The new Norwegian Ombud for Equal Treatment, Hanne Bjurstrøm, was in Brussels last week to meet with important partners at EU level. Equinet was very pleased to have the opportunity to meet the new Ombud and accompany her throughout the day.
Meeting with Equinet
Norway’s Ambassador to the EU, Oda Helen Sletnes (third from left), hosted a lunch on 9 March, with the Norwegian Ombud Hanne Bjurstrøm (second from left), Equinet Board member and Deputy Ombud Elisabeth Lier Haugseth (first on left), and staff of the Equinet Secretariat: Anne Gaspard, Executive Director (middle); Tamas Kadar , Head of Legal and Policy (on right); Katrine Steinfeld, Policy Officer (third from right).
During lunch, they had to opportunity to discuss:
- Norway’s longstanding engagement as an Equinet member;
- The development of a new strategy for the Norwegian Ombud, which will be helped by Equinet’s work on strategic planning;
- The importance of collectively strengthening equality bodies at a time when equality is under pressure thoughout Europe;
- And the current challenges experienced in the equality landscape.
Promoting Gender Equality in Europe: Networking Event
On the afternoon of 9 March, the Norwegian Mission to the EU and the Norwegian Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud held a networking event in Brussels on Promoting Gender Equality in Europe.
Ombud Bjurstrøm highlighted the following issues on gender equality:
- ¼ of complaints the Ombud receives are related to gender based discrimination, amongst which pregnancy related discrimination and discrimination related to parental leave is most prevalent.
- Gender segregation remains a problem on the labour market.
- Women are more often in part-time work than men, often involuntarily and not only due to childcare responsibilities. Most women working part-time in Norway are between 45-50 years old, and are thus past childbearing age, suggesting that part-time work is not only related to work-life balance and care responsibilities.
- Hate speech against women in public life does exist, forcing some women out of the public debate.
- Violence against women is a problem, particularly domestic violence. One in four murder victims were killed by their intimate partner, 90% of which are women.
- There is a problematic intersection between gender based violence and cultural background, in that statistics show domestic violence to be more prevalent among the population in Norway with migrant background.
- The question of how to better integrate migrant women is a burning issue for our future. Cooperation with all international partners to find a way to achieve that would be desirable.
- Body focus of media and advertising: the situation has deteriorated over the years. Both boys and girls are currently under tremendous pressure to comply with unrealistic role models.
- Boys tend to do worse at school than girls.
European Commission Head of Unit on Gender Equality Daniela Bankier took the floor, and highlighted the European Commission’s strategic engagement for gender equality. She identified that the main challenges currently facing Europe in gender equality are:
- Employment rate of women still not as high as that of men
- Part-time work being highly gendered
- Time spent on caring responsibilities not equally shared
- Violence against women
- Increasing the share of women in decision-making
Financial Mechanism Office representative, Maria Egeland Thorsnes, mentioned that the EEA & Norway Grants spent 52 million euros on gender equality in the financing period 2009-2014. Their work included building a number of shelters for victims of violence against women, strengthening the capacity of existing shelters, providing services for victims, training women entrepreneurs, and encouraging women’s participation in decision making. She brought to our attention that the Norwegian Ombud was a partner in the biggest and most successful gender equality program of the Grants in Spain.
Meeting with Cabinet of Vĕra Jourová, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality
The Ombud also took the opportunity of her visit to Brussels to meet with Monika Ladmanová, adviser to Commissioner Jourová to discuss topics of interest to the Cabinet and the Norwegian Ombud. A representative from Equinet and from the Norwegian mission were also present.