions have been stemming mainly from the realization that in some EU countries the gender mainstreaming implementation resembles a formal bureaucratic process focusing on quantitative representation of women (so called “add women and stir”). Critical voices stress that one shortcoming of the “top-down” process is its dependency on the management of an organization.

Therefore, we should not be surprised that gender mainstreaming reminds many critically thinking people from the former communist block of formalistic socialist emancipation. It, on the one hand, brought about important changes such as women’s employment and education, but on the other it lacked the critique of patriarchal social arrangements and the hierarchy of gender relations. Besides, emancipation policies never passed through the door of households and changed nothing in stereotypical division of labor in the household. Perhaps this was the reason why women did not show too much understanding for this policy and its “ownership”. In its final effect, the emancipation policy resulted in the double and triple burden of women.

There is the danger of a similarly formalistic approach also in gender mainstreaming. If  the concept of “gender” is not used in its original epistemological meaning, stemming from feminist philosophy, and if it becomes only a newspeak expression for the term “sex”, its meaning of a cultural and social construct problematizing normative understanding of masculinity and femininity and male and female roles will be lost.

This danger is real esp. in the process of introduction of gender mainstreaming to “big” politics: BARAT Anglicky original citatu?

The most important moments of feminist critique of gender mainstreaming that can be relevant also for Slovakia can be summarized in the following points:

– it is a formal process and many people and institutions applying it do not understand it at all. Without the knowledge of mechanisms of discrimination and disadvantage it is nor possible to efficiently fight them;

– in its current form, gender mainstreaming does not problematize the patriarchal system, therefore it is “safe” and popular with governments and donors;

– using of the term “gender” and leaving out the women’s question results in ignoring of specifically women’s issues and problems and their marginalization;

– feminists strive not for the integration of women into the patriarchal mainstream without its change, but for a radical change of social structures. A merely quantitative filling of positions by women without a genuine feminist agenda does not guarantee success, not uneven in those cases when the share of women reaches the so called critical mass (30%). We should not forget that gender mainstreaming is a product of feminist and women’s movement. In countries where this process is “controlled by women’s movement”, such as Scandinavian countries, it has led to marked outcomes and improvement of the position of women in all spheres of public and private life. “Gender mainstreaming is a method and tool, so it is neither good nor bad. The basic precondition of its successful application is the reconstruction and interpretation of the term ‘gender’ in the original context of feminist epistemology. This is the only way to ensure meaningful application of projects and initiatives, either in the ‘bottom-up’ or ‘top-down’ direction.” (Kubes-Hoffman, 2004)


Case Study

Gender Mainstreaming in the Slovak Republic in Implementation of Structural Funds in the 2004 – 2006 Programming Period

The initial document for applying for the EU aid was submitted by the Slovak republic in the form of the National Development Plan (NDP) of Slovakia. In the document gender inequalities were given space only in one chapter Analysis of economic and social development in a special subchapter Equality of opportunity of men, women and disadvantaged groups on the labor market.[2] The concentration of the discussion on gender disparities in one individual subchapter means the exclusion of the gender perspective from other relevant chapters, which makes invisible the structural and cross-cutting nature of persistent gender inequalities and hinders the application of the gender perspective in all analyzed thematic areas. The fact that the gender analysis was relegated to a special space at the end of the chapter, or to the margin of attention (outside of the main center of attention) lowers the importance of the gender perspective to the minimum. It served as a formal fulfillment of an obligation, but the findings of the gender analysis cannot be applied to other parts of the document – e.g. to the overall SWOT analysis (they are missing from weak points and possible threats). Therefore, a logical outcome is that the part Correspondence of the Strategy with Policies formally refers to general regulations or legislative frameworks in the area of equal opportunities policies and antidiscrimination, but it does not contain any concrete strategies or commitments to support gender equality.

The National Development Plan follows from the Community Support Framework – the agreement between the EU and SR on development aid. In this document the questions of equality of opportunities of women and men dwindled to 2 paragraphs[3] and gender specific data or analysis of gender inequalities in other relevant chapters – i.e. a horizontally applied gender perspective – is missing. Similarly to NDP, gender disparities are not included in the summarizing SWOT analysis (analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats).

The result of this is that so called horizontal goals including equality of opportunity are formally sketched out but no concrete mechanisms of their implementation or evaluation are mentioned.

Other information is contained in annual reports of the Community Support Framework. From 2004 and 2005 reports it is apparent that formal statements about working towards the principle of equal opportunities prevail. In connection with one program some data about the number of women in target groups is mentioned, but they are not presented in a systematic manner (only in selected national projects) and marked discrepancies disadvantaging women are not reflected at all. In other programs, gender data about target groups are absent.

According to the available reports, there is still not enough data to conduct evaluation, but the intention to prepare a special evaluation of the horizontal goals is proclaimed. The evaluation is still not available and according the 2005 report it was postponed until the year 2006. Given the fact that the evaluation has not been published yet it is likely it has not been conducted at all.

In relation to compatibility with Community policies it is mentioned that the EU principles were included into relevant documents “by which their application in evaluation, selection and monitoring mechanisms was ensured”[4], however, it is not clarified in which way. The respective part on equality of opportunities mentions only legislative compatibility of the Slovak legislation in the given area with international and EU documents. In other words, documents indicate the application of the principle of equal opportunities secured de jure, but not de facto.


Programs Funded by the European Social Fund[5]

In relation to the gender perspective, programs funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) are in a special position. The mission of the ESF is to support activities in the area of development of human capacities aiming at increasing employment, and one of its main principles is also to support equality of opportunity and social inclusion.

Taking into account the terminology they use it seems that these programs pay heightened attention to gender issues. Programming documents more often contain not just gender statistics, but also some concepts of gender terminology (gender equality, gender perspective, gender segregation of the labor market, gender mainstreaming). To a large extent than other programs they name concrete gender inequalities as well as needed recommendations for intervention towards their elimination. To a certain extent their weak point is that theses analyses of gender inequalities are again concentrated only in separate chapters rather than being fully integrated into all relevant chapters. In some themes, attention to key gender inequalities is still missing. Thus, it is not possible to speak about full integration of the gender perspective. One consequence is that that gender inequalities were not included in SWOT analyses and not all measures took them into account. It also must be said that in addition to inadequate naming of gender inequalities the materials also contain formulations denying the existence of some blatant gender inequalities.[6]

While the Single Programming Document Objective 3 (SPD Objective 3) focusing on development of human resources for the labor market in the region of Bratislava has no specific measures in gender agenda, the Sectoral Operational Program Human Resources (SOP HR) focusing on the rest of Slovakia introduces at least one special measure to support the equal opportunities principle ( 2.2 Elimination of barriers which prevent equality of men and women on the labor market with emphasis on the reconciliation of work and family life). A positive contribution of this measure is unquestionable; however, it has two main shortcomings. Firstly, although it names women (but not just them) as primary target groups, indicators at the level of outcomes and results do not include gender specific data.[7] Secondly, the amount of money that was supposed to be invested into this measure was relatively small – about 2% of the total funds allocated to SOP HR. In fact, this is a measure with the least amount of financial sources, even smaller than the amount of money projected to be spent in the technical support of this program.

In relation to other measures, both programs declare horizontal application of gender equality and gender mainstreaming in all measures. This was realized in programming amendments mostly through evaluation of horizontal EU priorities a through common methodology, where impacts or influences on equality of opportunities of women and men are evaluated at three levels. Most measures contain the evaluation of a relatively high influence, but in some also a neutral or relatively low influence occurs. Therefore, the horizontal integration of the gender perspective was not applied in all measures. It is also necessary to add that even in the case of measures indicating a high influence on equal opportunities of women and men we rarely come across, in descriptions of objectives or activities, the kind of tools that would mirror practical fulfillment of this principle. Even when some specific ones do occur they usually emphasize the reconciliation of work and family life in spite of the fact that this issue is also targeted by the specific measure SOP HR 2.2. Outside of the measure 2.2, the support to gender equality is hence focused mostly on this limited area of barriers to a larger participation of women on the labor market, while others aspect, e.g. gender stereotypes in education, horizontal and vertical gender occupational segregation, the gender pay gap or low participation of women in entrepreneurship, and the like, are left unnoticed.

Positively could be evaluated the fact that to support implementation of gender mainstreaming at the executive level, program documents declare their commitment to carry out a set of supporting activities. The managing authority – which for both programs is the Ministry of Labor, Social Affairs and the Family SR has pledged to carry out:

– gender trainings and lectures for the management and staff responsible for implementation of structural funds;

– elaboration of manuals on principles of gender equality and way to implement gender mainstreaming;

– elaboration of mechanisms to monitor observance of the principle of equality of opportunity in projects/measures/priorities;

– advisory services to those who elaborate project proposals so that consistent and continuous observation of the gender perspective would be secured.


However, the Managing Authority did not take the existing plans into account. The available annual reports do not indicate whether these activities have ever been carried out (not even in the form of technical assistance).

The annual reports create space for the analysis of the gender perspective in monitoring of aid implementation. The analysis of these reports showed that gender/sex disaggregated statistics do occur in sections on context indicators, but they are used only sporadically. In other words, gender data are not used systematically and consistently in a manner that would correspond with a horizontally integrated approach and that would make real application of the gender perspective in the whole program possible. Even in cases when the reports give data specifically about women, gender differences are seldom assessed or analyzed. The naming of gender difference remains purely descriptive.[8]

The biggest failing in projects monitoring is the fact that indicators on target groups are not viewed from the gender perspective at all. It should be said that although the indicators were not defined to include the gender aspect, program amendments of both programs oblige final beneficiaries to provide data about the number of participants disaggregated by sex. This means that there exists an additional mechanism, but the reality of its application is different. In the annual reports these gender data do no occur at all and they have not been specifically evaluated yet. Their evaluation has not been included in a single external evaluation conducted thus far. This evaluation was meant to focus on the assessment of the project impact on increasing employment rates of disadvantaged job applicants and adaptability of employees – mostly from the perspective of projects impacts on narrowing regional differences between particular regions targeted by the SOP HR and SPD Objective 3.[9]

As already indicated, in the case of a specific measure 2.2 that should primarily focus on supporting equality of opportunity of men and women gender indicators of outcomes and results were not defined, and the annual reports do not cite the participation of target groups from this perspective. The evaluation is limited to the description of calls for proposals and number of projects, the description of how their objectives have been met in terms of their content is completely absent.

According to the annual reports, the evaluation of fulfillment of the principle of equality of opportunity (either broader or concentrating specifically on the gender aspect) was not included to the methodology of the monitoring visit focusing on the realization of activities and overall administration of projects. The MA does not regard this aspect as a relevant monitoring tool related to the content of the project.

To summarize the analysis of horizontal mainstreaming of gender in both programs the most important findings are:

– real horizontal gender mainstreaming in these programs does not take place, neither at the level of programming nor implementation;

– the application of the principle remains at the level of declaration and its monitoring and evaluation is approached formally;

– (efficient) mechanisms to monitor the fulfillment of this mechanism??? either through methodological tools applied in monitoring (the monitoring report, monitoring visit) or in terms of specific set of monitoring indicators;

– despite the fact that the MA planned to conduct supporting activities to strengthen the implementation of gender mainstreaming (be it on the part of final beneficiaries or on the part of the management and implementation of programs) these activities have probably never been realized;

– publicly available documents (programming, monitoring and methodic) contain many inconsistencies not only with respect to the temporal continuity of the original plan vs. its real implementation, but also as concerns a single time period (the declared data collection according to the annual report vs. the data collection methodology according to the monitoring report form).

In general the precondition for mainstreaming gender into these programs was partly set, but only at the level of programming (and even there we can see some shortcomings). At the level of implementation, the development trend shows that its realization remains formal and declarative and it is not put into practice. Thus, the impact of the structural aid to support gender equality still remains unknown and its efficient evaluation would be very difficult also for teams of gender experts – since neither efficient monitoring mechanism nor detailed data are available.


Summary of the Programming Period 2004 – 2006

Despite the fact that basic programming documents created a certain framework for application of so called horizontal objectives including equality of opportunity – encompassing also strengthening of gender equality, it is apparent that no concrete mechanisms, either institutional or related to project and program monitoring, have been established to evaluate the realization of these objectives. Commitments adopted with the view of contributing to application of these horizontal objectives are proclaimed, and specific indicators for horizontal priorities were set, but in particular annular reports (in the Community Support Framework or in individual programs) these aspects were only formally evaluated, with no in-depth analysis of quantitative or qualitative data.

The support to and application of principles of equality of opportunity and gender equality is therefore limited only to declarations. The absence of ongoing analyses in monitoring and evaluation is probably a consequence of the lack of in-house expertise, and also the lack of will to apply horizontal principles of gender equality or equality of opportunity – which is manifested in persistent discontinuity and inconsistency in reporting on monitoring of obligation fulfillment in these concrete aspects.

A serious shortcoming is also the lack of transparency in the composition and functioning of monitoring committees that could, as one monitoring mechanisms play the key role in monitoring gender mainstreaming if the committees were composed of competent gender experts.

When looking at the possibilities offered by the structural funds for the programming period of 2004 – 2006 it can be said that this first experience of Slovakia has been more or less a lost opportunity when it comes to the possibility to contribute to a broader support of gender equality. As the most crucial factor appears to be the absence of capacities as well as low interest to fulfill commitments in this sphere, and not to reduce it just to a formal level, which leads to devaluation of the gender agenda.


The New Programming Period

Despite that fact that the new programming period started in 2007, at this juncture it in-depth efficient evaluation from the perspective of gender mainstreaming is not possible, since annual reports are not available.

It can only be stated that mechanisms for application of the principle of equality of opportunity, including gender equality, are in this programming period more complex, and that institutional and monitoring mechanisms have been strengthened. This concerns all horizontal priorities, not just the horizontal priority of equality of opportunity. It is likely that this development is more due to the pressure from the European Commission than a reflection of possible outcomes of evaluation of the previous period (which has not been conducted yet) and its success or failure in this respect.

The evaluation of gender mainstreaming in the previous period would help to avoid further mistakes that have followed from underrating the gender perspective and its marginalization (instead of bringing it to the center of attention). Formal monitoring has thus far led to devaluation of the gender agenda. It is necessary to ensure that in the new programming period this trend does not deepen and that gender mainstreaming and support to gender equality are made a reality.

Recommendations on Gender Mainstreaming

1.  to the Government of the Slovak republic:

– to adopt a strategy, binding measures and divide concrete tasks for introducing gender mainstreaming into practice at least at the decision making level of public authorities

– to establish an expert institution to professionally manage the process, analysis, education and monitoring (as an example can serve the Spanish Institute for Women);

– to ensure at least basic education of state servants in the area of gender and gender mainstreaming;

– to create, at particular ministries, positions of gender plenipotentiaries;

– to present the theme of gender equality in the media as an integral part of the governmental policy;

– to initiate and actively participate in media campaigns (as an example could serve the Czech campaign Mother Like Father); nenasla som ziadne info

– to transfer gender equality policies to the regional and local level.


2. to the Structural Funds

– to ensure consistency and continuity in monitoring and evaluation of implementation of structural aid in the area of application of the principles of gender equality and equality of opportunities, i.e. to ensure a consequent fulfillment of commitments declared in programming documents; in monitoring, pay attention to the real application of these principles rather than to the formal declaration of its application;

– to conduct an evaluation (external independent, or also internal) about application of the principle of equality of opportunity of women and men and the gender principle in the programming period of 2004 – 2006, in particular programs as well as the overall absorption of  the EU funds and to transfer their outputs to the new programming period;

– to strengthen capacities in the area of implementation of the horizontal priority of equality of opportunities not only at the level of the coordinator but also of particular managing authorities (by designating responsible persons and creating capacities of respective managing/state  bodies);

– to render the processes of establishment and operation of monitoring committies of particular programs more transparent (publicize the establishment procedures, rules of operation and mostly up-to-date lists of members of these committees and organizations that they represent) and ensure the participation of experts and other actors from the area of gender equality in these committees.

Stiegler, Barbara, Dr:  How gender enters the mainstream – concepts, arguments and practical examples of the EU strategy on gender mainstreaming, Bonn, 2001 Electronic ed.: Bonn : FES Library, 2001

[2] The chapter names gender differences in the degree of economic activity, employment, unemployment and income, also representation of women among entrepreneurs, legislative, executive and managerial positions.

[3] They mention main gender differences in the unemployment and employment rate and income differences disadvantaging women, concentration of women in sectors with below-the=average income (Health care, education). The framework also states: “It appears that questions related to motherhood, disharmony between the family and work life are the main elements to we should focus when evaluation the situation of women on the labor market.

[4] Annual report Community Support Framework , 2004, 2005.

[5] Analyzed are programs focusing on human resources development for the labor market: Single Programming Document Objective 3 focusing on the Bratislava Region and Sectoral Operational Program Human Resources focusing on the rest of Slovakia. European Community Initiate EQUAL was not included in this analysis as it to a large degree draws upon recommendations put forth by the European Commission. Moreover, it focuses on experimental testing of innovative approaches and its thematic concentration on fighting discrimination on the labor market including elimination of gender inequalities would beg a self-standing, more in-depth, analysis for which the extent of this paper does not allow.

[6] For instance, the Single Programming Document Objective 3 maintains that “In education, different treatment of men and women does not exist” which denies the existence of gender stereotypes in education and upbringing reinforced not just by teaching guidelines but also by actors involved in the process – teachers. It is paradoxical that this assertion is followed by a sentence casting doubt on its validity: “In general it can be said that there are more boys in the technical fields of study while more girls study humanities.” The apparent discrepancy is not reflected upon at all.

[7] These are only contained at the level of impact.

[8] The descriptive approach in the annual reports – i.e. the absence of analyses, interpretations of evaluation of achieved outcomes and results is not a specific shortcoming of gender mainstreaming. This shortcoming of the reports was repeatedly pointed out by some members of monitoring committees in the discussions about the final approval of the report. Despite the fact that besides comments the discussions also yielded some concrete recommendations for improvement, these have not been heeded and the reports still maintain the descriptive approach.

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