“How to get gender-disaggregated data?” – training for municipal coordinators for equal opportunities between men and women

Statistics are a general good that serves everyone and anyone can use the obtained statistical data. On the other hand, the data represent an important basis for modern decision-making and management at all levels, serve to analyze the current situation and enable future micro and macro planning of the country’s development in all areas. In order to protect ourselves from erroneous and manipulative data, to avoid misunderstandings, to be able to make the right decisions, to protect the institution from mistrust and discredit, it is necessary for people who use the statistical data to know how to do it most correctly, respectively to be statistically literate.

In fact, that was the goal of the one-day training – “How to get gender-disaggregated data?”, organized by ZELS on May 26, 2022, at the ZELS Training Center, in cooperation with the State Statistical Office of the Republic of North Macedonia. The training was intended for the needs of the municipal coordinators for equal opportunities in order to upgrade the municipal capacities for proper use of the SSO databases in the field of gender statistics, to provide relevant analysis and research that will contribute to creating adequate decisions, plans and programs for ensuring equality between men and women at the local level.

The application of the statistical methodology is of great importance for the relevance of data

The representatives of the SSO introduced the participants to the activities of their institution and the areas of statistical research (demographic, social, economic and sectoral statistics: agriculture, energy, transport, environment and others), as well as the importance of statistics and statistical data. Special emphasis was put on the manner of conducting statistical research, data collection methods and the great importance of the application of statistical methodology. The methodology is a framework in which all important aspects of the research are defined: the purpose and significance of the research, content, legal basis of the research, units of scope, sample selection, time, manner, data collection technique, data protection, data processing, publishing and more. If an adequate methodology is not applied in the research, the relevance of the obtained data may be put into question.

SSO sent an open invitation to the municipalities for openness to provide consultations in the preparation of municipal research for the collection of relevant data

The representatives of the SSO appealed to all local self-government units that they are open to cooperation if the municipality wants to conduct a research to provide certain data, i.e. they will provide free consultations in terms of setting the questionnaire and determining the research methodology in order to obtain quality and relevant data. They also pointed out that if the municipality hires experts or other consulting institutions for the research, it is obligatory to ask them for a certificate issued by the SSO stating that the research will use an appropriate methodology approved by the Statistical Office. In that way, the municipality will gain solid research, and at the same time, the data can be considered relevant and used by other institutions for further processing.

Necessary cooperation of the institutions in the collection and dissemination of data

It was emphasized that in our country there are many parallel systems of data collection, which is a waste of energy and financial resources and therefore there is a need for more intensive and constructive cooperation between national and local institutions in terms of collection and dissemination of statistical data. On the other hand, cooperation with the SSO is crucial for providing usable data that will benefit all citizens and the state.

The priority of the SSO is to ensure the greatest possible use of statistical data

Regarding the importance of statistical literacy (SL), several definitions were given, including that SL is the ability to understand and critically evaluate the statistical results that affect our daily lives. It was also pointed out that the SL covers the understanding and use of the basic language and tools of statistics: the meaning of basic statistical terms, the understanding of simple statistical symbols, and the ability to interpret differently presented data. In this context, the SSO experts stressed that when searching statistical databases, it is very important for users to pay attention and time and read all the explanations given in the system and to be well acquainted with the meaning of given symbols.

Open statistical databases are provided, functional to use and simple to operate

It was emphasized that one of the priorities set by the SSO is not only the collection of data, but they are more and more aimed at ensuring their more intensive and mass use. In that regard, they pay attention to ensuring the increase of the level of statistical literacy among the users of the databases of the Office, especially the users from the state and public institutions. That is why they pointed out that they have provided functional databases that are open for everyone to access, and that are simple to operate. The user can process the data himself, make calculations that are relevant to his needs, receive information in the form of graphs, excel spreadsheets, aggregate data, can download the data to his computer, and provide their continuous updating. It was pointed out that such opportunities are provided especially by the MakStat database, which is simple to operate for users and has roughly 3,000 tables and 250 columns. It was emphasized that if the user uses the data in research or some records, he need compulsorily to emphasize the source from where they were taken, ie state that these are data taken from the State Statistical Office of RNM. All these explanations were accompanied by the representatives of the SSO continuously by directly presenting examples in the field of gender equality, which introduced the participants to the possibilities of using these statistical databases. The training was well accepted by the attendees, who requested such additional in-depth training, and at the same time suggested that it be presented to their colleagues from the departments for local economic development in the municipalities.

The role of ZELS in advancing gender equality in the municipalities presented to councillors from the Commissions for Equal Opportunities

From May 5-7, 2022, under the organization of the National Democratic Institute – NDI in Skopje, a training was organized for 70 councillors from the Commissions for Equal Opportunities from 20 municipalities on the topic: “Strengthening the Committees on Equal Opportunities – Legal Framework, Rights and Responsibilities of the committees” from the WoMen Lead project “Promoting gender equality through political participation of women,” where ZELS also had its representation.

In her welcoming addresses, the President of ZELS and Mayor of the City of Skopje, Ms Danela Arsovska emphasized that any activity aimed at improving equal opportunities, such as the activity of NDI, should be a positive input in creating equal opportunities for all citizens. “Every service provided by the municipalities should be seen through the prism of whether it is equally accessible and necessary for women and men,” said President Arsovska.

The Association of the units of local self-government is a strong national partner in the field of gender equality and it is very important that all commitments are recognized by international partner organizations and local governments, as well as municipal councils, were part of the messages in the introductory part where, in addition to the President of ZELS, the Ambassador of Sweden, Ms Kristin Forsgren Bengtsson and Mr Robert Scott Heaslet, Senior Resident Director of the National Democratic Institute – NDI also addressed.

On the second day of the training on the topic: National strategic documents and legal framework for local self-government units and the role of ZELS in integrating gender equality in local policies and budget, the coordinator for gender equality in ZELS, Ms Irena Nikolov spoke about the obligations and responsibilities of councillors arising from the Law on Local Self-Government and other special laws that regulate the competencies in the municipalities. Through their examples were included the councillors who talked about their experiences so far in terms of organizing council sessions, the work of the Committee on Equal Opportunities, its importance and obligations in terms of promoting equal opportunities in municipalities. Furthermore, with presentation and examples from the municipalities, other committees working within the council were presented and the possibility of involving external members (experts) from certain areas in the work of these bodies of the municipal council was pointed out.

Furthermore, all the tools and mechanisms that ZELS has created and set up for the needs of the municipalities, in order to promote gender equality, were highlighted. These are the e-platform for gender equality, which is a digital resource centre of municipalities, the strategic documents of ZELS, which confirm the commitment to improve the position of municipalities in the field of gender equality, etc. The importance of the Lobby group for gender equality in the area of lobbying in front of the national and international institutions was also underlined. The ZELS Working Group on Gender Equality and other tools and mechanisms available to the municipalities were also discussed. The need for adoption of the European Charter on Gender Equality as a democratic value by the municipalities, the promoter of which is ZELS, was also emphasized, which will confirm the efforts of local authorities to include a gender perspective in all aspects of the lives of residents and women residents in the municipalities.

The other sessions of the training covered topics related to National strategic documents and legal framework for achieving gender equality at the local level, good governance, reaching consensus, principles of inclusiveness and transparency, anti-corruption and how to fulfil our function? How can we better respond to the needs of citizens?

The training was aimed at building relationships between women members and members within the Committees on Equal Opportunities at the municipal level, but also networking with colleagues from other municipalities.

The councillors from the Municipality of Probistip with great interest and foreknowledge for the advancement of gender equality in the local community

At the invitation of the Municipality of Probishtip, and in the framework of the Program for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men for 2022, representatives of ZELS held training for municipal councillors on the topic “Integrating the gender perspective in local policies.”

The aim of the training was to introduce the representatives of the Council of the Municipality of Probistip to the concept of gender equality and their motivation to act in order to improve the position of women in all spheres of social life.

The training was attended by all members of the Council of the Municipality of Probistip, members of the Equal Opportunities Commission, as well as the coordinator of the municipality. Irena Nikolov, training councillor and gender equality coordinator in ZELS, talked about the basic notions of gender, the existence of gender stereotypes and gender roles, how to overcome gender stereotypes and what the municipality can do in accordance with its competencies and legal framework for advancing gender equality. Blagorodna Shopova, a training councillor in charge of social policy issues, spoke about the existing inequalities between women and men in various spheres, according to available statistical data in the country. Furthermore, through exercises and discussion, the councillors were introduced to the need to monitor the situation with gender equality at the local level, through the use of gender-disaggregated data, in order to reduce the existing gender gaps. The participants acquired skills for determining the situation with gender equality by competencies in the municipality and by working in groups, defined activities and measures for overcoming inequalities between women and men and girls and boys in the municipality.

The need for mutual cooperation between the Council and the Equal Opportunities Commission with the Equal Opportunities Coordinator at the local level was also emphasized in order to act in a coordinated manner towards the development and adoption of gender-sensitive local policies.

The Municipality of Probistip is one of the most active municipalities in the country that continuously works on developing activities and programs through a gender perspective.

By supporting women’s entrepreneurship to better local economic development in the Municipality of Bar

From July 4 to 7, 2021 representatives of the ZELS Lobby group for gender equality composed of women mayors and women chairpersons of municipal councils took part in a regional visit to the Municipality of Bar, Montenegro to exchange good practices. The activity is part of the project “Towards Gender-Responsive Municipalities: Strengthening the Capacities of Municipalities for Integrating the Gender Aspect into Local Policies and Budget” 2019-2021, which ZELS is implementing with the support of the UN Women office in Skopje.

The regional exchange of experiences of good practices was on the topic “Support to Women Entrepreneurship” which the Municipality of Bar in Montenegro has institutionalized through an annual Entrepreneurship Program in the amount of 100,000 euros and a specific Program for Women Entrepreneurship in the amount of 35,000 euros which they implement during the fiscal 2020 and 2021. The Mayor of the Municipality of Bar, Dusan Raicevic, at the reception of our delegation from the Lobby Group said that the gender aspect is very important in creating policies and budget in the municipality, with special emphasis on entrepreneurship development and support of small and medium businesses in the municipality, which was especially important during the COVID-19 crisis. “We are focused on strengthening the connection with local entrepreneurship and we try to follow their needs and desires in accordance with the competence of the Municipality of Bar which is included in the regional program BFC-SEE for certification of the municipality for a favourable business environment. In that direction is this Program for Women Entrepreneurship which was developed at the initiative of the Women’s Political Alliance of Montenegro by my team. The goal is to promote and support women businessmen who are also the biggest beneficiaries of entrepreneurship support programs,” Mayor Raicevic said. According to him, those programs have contributed a lot to the maintenance of small and medium enterprises in the Municipality of Bar during the crisis with COVID-19 and that as measures proved to be very useful for women entrepreneurs, as the most affected by this crisis. The goal of the Municipality of Bar for partnership and creation of new jobs in accordance with the needs of the business community will be their guide in the future, with special emphasis on women entrepreneurship as one of the largest groups of users of these programs.

Tanja Spicanovic, Deputy Mayor of the Municipality of Bar who is in charge of these programs and local economic development, spoke about the way of application and the criteria for selection of businesses supported by the municipality, emphasizing that 66% of the women from the Municipality of Bar are beneficiaries of both programs. “In fiscal 2020 and 2021, through the programs for support of entrepreneurship and women entrepreneurship, we supported about 100 people, 66 of whom are women, and 34 men in the amount of 462,751 euros, of which about 300,000 are aimed at supporting women entrepreneurs. Our goal for establishing trust and partnership between the municipality and the business community is strengthened through these programs,” Spicanovic said. Their goal of supporting SMEs is based on three key elements: financial support, establishing an info point for the business community, and examples of good practice.

According to the agenda, the representatives of the Lobby Group had the opportunity to visit some of the women directly and see their businesses. “Taste and tradition” of Jelena Pejanovic in the tourist place Limljani, Crmnica is developed as rural tourism and production of domestic products and products from their region. Thus, they could taste the juice of special roses that they grow and cultivate in the garden behind the house which has authentic architecture. There are two apartments and a place to eat for guests, all neatly arranged in a traditional style. They also served red wine “Vranec” from their vineyards located in the garden next to the house, then homemade dough and jam made from roses, green tomatoes, rose hips. As Jelena explained, all the products are produced by them in the family, i.e. she is helped by her husband and mother-in-law. She also has two minor children who are introduced to the work and to the welcome of guests who come to their apartments throughout the year. The place Limljani is mountainous and near Skadar Lake, which we toured through a panoramic walk along with the hosts from the Municipality of Bar.

On the second day of the visit, the participants from the Lobby group met Natasha Plamenac who together with her three daughters opened and manages the pastry shop “Tre sorele” in Bar. We tasted sweet and savoury dishes from domestic and foreign cuisine, which were made with Natasha’s hardworking hands and were beautifully arranged. We saw in the pastry shop that there is a synergy between the businesses supported by the Municipality of Bar, where homemade rose, mint and pomegranate juices packed in promotional packages of small bottles were sold.

In order to get acquainted with other businesses supported by the municipality, the hosts invited the delegation from the Lobby Group to take part in the Entrepreneurship Fair organized on July 6, 2021, in the open at the Palace of King Nicholas where entrepreneurs exhibited and presented their products on the stands. During the fair, the members of the ZELS Lobby group, along with the Mayor of the Municipality of Resen, Zivko Gosarevski, who are twinned with the Municipality of Bar, had the opportunity to talk directly with other beneficiaries of the entrepreneurship program, such as entrepreneurs who make homemade soaps from olives and herbs, as well as other cosmetics for relaxation and care, the owner of the canvas painting business, olive wood products and other entrepreneurs who expressed great gratitude to the Municipality of Bar for supporting their ideas.

At the end of the visit, it was concluded to continue the cooperation between the two countries by exchanging documents and materials related to these programs for integration of the gender dimension in local programs, to share their practices from the municipality of Bitola, Makedonska Kamenica, Aerodrom and other participants with the Municipality of Bar, and the cooperation with our municipalities to turn in the future into organizing a joint regional event – Forum of good regional practices to which other countries in the region will be invited on topics of gender equality and gender-responsive budgeting.

Conference organized by ZELS – “Forum of Municipal Practices: Towards Gender-Responsive Municipalities”

“Forum of Municipal Practices: Towards Gender-Responsive Municipalities” was the topic of the conference held on June 25th, 2021, in Skopje, organized by ZELS. This event completed the two-year period of implementation of the activities of the project “Towards Gender-Responsive Municipalities: Strengthening Municipal Capacities for Gender Policies and Gender-Responsive Budget”, implemented by ZELS with the support of UN Women, Skopje, which is funded by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Swedish International Cooperation and Development Agency – SIDA.

Women mayors and mayors, women councillors and councillors from the Lobby Group for Gender Equality at ZELS, as well as coordinators and women coordinators for gender equality from the municipalities, discussed the challenges faced by the local government in building administrative capacity and creating and implementing different gender policies in segments of municipal competencies.

The participants were greeted by the Executive Director of ZELS, Dusica Perisic, who spoke about the key role of the Association in building the capacity of local governments to create and implement gender policies and gender-responsive budgeting. She pointed out that in the past period the activities are generally based on the previously established Strategy for Gender Equality of ZELS (2018 -230) but also on the cooperation with UN Women. The project results, including the latest brochures that represent significant support for advancing communication between employees within the municipality and the municipality’s communication with the external public in the area of gender-sensitive issues, were presented. It was pointed out that the experiences that each municipality gained in this area are a valuable source for further upgrading of knowledge in solving such challenges.

The mayors of Bitola and Makedonska Kamenica, Natasha Petrovska and Sonja Stamenkova, as well as the President of the Council of the Municipality of Kriva Palanka, Izabela Pavlovska, all members of the Lobby group for gender equality at ZELS also addressed the audience. They expressed great gratitude to ZELS and UN Women for the overall support so far and pointed out that it should continue in the next period. The political commitment to this issue has improved, the capacities of the coordinators for equal opportunities have been raised to a high level, the inter-sectoral communication and cooperation in sensitizing the issues of gender equality within the municipalities has improved, and less and less programs are being adopted by councils, in which there is no involvement of the gender aspect. The participants were greeted by the Mayor of Stip, Sasko Nikolov, who emphasized that in his municipality more and more gender statistic data are applied, which are an important base for creating gender policies and support of the citizens in order to achieve gender equality at every level.

The coordinators from the municipalities of Kocani, Delcevo and Karpos, Ljubinka Ajtovska, Daniela Takeva and Violeta Cvetkovska spoke about the importance of advancing the communication of the coordinators for equal opportunities with all sectors in the municipality and with the external public and the media. All pointed out that two-way communication is key to raising awareness of both municipal employees and the general public about the importance of gender issues. Good practices were presented by the coordinators from the municipalities of Centar, Aerodrom and Gorce Petrov, Drita Iseni, Vesna Markovska and Dance Vasilevska. The participants pointed out that raising the level of sensitivity to this issue has initiated a series of activities that ensure gender equality and thus raise the level of respect for universal human rights.

Gender Equality and Gender Responsive Budgeting Platform

ZELS organized a one-day online training for secretaries, employees in the finance sector/department and PR councillors from all municipalities on the topic “Gender Concepts and Gender-Responsive Budgeting”, within the project “Towards Gender-Responsive Municipalities: Strengthening Municipal Capacities for Gender Policy and Gender-Responsive Budget”, with the support of UN Women, Skopje. The training is part of the ZELS Training Plan in order to increase awareness of employees holding horizontal and vertical posts, in accordance with job systematization, on the gender issues and gender-responsive budgeting as a tool that contributes to determining the needs of women and men and allocating funds in accordance with the analyses made for the needs of the citizens.

Memet Memeti, expert and trainer for gender equality presented the legal framework that regulates gender issues and needs at a national and local level, what is the situation in the municipalities and what tools can be used to advance gender equality in municipalities, as well as overcoming the challenges that are most often faced by the coordinators for equal opportunities in the municipalities. Through the gender tree, which is a pictorial illustration of the situation with gender equality in the municipality in terms of locating the main problem, and thus the causes and consequences, he presented the way of working when creating programs and measures in the municipalities. In that regard, he spoke about the need to properly develop the programs and incorporate a gender aspect in them through a previously conducted analysis of the needs of women and men, then by setting indicators for achieving the set results, as well as to properly measure the desired results of the applied measures which are included in the municipal programs and for which funds are allocated in the budget. In an interactive session, the representatives from the municipalities presented examples from the planning of the programs and the need of cooperation with many persons holding horizontal and vertical posts in the municipalities in order to collect the necessary data and thus appropriate planning of activities and measures.

In the second part of the training, the expert Kristina Hadzi-Vasileva referred to the situation with gender equality in the municipalities during the pandemic with COVID-19, which revealed an even greater deepening of the gender gap in society. She presented the general results of the survey conducted by experts and a team of UN Women that are related to the impact of COVID-19 on the way of working and the need for adaptation, then on the measures taken by the municipalities to reduce the impact of the pandemic on citizens, then what the budget is spent on and how gender-responsive it is in relation to the measures taken and other survey results that lead to the conclusion that measures and adaptations are needed in order to properly allocate funds and labour in order to more easily deal with the pandemic. The municipalities shared their practices related to dealing with the pandemic, but also measures and activities they plan for the next period for their citizens from several categories and with different status, but with a special focus on the most vulnerable groups. In the end, through a quiz, the participants learned more about what a gender-responsive budget is, how it is planned, what resources are needed and examples of how this can be done.

The training was attended by roughly 30 representatives from the municipalities, i.e. a secretary, cabinet officials, representatives from finance and public relations departments and coordinators for equal opportunities, hoping that the strengthening of the capacities on this topic will also continue with the physical presence and under the organization of ZELS.

Training for administrators and users of the e-platform www.rob.zels.org.mk

On March 24th, 2021, organized by ZELS, an online training took place through the ZOOM platform intended for municipal IT sector users, set for using the tools of the electronic platform www.rob.zels.org.mk. This activity is part of the project “Towards Gender-Responsive Municipalities: Strengthening Municipal Capacities for Gender Equality Policies and Gender Responsive Budgeting” (2019-2021) and it refers to a presentation of the innovations, meaning new upgraded tools that should contribute to the presentation of gender-disaggregated data from municipalities in one place.

The training was conducted by a representative of the IT company hired to upgrade and improve the functionality of the platform for gender-responsive budgeting, who also created a user manual for all functionalities and users engaged through the platform.

The platform contains several sub-pages such as news, announcements, gallery, map, digital library and statistics, and a visual presentation was delivered for each of the categories showing the manner of accessing the platform and users’ operations. A special focus was put on the statistics part, as a novelty that should help the municipalities to present their gender statistics by category, related to municipal competencies accordingly.

The user manual shall be supplemented in the upcoming period with updated information related to changes that are currently in realization through the e–platform and it will be shared with all municipalities.