Erasmus+ could do more to promote gender equality

EU projects can have a positive impact on gender equality. [Shutterstock]

Projects promoting gender equality as part of the Erasmus+ programme have a strong positive impact, according to a French study. But the programme’s future commitment to equality is in doubt. EURACTIV France reports.

Equality between men and women is a broad EU objective, and one that is explicitly stated in the 2007-2013 Lifelong Learning Programme. Yet, just 1.2% of all projects carried out under this programme have dealt in any way with the question of gender equality.

For the French Erasmus+ Agency, this is highly disappointing: the organisation has demonstrated that “European projects, in different ways and to different extents, contribute to progress in gender equality in Europe”.

Between 2007 and 2013, 40 projects involving French organisations focussed on gender equality under the Grundtvig (adult education), Leonardo (professional training for young people) and Comenius (school education) schemes.

According to the French agency’s study, the results have been largely positive, if difficult to quantify because they deal in the subtleties of people’s attitudes.

These 40 projects dealt with the issue of gender equality from one of two angles: changing mentalities through reflection and the exchange of best practices (17 projects); and overcoming problems faced by women in the workplace (23 projects, mostly under the Leonardo programme).

One issue laid bare by this analysis is the fact that the interest of EU member states in gender equality varies enormously. But the good news is that the countries with the most pronounced inequalities tend to be those with most projects.

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Among the projects studied is a collaboration between Germany, France and Turkey that aims to help women who have left rural areas for the city to find work. In fact, collaboration between EU and non-EU countries is fairly common: another collaborative project between Germany, Austria, Poland and Switzerland promotes the involvement of fathers in their children’s education.

Other projects aim to sensitise children to gender and diversity issues using literature, for example, or develop new and innovative methods to break down barriers for young girls in science and technology education.

Inequalities on the labour market

Participants in these projects say they can have a real impact on inequality. Their biggest disappointment, however, is the short-term thinking behind them. After just two years, the projects are wrapped up and there is very little scope for continued cooperation outside the official framework.

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According to Eurobarometer, Europeans see wage inequality as the most obvious form of inequality between men and women. And most citizens believe that gender inequality could be most effectively fought at EU level, and that investment in EU gender equality at work schemes is money well spent.

But this logic appears to have escaped Brussels: despite the good track record of these projects, the new Erasmus+ programme makes no mention of gender equality.