Promote gender equality and empower women

Where we are?

 picture by Domagoj Keglević: Boys and girls are equal (from the 2004 children's competition on MDGs in Croatia)

Activities are being carried out in the Republic of Croatia to increase the participation of women in the process of political decision making. A woman has been leading the Croatian government since 2009. One of the five deputy prime ministers is also a woman. One of the 16 ministries is headed by a woman. If we include the government secretary, the total participation of women in the government amounts to 20%.7 Furthermore, 38 out of 153 seats in the Croatian parliament are held by women, which accounts for 25% of the total, showing a moderate upward trend compared to 2005 (32 MPs – 21.1%).

At the last local elections in 2009, out of a total of 47,339 persons on the candidate lists, there were 11,594 women (24.5%) and 35,745 men (75.5%). In comparison with the data from the local elections in 2005, it may be concluded that the total participation of women on the lists for representative bodies at all levels has significantly grown: the number of women candidates has increased from 19% to 24.5%.

According to the Gender Equality Act, when proposing candidate lists for the election of members of local self-government representative bodies, proposers must comply with the gender equality principle and take care that there is balanced representation of women and men on the electoral lists. A representation of one gender in the bodies of political and public decision-making lower than 40% is considered to be a significant imbalance in favour of the other gender.

The economic crisis has also left trace on the indicators of Target 3: "Strengthening women economically": the unemployment rate of women decreased from 11.1% in 2007 to 10% in 2008, but grew to 10.3% in 2009. Nevertheless, the participation of women in self-employment increased from 37.8% in 2007 to 38.4% in 2008, and to 38.7% in 2009. In 2010, the government adopted the Women's Entrepreneurship Development Strategy 2010 – 2013. Drawing up the Strategy arose from the obligation to implement the National Policy for the Promotion of Gender Equality 2006 – 2010, and its goal is to increase the number of female entrepreneurs and create the conditions to involve a larger number of women in the labour market and reduce their rate of unemployment. In addition, with regard to the issue of empowering women economically, and for the purpose of helping families, especially single-parent families, the possibility of organising extended day school programmes for children in elementary schools was introduced in 2008, as was the Croatian National Educational Standard for the elementary school system. Working parents, especially single mothers, can in this way strike a better balance between their working and family lives. Besides, continuous financial support has been provided for projects of civil society organisations aimed at empowering families, including single-parent families.

The problem of domestic violence has also been continuously tackled in the wider context of family relations. Indeed, the suppression of violence against women is a component of the National Strategy for Protection against Family Violence for the period 2008 to 2010, which the Croatian government adopted in 2007 with a view to strengthening the existing and creating a new legal, educational, social and institutional system of protection for victims of domestic violence. Measures are directed at the training of experts working in this field, the development of psychosocial treatment for the perpetrators of violence, the analysis and implementation of laws, the development of shelters and support for victims of domestic violence, improving the status of victims in proceedings, and raising public awareness of this issue. Special attention in the National Strategy has been given to women with disabilities who are victims of domestic violence, and their special needs are always taken into account when implementing measures for their protection.

Since 2005, great progress has been achieved in fighting domestic violence and in enhancing criminal law protection for the victims of family violence and trafficking in human beings. Thus, the new Criminal Procedure Act (December 2008) introduced for the first time in the Croatian legal system the victim as participant in court proceedings with special rights (psychological and expert assistance, participation in proceedings as the injured party, the right to a counsellor, the right to compensation of tangible and intangible damage funded from the state budget, etc.). In the period since the last Report of 2005, the number of counselling centres and shelters for victims of domestic violence has increased. According to the data of December 2009, assistance to victims of domestic violence by way of psychological counselling was offered by 37, and accommodation services by 19 legal entities or civil society organisations, social welfare institutions, or religious institutions.

Regarding Target 7 – "Harmonisation of private and professional life", it has to be stressed that the Act on Maternity and Parental Benefits has been in force since the beginning of 2009, which, among other things, promotes the inclusion of fathers in the life of the family, and the balanced presence of both parents in the labour market. While in 2005 the place of fathers in the total number of beneficiaries of maternity and parental benefits amounted to approximately 1%, in 2009 it amounted to approximately 2%, and a further increase of the use of these benefits by fathers is expected.

Although improvement in gender sensitive statistics is evident, it is necessary to continue working on raising the awareness of state administration bodies and especially of the private sector related to the need to gender-disaggregate all data. It is necessary to point out that exercising the right to equal opportunities and the right to the same quality of services for women and men does not imply what is called a "neutral approach", but involves aligning services to the specific features of the different needs of women or men. This especially concerns the field of labour and employment and the field of social protection and the fight against poverty. Women members of national minorities, elderly women living alone, and women living in rural areas are particularly vulnerable groups on whom precise statistical data must be kept.

UNDP's work in Croatia

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