From Strategy to Action: Lessons from Gender Equality Plans in the Western Balkans

During the online event it was discussed how to put the Gender Equality Plans into practice and the lessons learned from colleagues who worked on their implementation.

Oct 10, 2023

Following the success of the WBC-RRI.NET previous event ‘’Gender Equality in Research and Innovation in the Western Balkans: Reflections on Success Stories’’, Centre for Social Innovation (ZSI) as partner in the project“ organised another online workshop on 22 September 2023. The workshop’s focus was on how to put the Gender Equality Plans into practice and the lessons learned from colleagues who worked on their implementation. Andjela Pepic and Linda Cepani presented their experiences on this subject, followed by an open discussion with attendees.

Andjela Pepic, from the University of Banja Luka, told us about their journey. Their Gender Equality Plan, initiated in 2020-2021, closely aligns with European Commission recommendations and emphasises clear objectives. The university established an Advisory Group for Gender Equality. Initially, they faced some challenges as they were a rather small team engaged in the GEP implementation (approximately six members). However, a strategy for expansion was developed, appointing individuals responsible for gender equality in each university. A dedicated team was established and trained to collect statistics, and meetings were conducted with them to exchange experiences and discuss strategies for ongoing efforts.

Linda Cepani, who worked on the first Gender Equality Plan for the University of Tirana under a Horizon 2020 project, also shared her insights. Their first plan lasted for one year, and the team put together a handbook with lessons learned, which will soon be available. Linda mentioned a tool called GEAR (Gender Equality in Academia and Research) that helped them since the beginning. She emphasised the importance of having a Gender Equality Plan as it is a requirement for applying to future Horizon Europe-funded projects. The support from their university’s leadership was crucial in particular during the first phase. They also involved government representatives from the ministries and kept them engaged throughout the project. At a later stage, the project slowly expanded to involve more academic staff by including professors and researchers.

From the discussions with the audience, it was clear that one of the biggest challenges is changing the culture and mind-set of universities. Both Linda and Andjela also suggested involving students who can offer a different perspective and excellent advice.

If you want to watch the full discussion, you can find the recording of the event on our WBC-RRI.NET YouTube channel.