Nordic conference draws attention to young people’s gender equality work
The gender equality work carried out at various levels of society often lacks a youth perspective. The Swedish municipality of Kalmar will therefore arrange a Nordic conference focusing on young people and gender equality on October 11–12.
The Youtheq conference is organised around five themes that are inspired by the goals set for Sweden’s national youth policy: education and learning, work and income, young people’s participation and representation, health and exposure, and recreation, culture and media.
‘There is a void when it comes to integrating a youth perspective into the ambitions associated with national gender equality policy. We tend to put a strong focus on gender equality during the adult period of life – as if gender inequality suddenly emerged in adulthood. By introducing gender equality issues early in life, young people can develop a gender equality awareness and bring it with them into adulthood,’ says Ann-Sofie Lagercrantz, municipal social sustainability strategist in Kalmar and member of Youtheq’s steering group and advisory council.
According to Ann-Sofie Lagercrantz, increased gender equality awareness in young people reduces the likelihood that they will choose educational paths and careers based on traditions.
‘Four of the 30 largest occupational groups in the Swedish labour market were quantitatively gender equal in 2014 – retail sales staff in specialty stores, cooks and cold-buffet managers, shop supervisors and upper-secondary teachers. Young people keep making the same choices as my generation did, and I’m middle aged. Gender continues to restrict people’s lives,’ she says.
Over a hundred politicians, civil servants and representatives from municipalities, county councils, schools and non-profit organisations in the Nordic countries will attend the conference, which is funded by the municipality of Kalmar and the Nordic Council of Ministers’ gender equality fund.
‘The aim is for the participants to gain energy and new tools so that they can he
lp advance the gender equality among young people in the Nordic region,’ says Alexandra Winberg, project manager.
The Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society sees it as obvious that its representatives should attend the conference.
‘The event is a good opportunity to learn from other speakers and gain insight into how the other Nordic countries work with gender equality among young people. The conference is a good way to network and get introduced to new ways of thinking,’ says Lisa Onsbacke from the Swedish Agency for Youth and Civil Society.
Onsbacke and her colleagues will participate in several conference sessions and will for example talk about how the youth perspective can be integrated into various activities and policy decisions.
The municipality of Kalmar is project owner for the conference, and the municipalities of Kristiansand in Norway, Kolding in Denmark and Mariehamn in Åland Islands are cooperation partners.
Why is there a need for a Nordic gender equality conference focusing on young people?
‘The Nordic countries are leaders in gender equality. Together, we can become even better. We also have a big responsibility to inspire and help advance the work in other parts of the world where the gender equality is getting worse, such as in Poland, where the right to abortion is being questioned,’ says Ann-Sofie Lagercrantz.
Has the gender equality among young people in the Nordic countries worsened?
‘The picture is not entirely clear. When it comes to representation and influence, progress is being made in various fields. At the same time, however, an increasing number of young women are falling victim to sex crimes,’ says Ann-Sofie Lagercrantz.
‘Young women feel terribly unsafe. Many of them are too afraid to walk home alone. Their personal space is being restricted,’ Alexandra Winberg adds.
How do young people in the Nordic countries feel about gender equality?
A large number of young activists and feminists are strongly involved in the struggle for gender equality. But there are also large groups of adolescents who think that the gender equality work has been finished, that it doesn’t concern them and that it is an issue older people have a problem with,’ says Ann-Sofie Lagercrantz.