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Young voices made their mark during the Danish Presidency

Virtual meetings, cancelled conferences and unexpected changes. But gender equality efforts in the Nordic countries have not slowed down – quite the opposite. In 2020 for example, a three-year research effort was initiated to combat sexual harassment, and conditions for LGBTI people has become a separate policy area.


The year 2020 is drawing to an end. The ongoing pandemic has brought about huge changes, but also new solutions. As the Danish Presidency of the Nordic Council of Ministers for Gender Equality is to be handed over to Finland, Kira Appel, Deputy Head of the Department of Gender Equality in the Ministry of Employment in Denmark, looks back on an historic year with mixed feelings.

“All physical meetings and conferences have had to be cancelled, which has been extremely unfortunate. Nevertheless, we have succeeded in carrying out the activities that were planned.

During the year, the Danish Presidency’s work with gender equality has focused on four areas: the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform, violence and harassment, men and gender equality, and LGBTI issues.

Young people in the Nordic countries setting the agenda

This year, the Global Action Plan on Gender Equality, the Beijing Platform, turned 25 years old. This was marked by the campaign #GenerationEqualityNordic. As part of this campaign, the Nordic ministers for gender equality invited young people to drive work with gender equality forward by allowing them to post texts about the gender equality issues that they consider to be the most important.

“We have had a great focus on young people and how to ensure that they are heard in the planning of gender equality efforts,” says Kira Appel.

The conversations started during the campaign were to be taken further by the ministers at this year’s many global summits, as well as the Nordic Youth Summit on Gender Equality in Copenhagen in May. The summit was cancelled and instead the young people were invited to the meeting of the Nordic Council of Ministers for Gender Equality in November. Their perspective will be included in the new Nordic Co-operation Programme on Gender Equality.

Research effort: How to prevent sexual harassment

At their meeting in November, the Nordic Ministers for Gender Equality also decided to invest in a major research-based knowledge boost about sexual harassment in the workplace. The initiative will run for three years and contribute new knowledge about sexual harassment in the workplace, with a focus on prevention. The research effort is cross-sectoral, with funding totalling DKK 4.8 million. Part of this sum will be distributed through two separate open calls for proposals in 2021 to fund inter-Nordic research collaborations.

In November, the report entitled “The Angry Internet”, which was produced by the Centre for Digital Youth Care on behalf of the Nordic Council of Ministers, was also published. It examines Internet forums consisting of young men, where they discuss, incite and encourage misogyny. The report and its results were presented at a virtual event. The report has attracted great political interest and engagement in the Nordic region as well as globally.

An overall objective of the Danish Presidency was to include the western Nordic regions in work with gender equality and in February a seminar on fatherhood was held in the Faroe Islands. Next year, a seminar on violence will be held in Greenland.

LGBTI issues now a separate area

One of the biggest achievements of the year is that the Nordic countries’ work with  conditions for LGBTI persons was established as a separate area.

“In the past, this area was spread out and in many instances it was forgotten about,” says Kira Appel.

In a survey to identify where the Nordic countries are lacking in their work to assure the physical and mental health of LGBTI people, a number of problems emerged. These included a lack of knowledge among government agencies and health care providers as well as negative attitudes in general. This needs to change with the aid of the new strategy that has been developed as an addendum to the existing Co-operation Programme.

Although 2020 will go down in history as one of the most revolutionary in modern times, Nordic gender equality efforts have continued to make strong progress.

“Our work has been somewhat thrown off balance due to the pandemic, but we are very pleased with what we have managed to do despite this,” says Kira Appel.

Latest updated 14 January 2021