Gender equality policy in Latvia
Latvia has opted for a gender-specific issues to be addressed through gender equality mainstreaming, which means that the principle of gender equality is taken into account in addressing issues and developing policies in any area and at all levels, especially in cases where a direct impact on society is expected. Even if the legislation guarantees equal rights for all, not necessarily both sexes always are in the same situation, because often the available resources owned by men and women may vary. In Latvia the legislation strictly stipulates equal rights for men and women, however, in certain areas of life situation for women and men is markedly different.
The first strategic document in the field of gender equality policy in Latvia was the Concept Paper on Gender Equality Implementation (2001). The Concept Paper is used as a fundamental basis for the development of further plans of action and documents to implement the goals set in the Concept Paper. Since then gender mainstreaming has been the main method of facilitating the principle of gender equality in Latvia, and is constantly adjusted and improved due to economic, social and political changes and due to increasing awareness of how gender pervades all government policies. Following the principles set in the Concept Paper, respective policy planning documents have been drafted. The most recent one is the Gender Equality Action Plan 2012-2014 which has the following action directions: Minimisation of the gender specific roles and stereotypes, Promotion of healthy and environmentally friendly lifestyle of women and men, Promotion of economic independence and equal opportunities of men and women at the labour market, Monitoring and evaluation of the gender equality policy.
If the indices which are usually used to describe the situation in the area of gender equality improve it cannot be clearly concluded that this is the achievement due to the measures implemented within the framework of the Plan for 2012-2014. Positive changes take place due to the impact by implementation of several action policies, besides, as it can be seen from experience of other countries, improvement of the situation is encouraged by regular investment for solving identified problems. It is also true that sometimes changes can be identified only when comprehensive studies are carried out. Expected results: Better understanding and more support by experts to integration of the gender equality principles in the area of education; Decrease of the difference of wages of women and men, improvement of the working environment along with male teachers coming to nursery schools and schools, improvement of the boys’ achievements at schools; Changes in trends of women and men’s lifestyle habits, attitude towards the health, environmentally friendly model of life; Improvement of the possibilities of balancing the work and family life changes in the division of responsibility between women and men concerning duties related to child care and upbringing and housekeeping; Involvement of women in entrepreneurship encouraged fostering faster recovery of people facing the risk of poverty (for example, children, young people, women); System of monitoring and evaluation of the gender equality policy system improved permitting to analyse efficiency of the policy, identify tasks to be carried out in future, thus encouraging purposeful utilisation of resources (time, money, information, human). Also understanding of experts of the essence of the gender equality and possibilities and importance of application of the integrated approach in branch policies has to be improved.
Limited amount of funding from state budget. Additionally, EU, Nordic Council of Ministers and other program funding has been used. No data available to determine the exact amount of investment.
Implementation of the Plan for 2012-2014 is generally seen as a success, at the same time many activities foreseen have been partially or not at all implemented. It was observed that there is still different understanding amongst specialists and society of the principles of gender equality and the need to integrate this issue in different policy areas. The fact that gender equality policies have limited state budget resources is a major obstacle to regular and large-scale campaigns and initiatives implementation. EU, Nordic Council of Ministers and other program financing has been used to carry out activities, but available human resources capacity is insufficient for implementing targeted activities. In addition, it is necessary to involve respective specialists and educate policy makers and civil servants on gender equality issues, as well as to engage NGO sector at a larger scale. The following was achieved by implementing the Plan: several awareness raising events were carried out, violence against women and domestic violence issues were activated, participation in the White Ribbon movement was launched, several laws and regulations were amended, integrated approach on gender equality cooperation amongst institutions was promoted, cancer early detection program was continued, attention was also paid to reduce labor market segregation through measures for women's and men's economic independence and to promote equal opportunities in the labor market, under the Ministry of Welfare a Gender Equality Committee continues to operate with the aim to promote gender equality policy development, gender implementation and monitoring of other policy areas and it involves ministries, NGOs, social partners, local authorities and other experts, ministerial officers have also been nominated in all ministries and the State Chancellery as an instrument of promoting gender mainstreaming in all public administration sectors. The Ministry of Welfare is elaborating the new guidelines on gender equality between women and men for the period 2016-2020.