Small town, big action: the Municipality of Bečej (SRB)
Small town, big action: the Municipality of Bečej, a town that takes care of the promotion of gender equality
Small in size but big in ambition, the municipality of Bečej, located in the province of Vojvodina, Serbia, and a signatory of the European Charter for Equality since January 2017, followed a very inclusive process to develop its inspiring local equality action plan. Here is a look back at how they managed to achieve this goal!
To make sure the action plan would reflect the community’s will and needs, the municipality created a working group inviting representatives of local self-government, institutions and civil society organisations. The established cooperation was enhanced by other activities happening in the municipality around the topic of gender equality: in high schools for instance, teachers worked with students on the topic of feminism and presented their research at a public event organised in the framework of their studies. The town theatre also participated by hosting several performances and workshops on the topics of feminism and countering gender stereotypes.
To further involve citizens and hear the voices of women, the working group agreed to proceed with citizen’s surveys in order to select some strategic objectives for the action plan. Priority goals were thus selected as follows:
- Improving safety of citizens
- Improving the situation of women in rural areas
- Improving public services
- Increasing opportunities for women and girls to engage in sports
- Improving the capacity of local self-government to effectively use gender-mainstreaming when implementing policies and programs
(Simultaneously to the action plan, the municipality developed a plan for gender-responsive budgeting, which is a new obligation in the Serbian system. Working together with an expert consultant, participants in this work showed great interest and enthusiasm at the idea of learning something new, despite the difficulties.)
Once the working version of the action plan was finalised and shared with the citizens, the city council initiated hearing procedures: a public debate was held from July to September 2018 to hear the voices of all interested citizens. Seeing the success of the document among the community, the Municipal Assembly of Bečej adopted the action plan at its session held on 14 December 2018.
Bečej’s approach is like no other in Serbia: in fact, a special effort was made to make women of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities the direct beneficiaries of the activities. Furthermore, the meetings were open to and attended by secretaries of local communities, as well as representatives of rural women associations: thus, special interest and attention were given to the topic of care for the elderly in the countryside as well as the organisation of cultural programmes in rural areas. One of the biggest successes of this work was therefore probably its inclusivity from the earliest stage: everyone was welcome to participate, and out of it came a greater sense of community around a common goal to be achieved and everyone’s responsibility in its implementation.