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In the city of Kragujevac a union of trade unions, Savez Samostalnih Sindikata Kragujevac (SSSK) operates a project called "Mi smo jednaki" – "We are equal" with the goal to strengthen women's rights and status in the working life and in the unions.

Kragujevac has a long history of being an industrial city full of workers. The first factory, that manufactured weapons, was established in 1853 and with it industrialization and a new economic era began. In 2010 the Swedish organization IF Metall Gothenburg initiated the project “We are equal” in order to increase gender equality. IF Metall transferred their knowledge of gender equality and equal working conditions to the Serbian labor movement. Serbia today is characterized by high unemployment rates, especially for women, and not much is done from the local politicians to promote vocational education and gender equality in the labor market. The project contributes, through Swedish solidarity and IF Metall:s support, to increase gender equality and women’s education in the area.

“We are equal” also strives to change attitudes towards women, allowing them to take more room in society. Slavica Stepović, financially responsible for the project and the vice president of SSSK thinks the project is very important.

– We are working to develop knowledge in the trade unions, mobilizing women and helping them to demand their rights. We organize trainings for women on computers and in English, giving women more power and increasing their working skills. Also, women should know that they are not alone in their struggle, says Slavica Stepović.

When I ask if the project creates female role models, I get a strong yes for answer.

– We have received exposure in the community by regional television for example. The people know our women. The project has been running since 2010 and it has affected trade unions a lot in that time. It has become easier to accept women in positions of power for example. We are also working to include men in our programs in order to change their attitudes. I think we need to include men in the project to be able to facilitate a change. The first step however are women’s families. They must accept that she is not going to be a housewife, says Slavica Stepović.

The project has produced results. More women are working in the unions, women’s sections in workplaces and unions have been founded and SSSK has changed its bylaws in order for the chairperson of the female sections to have a permanent seat on the board.

Text: Petter Holmgren

Published: 2015-03-03

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