There is no doubt that GB is an important and efficient tool in the implementation of mainstreaming strategies. GB becomes even more valuable when countries experience periods of economic austerity and economic crises that usually drive to the need for fiscal consolidation. Moreover GB is valuable as a tool for gender equality and protection of women’s rights.
For many years in the past, in Greece, like in many other European countries, gender equality policies, fiscal policies and national budgets were considered as relevant to totally different political grounds. Nevertheless, during the last 10 years, there was a shift, with gender equality policies starting to be discussed in the process of budgets. Additionally, gender equality policies started being considered as an active factor in economic and developmental policies, according to Lisbon Strategy. In this context, for the first time in 2006, GB was included in the planning of the National Strategic Reference Framework (2007-2013) and was funded by European and national resources, which let Greece able to manage, research, create and implement measures regarding gender equality in pilot form.
At this point, it is critical to mention that clear political will and public awareness are absolutely necessary for the promotion of GB policies. In the case of Greece, political will was clear and strong to set the ground for strategic framework and organization of policies and measures. However, poor public awareness and lack of initiative from NGO’s, social partners and the academia resulted in holding back the potential given from the state, a case that still holds. It is worth mentioning that especially NGO’s hold up a critical role regarding promotion of initiatives, expertise and strict follow up.
Greece is one of the countries that have not established a legislative framework concerning GB in national level, however great initiative is taken in incorporating GB using pilot programs as an effort for recognition, according to the European institutional and best practice framework.
As follows, you will find the most important measures and initiatives regarding GB taken in Greece by the state and more specifically by the General Secretariat for Gender Equality – Ministry of Interior and the Center of Research on Equality Issues:
- In 2008, in the framework of European Initiative “PROGRESS”, four Guides for the implementation of GB were created to help and support actions regarding women’s’ health, violence, illegal migration and employment, in the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Interior and Public Order, the Region of Central Macedonia and one large municipality of Attica. These Guides targeted on optimizing allocation of resources and restructure of budgets by taking into account the dimension of gender. More specifically, they promoted the incorporation of gender equality policies in the design and financing of their action plans and budgets. Additionally, consultation between the state and the four public bodies as well as training of pubic officials by Council of Europe Experts were also completed. Finally, it is important to be noted that the above-mentioned program was the first to be approved by “PROGRESS” as the best set of measures submitted throughout Europe in the specific framework (2008-2009).
- In 2008 as well, Greece asked for the collaboration of the Council of Europe in organizing a Conference on “Government Budget: The Key Element for the Achievement of Equality between Men and Women”, which was held on the 5th and 6th of May 2009. Participation and support of the Council of Europe in terms of knowledge and expertise raised public awareness at the time. During the Conference, a greek version of “Gender Budgeting: Practical Implementation” manual of the Council of Europe was prepared and distributed.
- During 2012-2013 in the framework of European Initiative “PROGRESS”, the General Secretariat for Gender Equality, Ministry of Interior, produced a Guide titled “Gender Mainstreaming in Greek Municipalities Focusing on Socially Disadvantaged People”. This Guide introduced and promoted GB policies in local level, through interventions in the structure of local social policies. The rational was that interventions and policies’ implementation in a national level were not feasible and successful if not first achieved in local level. More specifically, the program was applied in 8 large municipalities all over Greece with 4 separate guides, one for each of the four main target groups: elderly women, disabled women, women immigrants and Romani women. All 4 guides were based on the Implementation Guide of the European Charter for Gender Equality in Local Communities and a 10-step methodology:
- Description of current situation
- Determination of vision and strategy
- Definition of parties involved
- Selection of target areas
- Gender impact assessment
- Creation of action plan
- Implementation of action plan
- Monitoring – Indicators
- Publication of results
Regarding parliamentarian procedures, it is worth to be noted that a full presentation and speech on GB from MP Evgenia Tsoumani, Constituency State, was carried out during the Plenary Session of the Greek Parliament (21st December 2009 Session) in the discussion of the National State Budget of 2010. This was the one and only time that GB was presented and discussed in the Greek Parliament. As she pointed out “GB constitutes the right methods, on which the annual national state budget should be based, as well as, an important tool that promotes gender equality and efficiency in public expenditure. Financial management that incorporates gender as a viewpoint leads to economic growth with equitable distribution of benefits and burdens between men and women. Furthermore, GB enhances government revenue and public expenses transparency, resulting in higher trust levels by the society, whereas absence of incorporation of GB in the state budgets leads to lower levels of economic growth, lower productivity and weak development.” In addition, MP Evgenia Tsoumani submitted the relevant handbook of the Council of Europe to the Minutes of the Plenary Session.
Closing this brief presentation, what is important to be stated is that once more GB is still a challenge for the effective management of public resources. Higher levels of awareness in the area of economic and fiscal policies are essential, because apart from political will, knowledge and expertise, information, preparation of public services and training of the society overall are needed. Greater participation of women in politics though is one of the most important parameters that contribute to the target.
Nowadays in Greece that faces a prolonged period of economic crises and austerity, gender equality policies and measures are left aside with different political priorities being set. Nevertheless, a very important part, the technical one, is already prepared and diffused, with pilot application in local level, which has not yet been evaluated though.
Finally, we strongly believe that European experience and best practices on GB will promote further and alert the case of Greece resulting in highlighting the benefits of GB in the economy and the society as well.
Evgenia Tsoumani is a member of the board of the Greek League for Women’s Rights (which is a member of the International Alliance of Women), Vice President of the Political Union of Women and member of other important and influential NGOs.