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The projects have strengthened the legal and institutional framework for gender equality at the local level, as well as the position of women in local communities, including rural women, young, unemployed and disabled people, victims of domestic violence and other vulnerable groups, said Melina Papageorgiou, Head of the Good Governance at the Swiss Cooperation Office in Serbia.
“Through the Swiss PRO Programme, the Government of Switzerland has provided continuous support to local self-governments in their efforts to build and strengthen capacities for the implementation of gender equality, both in the field of service provision and in regulations and the way local budgets are formed. "Ultimately, that means moving towards institutions and a society that provides equal opportunities for all", Papageorgiou said.
Head of Programme at UNOPS Serbia, Marko Vujačić, stated that gender equality is the cross-cutting theme of all projects implemented by UNOPS, as we cannot talk about sustainable development if we do not address the issue of gender equality.
"Together with local self-governments and with the support of partners from the Swiss Government through the Swiss PRO Programme, we have achieved results from strengthening the institutional framework, through improving women's participation in decision-making to concrete changes in the position of women in a society", Vujačić pointed out emphasising the importance of cooperation with national partners.
Antigona Andonov from the Professional Service of the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality pointed out that gender equality implies equality of all women and men, equal chances and opportunities in all areas of private and social life.
"Women can do anything, despite still deep-rooted stereotypes and prejudices. That is why women in politics, and especially in local communities, are much more than the government and the opposition, much more than politics and the party. They are the voice of all other women and a model for women that something is possible, and you are proving it here”, Andonov said.
In addition to grants for implementation of 26 projects, during the four years of the Swiss PRO Programme, technical assistance and capacity building activities through training for councilors and representatives of local women's councilor networks, as well as training for female mayors were also provided to local self-governments, said Maida Jusufović, Officer for Good Governance and Gender Equality at the Swiss PRO Programme.
“As a result of the support, among other things, 31 local self-governments formed a mechanism for gender equality, 27 established a local women's councillor network, 26 developed and adopted a local action plan. In addition, support was provided for capacity building through a total of seven training workshops attended by 168 representatives from 44 cities and municipalities, including female mayors", Jusufović said.
The Secretary of the Assembly of the City of Kruševac, Maja Cuckić, presented the project that contributed to the improvement of gender equality in Kruševac.
“The support of the Swiss Government and cooperation with the Swiss PRO Programme is a very important experience for us, because the project provided support to women for more active involvement in the work of local communities and decision-making at the local level, as well as empowering women to establish associations and start their own business”, said Cuckić.
A video on the impact of the project implemented by the municipality of Blace was shown at the event.
At the event, certificates for successfully implemented projects were given to representatives of the following local self-governments: Aranđelovac, Babušnica, Bela Palanka, Blace, Bujanovac, Bojnik, Dimitrovgrad, Golubac, Ivanjica, Knić, Kraljevo, Kragujevac, Kruševac, Ljubovija, Medveđa, Niš, Nova Varoš, Pirot, Rača, Raška, Sokobanja, Svrljig, Topola, Ćićevac, Ćuprija and Zaječar.
More information on the impact of all 26 projects, as well as the Programme overall support in the area of gender equality, can be found in the Fact Sheet available on the Swiss PRO website.
The event was organised within the Programme “Enhancing Good Governance and Social Inclusion for Municipal Development – Swiss PRO", supported by the Government of Switzerland in cooperation with the Government of Serbia, and implemented by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in partnership with the Standing Conference of Towns and Municipalities (SCTM).