Rebuilding social justice  |  Successes  |  13.12.2011

WAGA – towards equality in local life

In 2009 Polish association for gender quality WAGA has spearheaded a grassroots movement for the implementation of the European Charter for Equality of Women and Men in Local Life (EC) in Gdańsk. Once local authorities become signatories of this document, they make a formal public commitment to the principle of equality of women and men, balanced representation in decision-making, gender budgeting and antidiscriminatory policies.

Notwithstanding the fact that over 1000 local and regional governments all over Europe have adopted the Charter, the EC does not enjoy wide recognition in Poland. There is only one signatory – Nysa, a town in south-western Poland in the Opole Voivodeship. Representatives of WAGA decided to lobby for gender equality in a local dimension. They have been striving for three objectives: building public support for the EC, combating discrimination and raising social awareness. A hallmark of their activities is creativity – campaigns either do not require financial resources or are low-budget. 

WAGA activists conducted a project "Ticket to Equality" which evolved from a single action to a variety of events. First, they organized a gender ride in a special tram so as to make people acquainted with the charter and gather support for citizens’ initiative. They set up lively discussions with passengers and the whole interactive happening was accompanied by a concert, an artistic contest for children, distribution of 800 “tickets to equality” and poetry writing. In order to reach policy-makers, the association participated in many meetings with local authorities and lead an event during which the mayor and councillors were given a brochure with the text of the Charter and blue roses, symbols of women fighting for gender equality, as well as invitations to a conference devoted to various aspects of the Charter. Subsequently, WAGA explained the idea and the implementation procedure during a session of the Commission for Public Governance. Now the group has started a dialogue with the Association of Polish Cities so as to organize an international conference where speakers from the Council of European Municipalities and Regions could present experiences of the signatories.

WAGA has held many workshops in order to train participants so that they can lobby for the adoption of the Charter, e.g. during the second Green European Summer University in Słubice and Frankfurt/Oder. Activists teach how to map discrimination by sector and region. Their work is aimed at strategies necessary to recognize and combat discrimination and gender stereotypes in economic, social and cultural terms. They have also offered to share their expertise and participate in the formulation of equality action plans and programmes. WAGA has also provided consultations for local authorities from other regions. In order to encourage and support local authorities, the association managed singlehandedly the translation of the first guide highlighting step by step how to implement the EC.

Equality in public life is contingent upon a balanced representation and participation of women and men in all spheres of decision-making. This, in turn, requires cooperation between NGOs and local authorities, which can be achieved with a pinch of innovative thinking and perseverance. As indicated by WAGA, a few enthusiasts are able to inspire the society and act for equal rights without considerable financial outlays or strong backing.

Opracowanie: zespół

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