Is gender mainstreaming a reality in social democratic parties in the Western Balkans? A case study of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia
What is the current situation regarding the implementation of gender mainstreaming in social democratic parties in the Western Balkan region? The aim of this research paper was precisely to determine the answer to this question based on a set of selected countries in the region, namely Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, North Macedonia and Serbia.
The transition process in the Western Balkans focused on the democratisation of society through the establishment of a multi-party system, the construction of civil society, the free market and privatisation. All these changes have been reflected in gender equality, gender mainstreaming and the notion of social democracy.
Research participants were representatives of social democratic parties, academia, civil society and the media. The research included a total of 70 participants (37 women and 33 men). Data were collected through specially constructed semi-structured questionnaires and guided interviews. The research shows that all the countries have in place the legislative framework as well as the institutional mechanisms required to implement gender equality. Unfortunately, gender equality goals are not considered state priorities, and therefore, with the political will lacking, are only being selectively and partially implemented, especially with regard to the introduction of gender mainstreaming into key country strategies and policies.
Social democratic parties in the region have been a defining and key political and ideological force in the push for gender equality, within and outside parliament, as well as in the establishment of country gender equality mechanisms for implementation. This has led to a significant internal policy shift in dealing with gender equality goals within the parties themselves, for instance in establishing the quota system and women’s forums.Gender equality in social democratic parties in the region has become a sine qua non.
Today, women’s forums are perceived as an important part of the fight for gender equality led by social democratic parties, regardless of the current difficulties that some parties are experiencing. However, despite their historical legacy and the results they have achieved in the fight for gender quality, women’s forums within parties do not have a recognisable impact on the implementation of party policy and are not perceived by the public as important factors in the fight for gender equality (except in North Macedonia). Although in the Republic of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and North Macedonia, there are quotas and zipper systems, it has been demonstrated that women’s forums do not have a strong enough political influence in the party or on activities outside the party. Although the CEE Gender Network has been accepted by social democratic parties as a regional gender equality political hub, it is still not recognised as a political instrument for developing gender equality policies.
The crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated gender inequality. The research has shown that, although women have borne the brunt of the crisis, national anti-COVID measures in the region have not been gender-sensitive.
Based on the results obtained, this policy study concludes by providing a set of policy recommendations for social democratic parties involved in the study. Acknowledging gender equality as an important challenge for the future, the objective is to raise awareness and, in turn, guarantee the implementation of gender mainstreaming through the work of women’s forums and social democratic parties themselves.
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