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Gender equality in East-Central Europe

The regional gender project of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) was launched in January 2012 and covers the following countries: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. The project aims at contributing to deepening the discourses about gender justice in the region. We promote the exchange of good practices across Europe to advance the gender cause. We encourage public debates about issues such as new approaches in women's movements, questions of women's representation in politics, alternatives to austerity policies, women's rights around childbirth, gender just and socially inclusive family policies or the men's role in achieving gender equality. Additionally, we launched a dialogue platform in 2014 where men and women with different ideological backgrounds and views about gender equality search for the possibilities of a dialogue.

The political heritage of Anna Kéthly

Bild der VeranstaltungAnna Kéthly (1889-1976) was one of the most predominant politicians of the Hungarian left in the 20th century. On the event held on 29 November 2017 the question from political and historical aspects was raised what heritage the lifework of Anna Kéthly, social democratic politician, feminist, Member of the Parliament leaves for today's politics.

The keynote speaker was Zsuzsanna B. Kádár, historian. She talked about Anna Kéthly's political role and her actions. Kéthly was elected to the parliament in 1922. Immediately she started to work for abolishing the censuses of age and literacy (in both cases the conditions were stricter for women than men), and the normative motherhood (one didn't have to meet the literacy census if she had three or more children). The suffrage with no census differentiating between men and women was only applied after 1945 in Hungary. She was also the first one in Hungary's history to address women's dependency within their families, their education and their unequal rights.

In the second part of the event the moderator Andrea Pető continued the discussion on Anna Kéthly's political heritage with politicians from six parties. The party called Együtt was represented by Nóra Hajdu board member, Párbeszéd by Gergely Karácsony prime minister candidate, DK by János Schiffer president of the constituency no. 4, Momentum by Tamás Soproni board member, MSZP by Kata Tüttő board member and LMP by Péter Ungár board member. In the panel discussion the politicians debated on Anna Kéthly's politics and lifework, raised questions about what the modern politics could learn from her, why we scarcely hear about her, in what ways her work is relevant for these parties and how we ought to commemorate her. The panel discussion with members of six political parties can be watched here: Facebook video

You can read the report of the event in English here and in Hungarian here.

Our new publication is online! Click on the cover to access the book in pdf.

The Future of the European Union - Feminist perspectives from East-Central Europe

Bild der VeranstaltungThe event took place on the 7th of November 2017, on the occasion of the newly published volume with the same title, organised by the regional gender project of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. The book aims to connect the analysis of the current situation and processes in the EU to the most relevant or under-discussed feminist topics, from a leftist perspective. The participants - building on the volume - discussed these topics and tried to figure out their possible political consequences.

You can find the report of the event in English here and in Hungarian here.

Brussels +/-

Bild der VeranstaltungAt the event held on the 22nd of November Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, mé, Társadalomelméleti Kollégium (College for Advanced Studies in Social Theory) and Új Egyenlőség (New Equality) jointly discussed the crises, current state of and future prospects of the European Union from a leftist perspective. The discussion was based on a series of 21 articles that appeared on mé (back then Kettős Mérce - Double Standard) under the header Brussels+/- in spring and summer of 2017.

You can find the report of the event in English here and in Hungarian here.

Regional and gender pay inequalities in Europe

Bild der VeranstaltungOne of the main goals of our event on 24 October 2017 was to discuss the links between the West-East and the gender pay inequalities. Another important question raised was about the tools we can use to get the political actors want to make a change, and what are the left's political opportunities and duties when it is the right wing that embraces the problems of inequalities in its own terms.

You can find the summary of the Forum in English here and in Hungarian here.

Personal is political

Bild der VeranstaltungFeminists initially used the phrase "personal is political" to mean that the treatment of women in the home and in the social sphere was a political matter. Now it is being used to mean everything from "politics is personal" to something like everything a woman does is political or that all personal choices are political choices. The boundary between personal and political has become increasingly blurred. In a joint event of the FES and OFF-Biennale we brought together social science academics and social movements activists with the art world to critically engage with these questions.

You can find the summary of the Forum in English here and in Hungarian here.

Dialogue on gender inequality: The politics of care

Bild der VeranstaltungThe starting point of our conference on 3 October 2016 was the idea that care for children, the sick and elderly is an integral part of human life and indispensable for social reproduction. Housework and care are not just issues of work-life balance but prerequisites of taking part in the labour market and of the functioning of the economy. It is not enough to encourage men to take their fair share in these responsibilities, we also need social systems that recognize the importance of care at their full value, and the growing pressure on our societies in relation to care.

You can find the summary of the Forum in English here and in Hungarian here.

Advertising, consumption and women's rights

Bild der VeranstaltungWhat is the role of economic actors in shaping our ideas about what it means to be a "real woman" or even a "good mother/parent", and what we need to buy to achieve this? How is demand raised in the beauty industry, the sports industry, the parenting industry and beyond? What can we do when we can only afford products produced under inhumane working conditions on the other side of the world? How does the region of East-Central Europe connect to the global economy, and how does it affect consumption patterns and aspirations? What is the role of individuals, companies, nation states and supranational actors in making a change? We discussed these and other related question in our dialogue forum Consumption and women's rights, in Budapest on 22 May 2017, with people from different scientific and ideological backgrounds.

You can find the programme and the report in English here and here in Hungarian here and here.

In Search of Root Causes

Bild der VeranstaltungOn April, 5th 2017 the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Budapest held a conference in co-operation with the Departments of Political Science and Gender Studies of the Central European University titled "Populist right, far right and gender in Europe". The leading question of the event was how the consideration of the gender dimension can contribute to a deeper understanding of right-wing populism and the rise of illiberal democracies. Researchers and journalists from Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Austria, France and Germany discussed new tendencies and strategies how gender topics are adapted into right wing discourses, and what progressive actors need to consider to look beyond the symptoms and reflect on their own share of responsibility in the rise of these tendencies. In several presentations and panel discussions experts and members of the audience had the chance to debate and discuss the ideological, historical and political context and the possible root causes of the rise of right-wing populism.

A report about the event in English here and in Hungarianhere.

Who should we entrust birth to?

Bild der VeranstaltungIn many countries of the East-Central European region, independent birth movements have emerged in recent years aiming at improving the present maternity care systems. In this context, new questions and debates arise: Is birth a political or a private issue? What current problems are women and health professionals facing? These and other related questions were discussed by experts from NGOs and health institutions at a round-table discussion on March, 27th 2017. The event titled "Dialogue on gender equality: Who should we entrust birth to?" was organized by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Budapest in co-operation with the Association EMMA and the movement "Respectful maternity care!". Experts from Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary discussed with the members of the audience how violations in women's rights and problematic medical practices should be countered.

A report about the event in English here and in Hungarianhere.

Our new publication is online! Click on the cover to access the book in pdf.

On the occasion of the publication of the volume we organized a public event entitled "Gender Equality: a 'competitive advantage'?"

Report about the event in English here.

Beszámoló a rendezvényről magyarul itt.

Program of the event.

Az esemény programja.

"Not because we are women, but because we gained qualification"

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Organizing care must be in the center of leftist politics. This was the starting point of our event "Nurses' movements in the Visegrad countries and the societal value of care" held on October 11, 2016 in Budapest. How and why has this sector become so undervalued and marginalized in East-Central Europe and beyond? What are the feminist perspectives of care? In what way do mechanisms of the market shape the debate on the value of care? These were some of the questions discussed with experts and with leaders of the V4 nurses' movements.

Care should not be restricted to the private sphere: instead, it should be understood as a communal value. Lubica Kobová, one of the speakers referred to the American philosopher Judith Butler who says that we are precarious beings and our life is always in some sense in the hands of the other (whom we might not even know). Secondly, it is important to recognize that I am, as a precarious being in need of care, also responsible for my fellow human beings. It must not be forgotten that people in caring jobs also need care.

This latter thesis was the starting point for the panel debate with activists from the four countries, who reported about their struggles, strategies and alliances as well as the forms of their protests. The activists discussed their experiences, e.g. who try to organize protests often face several forms of humiliation, supervision or harassment, but this does not deter them from their fight, which is encumbered by the double pressure of political power and gender stereotypes (e.g. loud protest is unfeminine). They gain power and courage from their results so far, and from the significant public support. For the time being, however, the cooperation of trade unions either within the sector or between the Visegrad countries is insufficient, but the participants regarded this event as an ideal starting point.

A report about the event in English here and in Hungarianhere.

Images of Women. Women's Rights in Islam and in Islamic Communities

Islam and Muslim women have become central in debates about refugees, integration and women's rights in Europe and beyond. Within the framework of our regional gender program, we provide a platform for dialogue on gender questions. In our forum on 'Images of Women. Women's Rights in Islam and in Islamic Communities' we initiated a debate with experts from Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary on the connections between Islam, Islamic law, Islamism, the refugee crisis - and women's rights. Also we discussed the role of culture, socialization and religion when it comes to the recognition of the equal dignity of women.

Sticking to the subject of the relationship between women's rights and Islam, the discussion forum set out to cover this relationship from both sides: first, the colonial overtones of (Western) feminism in many Muslims' perception and the meager visibility of Muslim women's struggle against the patriarchal structure of their communities, and second, European views on Islam and our coexistence with Islamic practices from a women's rights perspective. This topic necessarily entails the question of what Islam is: the forum also sought to set it apart from other cultural and social factors and to look at fundamentalist interpretations of 'the Islam'. While reflecting on the dangers of femonationalism (the rhetorical use of women's rights as an indicator of supremacy in the service of nationalism), the forum also endeavored to discuss the actual conflicts arising from our differences, but also possibilities for coalitions between European feminists and Muslim women.

You can find the report on the event here in English and here in Hungarian.

Dialogue on gender equality:

Images of Women and Women's Rights in Islam and in Islamic Communities, 14 September 2016

Additional informations:
Invitation in English
Invitation in Hungarian
Keynote speech in English (Riem Spielhaus)
Keynote speech in Hungarian (Riem Spielhaus)

Dialogue on Gender Equality: Equal Dignity and Women's Rights

Bild der VeranstaltungHuman dignity is a widely used - and widely contested - concept. The idea of dignity is evoked in relation or sometimes in dichotomy to equal rights, but also as a "rival" to fundamental freedoms, such as the right to self-determination, freedom of expression or media freedom. How we think about dignity has far-reaching consequences for our societal practices including our gender relations.

What is the political relevance of the concept of human dignity? How does it relate to equality and equal rights? What are the different approaches to the underlying foundation of human dignity? Is there a difference between the dignity of men and women? What does dignity mean for our understanding of the role of the state? And what does it mean in terms of media freedom, enforcement of women's rights, class solidarity?

We discussed among other these questions on 21 March 2016 in Budapest with over 100 representatives of political parties, science, trade unions and women's rights organizations of various ideological backgrounds. You can find our report on the event here in English and here in Hungarian. The reports of the Hungarian press you can find here:, Magyar Narancs, Barok Eszter's blog.

Love and Politics

Love, which carries the possibility for truly symmetric, mutual relationships between people, is an essential part of human existence. How we think about it has far-reaching consequences for the gender relations and for the societal practices amongst which we get socialised and rear our children. How did people think about love in the course of history? How does the tradition of courtly love influence our concepts of dominance, initiative, subordination, dependence and partnership? How does the economic order based on the cult of consumption define our desires and ideas about love? What kind of emancipatory and political potential is there in in the discourse about love? Is any dialogue possible across various concepts of love?

These questions were explored in the dialogue forum "Love: Personal? Political?" held by Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in Budapest on 6 October 2015.

This volume is a collection of the edited versions of the lectures held at the conference about the different conceptualizations of love throughout history, ideologies and different scientific disciplines.

You can download the book in English from here and in Hungarian from here.

Creating space - Romani Women's movements from intersectional perspective

Bild der VeranstaltungThe Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Budapest, in co-operation with the Center for Policy Studies of the Central European University invited 20 experts and leading figures in the Romani women's movements from nine different countries to discuss the past, present and the future of their movements. The Seminar "Intersections of Gender, Ethnicity, and Class: History and Future of the Role of Gender in the Romani Movement" took place in Budapest on the 30th-31st of October, 2015.

The discussions of the seminar could constitute a fundamental basis for further strategizing. The focus was put on the internal exchange and share of experiences. One of the major conclusions of the workshop was that the dismissal of 'ethnicity' within feminist politics and the dismissal of 'gender' within the Romani politics are equally important to challenge.

You can download the working paper based on the main discussions of the seminar here.

Interview with our colleague

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Interview with Eszter Kováts, our colleague responsible for gender questions, on family policy and gender issues in the Visegrád countries. (By András Mizsur, You can download it from here.

Interjú Kováts Eszterrel, az alapítvány gender kérdésekért felelős munkatársával, családpolitikáról és gender kérdésekről a Visegrád-országokban. (Mizsur András interjúja, Link az interjúhoz.

"Gender as symbolic glue" - The position and role of conservative and far right parties in the anti-gender mobilization in Europe. In co-operation with the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS).

This publication aims to critically analyse the emergence of anti-gender mobilisations in European far right and conservative party programmes and the role of the respective parties in shaping the discourse and mobilisations. Five case studies - France, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia - are looked upon. Common chronological overview and transnational commonalities are introduced. The authors argue that "gender" serves as "symbolic glue" for agenda setting for conservatives and the far right political forces. However, anti-gender forces have a deeper root in crisis of neoliberalism. The publication offers policy recommendations to progressive actors to stand against fundamentalist political activism.

You can download the study in English from here.

You can download the policy brief summarizing the main points of the publication from here.

A kötet legfőbb tanulságainak összefoglalója magyar nyelven elérhető itt.

"Having a child is not a four-year project" - Dialogue forum about child-bearing

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What influences child-bearing decisions and how do we speak about child-bearing (of whom)? Scientists from Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic as well as interested participants followed the invitation by FES Budapest and met on April 22nd to debate. The event was organized as a part of a series of public discussions called 'Dialogue on Gender Equality' within the framework of the regional gender programme of the FES. The first part of the event was dedicated to the causes of low fertility rates and of policies which are applied all over Europe to tackle the demographic crisis. It turned out that measures allowing a better work-life balance and father's involvement as well as a consistent family policy are of the greatest help for families. The second part of the event analysed the ways how we speak about child-bearing. A lively but respectful discussion unfolded among others about whether or not a certain normativity characterizes our speaking about the topics related to child-bearing: e.g. which social groups should have more children and which ones not, and how far the discourse of having children focuses exclusively on women.

A report about the event in English and Hungarian.

The programme of the event in English and Hungarian.

"Progressive chivalry"? - Dialogue forum on the changing forms of masculinity

Bild der VeranstaltungIn the framework of the regional programme called "Gender equality in East Central Europe" of the FES, a dialogue forum was organised under the title "Changing forms of masculinity, and the role of men in promoting gender equality" on 25 March 2015. We were discussing different frameworks and discourses that sociology, psychology, conservative and progressive viewpoints use to try to grasp masculinity and its modern forms. What societal challenges do men face? What does gender equality mean to men: surrendering power and privileges, or certain advantages, too? The event discussed these and some other questions with more than 160 participants.

More Informations:
The summary of the event in English is available here.
The summary of the event in Hungarian is available here.

The Facebook event with press reports is available here.

Respecting the diversity of families

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A major conference on 10 November discussed progressive concepts regarding family and employment policies. Prof. Dr. Gesine Schwan, Chairperson of the Fundamental Values Commission of the German Social-Democratic Party and former two-times presidential candidate was the keynote speaker at the event. Her concept on "family based on partnership families as a public good" earned great interest in Germany, and it is also reflected in the policy proposals of the current German federal government.

This concept was the starting point of the debate on progressive visions that we conducted on family and the question how we want to live. Parallel workshops were held to compare, in a European dimension, which values and objectives any family policy can pursue, and how the conservative value system and neoliberal tendencies put pressure on progressive concepts. Another topic discussed was why it might be good for men to work 30-35 hours weekly if they also want to experience their fatherhood to the full, and if they don't define masculinity only on the basis of performance in the workplace. We also analysed problems that stem from the fact that atypical forms of employment are seen as something that should be pursued by and supported for women. Finally, we were also contemplating that when speaking about reconciling family and work, we need to speak about both family and work in a wider sense, and we should also think about the most different living conditions and lifestyles, so that we do not treat only the problems of certain societal groups (e.g. educated urban middle-class).

Everybody agreed at the end of the event that the progressive vision of the family must respect the diversity of reality and lived experience.

Program of the event in German and English.

Gesine Schwan's concept in German and English.

Speaker's presentations:
Dorota Szelewa: Family policy models in Europe - values, goals (English)
Hans-Georg Nelles: Teilzeit für die Herren (German)
Anne Salles: Warum kommt Teilzeitarbeit in Frankreich nicht an? (German)
Hana Hasková: Institutional and private childcare (English)
Barbara Stiegler: Wachsender Bedarf an Alterspflege Neue Aufgaben für Familien und Staat? (German)
Mare Ainsaar: Reconciliation of work and family life - a women's problem? (English)
Dósa Mariann: A munka fogalmának átalakulása: ki van belül, és ki szorul ki a munka világából? (Hungarian)

10 years of EU membership from a gender perspective

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We organised a conference together with the Hungarian Women's Lobby under the title "10 years in the European Union - Improvements and backlashes in gender equality" on the 15th of October to evaluate the EU membership of countries in the region from the perspective of gender equality. Speakers at the event agreed that a renewing EU was needed, which not only declares fundamental values but also undertakes to manage social inequalities including the inequalities between men and women. Together with Lithuanian, Slovak, Polish, Austrian and Hungarian experts, we first assessed available institutional frameworks to check what progresses and regresses had been made in EU Member States, and what had been the reasons for these. The second section led to a vigorous debate on the neoliberal economic order of the EU, and the relevance of feminist economics, a heterodox economics paradigm, which is still less known in Hungary, and which aspires to rethink the European Union from a social aspect on a systemic level.

More Informations:

The report from the conference is available on this link.

A Hungarian-English summary video on the panel "Gender Mainstreaming - Institutional frameworks and political reality" will be available soon on this link.

A Hungarian-English summary video on the panel "10 years in the European Union - Gender and economy" will be available soon on this link.

Of motherhood, but differently - on the road to agreement on common denominators

People confessing to different views on the equality of women and men in society sat together at a conference of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation on October 2 to lead a non-conventional dialogue on the societal questions related to motherhood.

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This debate was the third stop of the dialogue series started this February, which was initiated by the Foundation as a follow-up to certain movements in several countries that oppose gender equality. We did this in firm conviction that conflicting divergent views is a tool to understand each other, and to reduce distances, even if we know that there are particular political and institutional interests that may be keen on sustaining and increasing these distances.

There were some fierce debates several times during the evening, however some points of consensus emerged across participants who represented very different views. These included the importance of regulating home births, or that the relationship between genders is a key issue for becoming or not becoming a mother, and also that it is impossible to talk about this issue without touching on the role of men and fathers.

The conference expressed that the rights of mothers were necessary to be perceived as social rights. This perspective further allows us to overcome conventional fault-lines, and for the progressives to treat motherhood as a priority.

More Informations:
15 minutes long summary video about the event in English and Hungarian (with subtitles)