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The Swedish way to gender equality

On 17-18 May 2016, the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination held a meeting at the Riksdag in Stockholm, at the invitation of Jonas Gunnarsson (Sweden, SOC), Chairperson of the Swedish delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly.

Opening the meeting, Esabelle Dingizian, Third Deputy Speaker of the Riksdag, stressed that gender equality was a natural part of democracy. With 43,6 per cent of women in Parliament, focus was now on qualitative equality rather than quantitative. The Riksdag was trying to lead by example, setting up a daycare centre for children of members of parliament, parental leave, scheduled weeks without plenary meetings and fixed times for voting, with a view to manage political work while dedicating enough time for private life. Ms Dingizian led the operating group for equality in the Riksdag which pinpointed gender challenges and worked towards making it a more equal working environment. 

Committee members also held a exchange of views with Åsa Regnér, Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality, Ministry of Health and Social Affairs of Sweden, who explained that the Swedish government was the world’s first officially feminist government. This meant not only that gender equality was very high on its agenda but also that the government would be, and wanted to be, held accountable for this. She emphasised that Sweden’s experience showed that gender equality could not be achieved without political will, leadership and the participation of men. “Men have to feel responsible for achieving progress in the field of gender equality (…). Men’s participation in providing care and preventing violence against women is vital”, she underlined. She also explained that gender equality was the goal, and feminism the tool.  

Jonas Gunnarsson, hosting the meeting, highlighted the importance of having men on board in the fight for gender equality and was pleased that for the first time, there was a majority of men present at the committee meeting. “Gender equality makes societies better, strengthens their economies and creates a climate free from harassment and violence”, he said. Members discussed quotas systems and measures to enhance participation, and how the Swedish way to gender equality could be applied elsewhere. Drude Dahlerup, professor at the Department of political science of the University of Stockholm, presenting the situation in Sweden, underlined that gender equality was not a goal that could be achieved once and for all but that it required constant work. Nana Kalandadze, Programme Officer, International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, informed members of an existing consensus in Sweden that gender equality was about social justice and political legitimacy.