The Croatian government's Gender Equality Office and Finland's Institute for Health and Welfare on Tuesday presented a project for support to gender equality, designed to raise awareness and increase the public's trust in the state's ability to protect its citizens from discrimination based on gender, strengthen agencies that are part of institutional mechanisms for gender equality and ensure court efficiency in the area of gender discrimination.

The purpose of the project, to last 15 months, is to introduce the principle of gender equality in policies at all levels, the head of the Gender Equality Office, Helena Stimac Radin, said.

The legislation regulating those issues is rather good, but regulations on gender equality are often breached in practice, most frequently in the employment process.

Stimac Radin recalled that in 2010 only five to six cases of violation of gender equality had been reported to courts, while in 2014 the number of cases was around 40.

Finnish Ambassador Timo Rajakangs welcomed the cooperation between the two countries, which had cooperated already on 19 projects, and the secretary-general of the Finnish Gender Equality Council, Hannele Varsa, said that Croatia and Finland were similar in terms of population size, that they both cited gender equality as their constitutional values but that nonetheless differences still existed between them and that both countries could learn from one another.

Around 78% of women in Finland are employed, whereas in Croatia 52% of women work. In Finland, women's salaries are 17% lower than men's, in Croatia they are 11% lower. In Finland the representation of women in state and public institutions is better, with 42% of parliamentary deputies being women, and services that help women, such as kindergartens and institutions caring for children, are better organised, said Varsa.

Gordana Sobol, chair of the Croatian parliamentary Committee on Gender Equality, warned that the representation of women in the Croatian parliament was decreasing and now stood at a mere 15.6%. Unfortunately, in the past 15 years since the adoption of the Gender Equality Act not much has been achieved, regardless of which political camp was in power, said Sobol.

Attending the project launch were also, among others, the Croatian Parliament Speaker's envoy Margareta Madjeric, Deputy Social Policy and Youth Minister Ante Babic, and US Ambassador Julieta Valls Noyes.

The USA conducts the Equal Opportunity Partnership initiative, which gathers together 28 countries. This year Croatia took over the chairmanship of the initiative.

The  Croatian-Finnish project will be financed with EUR 600,000, with EUR 540,000 coming from EU funds and 30,000 from Croatian sources.

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