Gender perspective in the EEA and Norway Grants

The EEA and Norway Grants have a strong commitment to promote gender equality, raise understanding of gender issues, discrimination and promoting women’s rights, both through programmes and research.


Norwegian Institute, 17 January 2019

Good afternoon – Καλησπέρα σας,

It is my honour and pleasure to participate at this very interesting seminar and speak about gender equality in the EEA & Norway Grants.

For those of you that are not familiar with the European Economic Area, or EEA for short, let me briefly explain:

The European Economic Area, or EEA, ties Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein into the EU internal market as equal partners, with the same rights and obligations when it comes to trade and investment, buying and selling services. The citizens have the same right to work, study and live in any EU/EEA member country. The Agreement sets out the common goal of working together to reduce social and economic disparities in Europe and to strengthen cooperation between European countries. This is where the EEA grants come in.

The 15 EU countries whose Gross National Income per inhabitant is less than 90% of the EU average receive EEA and Norway Grants. The support is mostly channelled in each country through individual programmes covering a range of different sectors.

Greece, together with Spain and Portugal, are the first EU member states to have received EEA Grants from the very beginning (1994).

All programmes, funded by the EEA and Norway Grants - regardless of country or funding period - are based on the principles of good governance, sustainable development, gender equality and non-discrimination. These core principles are integrated into the design of the programmes and projects.

Gender mainstreaming, or integrating a gender perspective in all policy areas has been explored and pursued in Norway for decades. Gender research has made important contributions to Norwegian understanding of gender relevance and gender perspectives across sectors. Mainstreaming gender equality in the EEA Grants is one example of how gender mainstreaming has been applied, alongside targeted measures for equality.

Key dimensions of Gender equality in the EEA grants

Although the dimensions of gender equality often contain overlapping elements and may be divided in different ways, for the purposes of the EEA & Norway Grants they have been broadly grouped into the following categories:

- economic and social rights

- human rights

- prevention of violence

- participation and decision-making

By its very nature, there is a wide range of activities relating to economic and social rights in gender equality. Initiatives that may contribute to the inclusion of gender equality issues into the economic dimension include:

  • Eliminating gender gaps in the labour market,
  • Equal pay for equal work,
  • Access to education,
  • Provision of day-care facilities, more flexible work environments, etc.

Initiatives that promote gender equality in social rights may include such initiatives that take into account parental leave, maternity protection, working time, part-time and fixed-term contracts, and particularly those that affect women’s daily life such as public transport, public health, etc.

Human rights

The Human rights dimension of gender equality relates to the issue of the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms. This element focuses predominantly on women who are subject to multiple types of discrimination.

Prevention of violence

The Prevention of Violence dimension includes issues relating to women who face gender-based violence, domestic violence/violence in intimate relationships, and sexual exploitation.

However, this dimension relates not only to the prevention of gender-based violence, but also to support those that have been the victim of such violence. Furthermore, issues relating to reproductive rights and sexual health also fall under this category.

It has become another key priority of the Grants to tackle domestic and gender based violence and to promote gender equality; the Norwegian Police Directorate, the Norwegian Directorate of Health, the Norwegian Secretariat for the Shelter Movement and the Council of Europe were involved as partners in the programmes dealing with domestic and gender-based violence.

Examples of EEA Grants’ initiatives that tackled both causes and consequences of violence in Greece and Cyprus include:

  1. Developing an integrated project for early detection of potential or suspected victims trafficking in the region of Thessaloniki, which protects and supports the victims through a drop-in centre for victims of human trafficking.
  2. Providing legal aid and developing counselling centres for women, including those with migrant background.
  3. Constructing a new shelter for victims of domestic violence in Nicosia, Cyprus – where very few services for victims of gender-based violence exist.

The participation and decision-making dimension includes representation and participation in decision-making both at a political and at economic level, in national and local decision-making processes, including elections. Decision-making at an economic level relates to the step from education and training into working life, including recruitment and career development aspects.

There is a general under-representation of women in all areas of decision-making, and this represents a fundamental democratic deficit. Initiatives include, among other activities, promotion of the involvement of women in political, economic and social decision-making at all levels.

As a crosscutting issue, gender equality will as such be covered and followed up throughout the project cycle. This starts with the preparation of the application, continuing with the appraisal and decision processes, as well as throughout project implementation and evaluation. Gender equality considerations have been incorporated into all areas of the project cycle.

When developing the gender equality element of projects, a number of elements should be considered in order to give an indication of its potential impact on gender equality issues. In particular, the applicant should address how the project takes the following issues into account.

  • How does the project take into account gender specific needs and address gender specific conditions?
  • How does the project take past experiences and/or current gender equality activities in the country into account?
  • How does the project address the gender equality issues and targets relevant to the project?
  • How does the project provide qualitative information on gender issues where necessary?

Project applications with a discriminatory gender bias or that may contribute to reinforcing existing gender inequalities are rejected. Likewise, applications with no reference to gender equality issues where such an inclusion is relevant are approached for additional information. Furthermore, in such cases where an inclusion is relevant, it may be stipulated in the grant conditions.

Monitoring throughout the project and ex-post evaluation are necessary elements for assessing the actual impact of a project, and are key elements in securing the inclusion of gender equality in projects. To facilitate monitoring, data must be sex disaggregated, reporting requirements must include gender equality considerations, and ex-post evaluations must not only measure impact, but also provide lessons learned and suggest possible future improvements.

In short, the implementation of the gender equality policy has to address the entire project cycle.

To enhance knowledge exchange and mutual learning, many partnerships between organisations in the donor and beneficiary countries have been established. Several Norwegian public bodies are involved as donor programme partners, including the Norwegian Equality and Anti-discrimination Ombud and the Norwegian Directorate of Children, Youth and Family Affairs. These organisations play a strategic role in programme planning and implementation. The programmes also encourage the involvement of partners from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway in individual projects. Funding is available to support networking, foster project partnerships and to cover preparatory costs of joint applications.

Gender equality and Research the EEA Grants

Since the gender dimension in research is the theme of the seminar, perhaps as a final note – let me briefly mention the EEA & Norway Grants’ programme area on Research, the objective of which is to enhance research-based knowledge development.

Among the suggested measures of the Research Programme are:

-        Those addressing gender imbalance in science and research

-        Support for the active participation of beneficiary countries in European Research Area’s multilateral research cooperation.

-        Strengthening beneficiary countries’ participation in Horizon 2020, e.g. in the European Research Council (ERC), through capacity building activities, such as support in developing project applications, training, and building networks that include donor countries.

Unlike in the previous funding period of the EEA & Norway Grants in Greece, when a separate programme dedicated to research in areas such as:

-        Cultural Diversity

-        Gender equality and work-life balance, and

-        National inequalities and social exclusion

were supported, Greece does not get research funds in the new funding period 2014-2021.

Overall, the main objective of all EEA & Norway Grants gender equality projects is to contribute in:

-        Raising awareness on gender equality

-        Ensuring women’s and men’s equal participation in the labour market

-        Improving balance between work, private and family life

-        Encouraging bilateral exchanges of successful national policies and best practices on gender equality

-        Strengthening capacity of gender equality organisations and networks

In other words, the EEA & Norway Grants have a strong commitment to promote gender equality, raise understanding of gender issues, discrimination and promoting Women’s rights, both through programmes and research.

In closing, I would like to thank Professor Økland for organizing and hosting today’s excellent event and for the opportunity to talk about the gender perspective in the EEA & Norway Grants.

Thank you for your attention

 Xeni Anastasiou
EEA and Norway Grants Officer