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” Institutions and Organisations Promoting Equal Opportunities in Belgium and Flanders”. RoSa Documentation Centre and Archives On Feminism, Equal Opportunities and Women’s Studies. Table of contents. Unit 1: ”Structures of the Belgian Equal Opportunities policy: Introduction”

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Institutions and organisations promoting equal opportunities in belgium and flanders

”Institutions and Organisations Promoting Equal Opportunities in Belgium and Flanders”

RoSa Documentation Centre and Archives

On Feminism, Equal Opportunities and Women’s Studies


Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Unit 1:”Structures of the Belgian Equal Opportunities policy: Introduction”

    • Double structure: Federal – Regional

    • 1974 – 1985 – 1991 – 1995

    • The United Nations Women’s Conferences

    • The United Nations Women’s Conference in Beijing

  • Unit 2:”Schematic overview of the structure of the Equal Opportunities policy”

  • Political structure

  • Administrative structure

  • Advisory structure

  • Unit 3: Belgian and Flemish Equal Opportunity Institutions: a word of explanation

  • Political institutions explained

  • Belgium is a federal state

  • Federal Level

  • Executive Power

  • Legislative Power

  • Flemish Level

  • Executive Power

  • Legislative Power

  • Administrative bodies explaind

  • Federal Level

  • Flemish Level

  • Advisory bodies explained

  • Federal Level

  • Unit 4:The French Community

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Unit 1 structures of the belgian equal opportunities policy introduction

Unit 1:”Structures of the Belgian Equal Opportunities policy: Introduction”

Double structure: Federal - Regional

Due to the specific constitutional structure, equal opportunities policy in Belgium is

executed both at the national or federal level and at the regional level:

Federal:Belgium

Regional: Flemish Community

French Community

We shall have a closer look at the federal and the Flemish structure

The Equal Opportunities policy in Belgium has a double aim:

  • Horizontally

    • all sectors are stimulated to incorporate the equal opportunities policy mainstreaming)

  • Vertically

    • specific measures aim at advancing equal opportunities for women and men

      That double aim is particularly visible in the Flemish structure.

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Unit 1 structures of the belgian equal opportunities policy introduction1

Unit 1:”Structures of the Belgian Equal Opportunities policy: Introduction”

Equal Opportunities is a relatively young matter of policy in Belgium. Only in 1974

women’s wishes were acknowledged for the first time with the creation of the federal

Commission for Women’s Labour. No doubt this was done in view of the

International Women’s Year of 1975.

Other landmarks are: 1985 - 1991 - 1995

The next slides provide with more detailed information on those dates.

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Unit 1 structures of the belgian equal opportunities policy introduction2

Unit 1:”Structures of the Belgian Equal Opportunities policy: Introduction”

  • Commission for Women’s Labour:

  • During the preparations for the United Nations’ International Women’s Year (1975), the Belgian Commission for Women’s Labour was established.

  • It was an advisory body within the Ministry of Labour and Employment

  • It proposed measures concerning women’s labour, such as

    • a bill regarding equal pay for male and female workers

    • adoption leave

    • short leave for illness of a child or other family problems

    • maternity protection, parental leave etc.

      It was abolished in 1985

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Unit 1 structures of the belgian equal opportunities policy introduction3

Unit 1:”Structures of the Belgian Equal Opportunities policy: Introduction”

  • The first Belgian Secretary of State for Social Emancipation

  • As a result of the United Nations Women’s Conference, held in Nairobi the same year, the Belgian government installed a federal Secretary of State for Social Emancipation.

  • This implies that Equal Opportunities was for the first time recognized as an official matter of policy.

  • In 1986, a new Commission for Women’s Labour was created within the Secretariat of State.

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Unit 1 structures of the belgian equal opportunities policy introduction4

Unit 1:”Structures of the Belgian Equal Opportunities policy: Introduction”

  • Equal Opportunities becomes the competence of a federal Minister

  • Still at the federal level, equal opportunities is no longer managed by a Secretary of State: it now becomes the competence of a federal Minister. This means an upgrading for equal opportunities as a matter of policy.

  • Exactly which federal Minister gets Equal Opportunities is not fixed: it may vary according to the distribution of portfolios after every election:

    • 1991: Minister for Employment and Labour

    • 2002: Minister of Civil Service, Social Integration & Metropolitan Policy

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Unit 1 structures of the belgian equal opportunities policy introduction5

Unit 1:”Structures of the Belgian Equal Opportunities policy: Introduction”

  • The first Flemish Minister for Equal Opportunities is appointed

  • During the preparations of the United Nations Women’s Conference in Beijing (1995), a Flemish Minister of Equal Opportunities is appointed;

  • The “Beijing Conference” issued an important Platform of Action, calling upon Governments, the international community and civil society to take action in twelve critical areas of concern (see below)

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Unit 1 structures of the belgian equal opportunities policy introduction6

Unit 1:”Structures of the Belgian Equal Opportunities policy: Introduction”

The United Nations Women’s Conferences

  • In 1975 the UN drew global attention to women's concerns by calling for an International Women's year and convening the first conference on women in Mexico City.

  • Another convention was held in Copenhagen, Denmark in 1980.

  • In 1985, the UN convened a third conference on women in Nairobi, Kenya, to look at what had been achieved at the end of the decade. It was not a lot, but an important document was published: ‘Forward-looking strategies for the Advancement of Women.’

  • In 1995, Beijing hosted the Fourth World Conference on Women. Representatives agreed that inequalities between women and men have serious consequences for the well-being of all people. The final document, called the "Platform for Action" said:

    "The advancement of women and the achievement of equality between women and men are a matter ofhuman rights and a condition for social justice and should not be seen in isolation as a women's issue."

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Unit 1 structures of the belgian equal opportunities policy introduction7

Unit 1:”Structures of the Belgian Equal Opportunities policy: Introduction”

The Platform of Action, issued at the Beijing Women’s conference, indicates 12 critical areas of concern:

  • Poverty :

    • the persistent and increasing burden of poverty on women

  • Education and training:

    • Inequalities and inadequacies in and unequal access to education and training

  • Health care:

    • Inequalities and inadequacies in and unequal access to health care and related services

  • Violence:

    • Violence against women

  • Armed conflicts:

    • The effects of armed or other kinds of conflict on women, including those living under foreign occupation

  • Economic activity:

    • Inequality in economic structures and policies, in all forms of productive activities and in access to resources

  • Political power:

    • Inequality between men and women in the sharing of power and decision-making at all levels

  • Advancement of women:

    • Insufficient mechanisms at all levels to promote the advancement of women

  • Human rights:

    • Lack of respect for and inadequate promotion and protection of the human rights of women

  • Communication and media:

    • Stereotyping of women and inequality in women's access to and participation in all communication systems, especially in the media

  • Environment:

    • Gender inequalities in the management of natural resources and in the safeguarding of the environment

  • Rights of girl child:

    • Persistent discrimination against and violation of the rights of the girl child

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Unit 2 schematic overview of the structure of the equal opportunities policy

Unit 2: ” Schematic overview of the structure of the Equal Opportunities policy ”

Political structure

FederalExecutivePowerMinister of Civil Service, Social Integration& Metropolitan Policy.LegislativePowerAdvisory Committee for Equal Opportunities for Women & Men of the Belgian Senate.

Advisory Committee for the Social Emancipation of the Belgian Chamber of Deputies.

FlemishExecutivePowerMinister of Welfare, Health& Equal Opportunities. After the elections in June 2004 the equal Opportunities in Flanders will be positioned within the services of the Minister President.

LegislativePowerWorking group Welfare,Health & Equal Opportunities of theFlemish Parliament.

Administrative structure

Federal Administrative BodiesInstitute for the Equality of Women and Men.

FlemishAdministrative BodiesService Equal Opportunities in Flanders.

Interdepartmental Commission for Equal Opportunities.

Service for Emancipation Matters.

Advisory structure

FederalAdvisoryBodiesInstitute for the Equality of Women and Men

Council of Equal Opportunities for Men & Women

FlemishAdvisoryBodiesThe Women’s Consultative Committee (VOV) embedded in Flanders’ Social Economical Council (SERV) has been abolished recently

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Unit 3 belgian and flemish equal opportunity institutions a word of explanation

Unit 3:” Belgian and Flemish Equal Opportunity Institutions: a word of explanation”

Political institutions explained

Belgium is a federal state

When Belgium was created in 1830, it was parliamentary monarchy with a

written constitution. But it also was a unitary state. The constitutional revisions

of 1970, 1980, 1988, 1993 and 2002 gave Belgium a federal structure. Each

community and each district have their own directly elected assembly and their

own government within the Belgian state. They all make their own laws

(decrees) in a number of specific areas. Their large autonomy may cause

conflicts of competence. Therefore the Court of Arbitration watches over the

observance of competences. The Belgian federal construction is unique in the

world in this way that there is no hierarchy in the competences.

The 3 communities are:The Flemish community

The French community

The German speaking community

The 3 regions are:The Flemish region

The French region

The Brussels metropolitan district

The geographic territories of a “district” and a “community” overlap pretty much.

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Unit 3 belgian and flemish equal opportunity institutions a word of explanation1

Unit 3:” Belgian and Flemish Equal Opportunity Institutions: a word of explanation”

Political institutions explained

The 3communities and the regions are competent for:

Education Agriculture and Horticulture

Culture Transport and Public Works

Health Care Environment

Economy Employment

Public Welfare Water Policy

Scientific Research Language Legislation

Financial Policy Development and Co-operation

Energy Municipalities and Provinces

Housing International Co-operation

The residual competences belong to the federal government

  • All competences which have not explicitly been assigned to the communities or the regions

  • Later they may be transferred to the communities or the regions

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Unit 3 belgian and flemish equal opportunity institutions a word of explanation2

Unit 3:” Belgian and Flemish Equal Opportunity Institutions: a word of explanation”

Political institutions explained:Federal Level

Executive Power

  • The federal Minister responsible for Equal Opportunities varies according to assignment of competences after the federal elections. This is new since 2002, before that date it was always linked to the minister of labour. Since 2002 it is the competence of the Minister of Civil Service, Social Integration & Metropolitan Policy;

  • Unlike the Flemish Minister, whose responsibilities also imply migrants, gays and lesbians, handicapped persons, children and elderly people, the competence of the federal Minister for Equal Opportunities is limited to equality between women and men;

  • Task:

    • to promote initiatives for guaranteeing equal opportunities between women and men;

    • to coordinate policies for a better integration of women in all areas in which the federal government is competent.

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Unit 3 belgian and flemish equal opportunity institutions a word of explanation3

Unit 3:” Belgian and Flemish Equal Opportunity Institutions: a word of explanation”

Political institutions explained:Federal Level

Legislative Power

  • The Advisory Committee for the social emancipation of the Belgian Chamber of Deputies:

    • consists of 19 members of Parliament representing most political parties;

    • gives advice at the Chamber’s request, at the request of one of the Chamber committees or of its own accord;

    • aim: to promote social emancipation of the Belgian citizens. It is not limited to equality between women and men.

      Read more about the Advisory Committee in Dutch or French

  • The Advisory Committee for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men of the Belgian Senate:

    • Consists of 15 senators representing most political parties

    • gives advice on equal opportunities at the Chairperson of the Senate’s request, at a standing senate committee’s request or of its own accord;

    • some topics: partner-related violence in Belgium, gender dimension in statistics, situation of women in Afghanistan and Tibet, follow-up of the Women’s World Conference in Beijing for the federal competences, equal presence of women and men in advisory bodies,..

      Read more on: http://www.senate.be

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Unit 3:” Belgian and Flemish Equal Opportunity Institutions: a word of explanation”

Political institutions explained:Flemish Level

Executive Power

  • The executive power is held by the Flemish Minister of Welfare, Health and Equal Opportunities;

  • Equal opportunities in Flanders is a much larger field than equal opportunities on the federal level that implies equality between women and men only. The areas of competence in Flanders are equal opportunities for:

    • women and men

    • handicapped people

    • migrants

    • gays and lesbians

    • children and the elderly

  • The Flemish Minister disposes of her own Service “Equal Opportunities in Flanders” which is embedded in the Coordination Department of the Ministry of Flanders and comes under the hierarchic authority of the Flemish Community. See section “Administrative bodies explained”

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Unit 3 belgian and flemish equal opportunity institutions a word of explanation5

Unit 3:” Belgian and Flemish Equal Opportunity Institutions: a word of explanation”

Political institutions explained:Flemish Level

Legislative Power

  • The Committee for Welfare, Health and Equal Opportunities of the Flemish Parliament:

    • goes into welfare policy, health care policy and equal opportunities policy in Flanders:

      • welfare policy: family and child care, care for elderly, youth and handicapped people, ethnic minorities, poor and homeless people, ..

      • health policy: mental health care, nursing homes, prevention of illness,..

      • equal opportunities policy: for men and women, for minority groups such as gays and lesbians, handicapped people and migrants, children and elderly

        Read more (in Dutch) on the Committee‘swebsite

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Unit 3:” Belgian and Flemish Equal Opportunity Institutions: a word of explanation”

Administrative bodies explained:Federal Level

The Institute for the Equality of Women and Men

Replaces the former federal equal opportunities service

  • is competent to take a matter to court and has the power to assist in a court of law any victim of discrimination based on sex;

  • has a peculiar legal structure:

    • it is an independent non-profit institution with an independent chairperson and independent financing

    • is legally responsible for the consequences of its decisions

    • yet it may receive orders from the federal minister competent for equal opportunities

  • works for two target groups:

    • the Belgian government

    • the Belgian citizens

  • fights any form of discrimination based on sex

  • controls and detects inequalities in laws and regulations

  • develops strategies for gender mainstreaming in the residual fields of:

    • employment and labour

    • decision making

    • violence

      Read more (in Dutch) on the Institute’s website

      Read more (in French) on the Institute’s website

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Unit 3:” Belgian and Flemish Equal Opportunity Institutions: a word of explanation”

Administrative bodies explained: Flemish Level

The administrative Service “Equal Opportunities in Flanders”

  • The Flemish Minister disposes of her own Service “Equal Opportunities in Flanders” which is embedded in the Ministry of Flanders and comes under the hierarchic authority of the Secretary General of the Flemish Coordination Department, division Interdepartmental Policy Support.

  • The Service “Equal Opportunities in Flanders:

    • Works on policy preparation, execution and evaluation of equal opportunities policy;

    • Works on making visible de facto gender inequalities;

    • Financially supports research projects and projects of women’s organisations and organises a dialogue between these actors;

  • Is active in eleven out of twelve critical areas of concern in the Beijing Platform of Action (all except ‘armed conflict’, which is a federal competency);

  • Develops strategies of gender mainstreaming in all of the Flemish policy fields, with an accent on decision making and reconciliation of work and family

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Unit 3:” Belgian and Flemish Equal Opportunity Institutions: a word of explanation”

Administrative bodies explained: Flemish Level

The Interdepartmental Commission Equal Opportunities

  • performs preparatory work for the equal opportunity policy in Flanders for all departments in the Flemish government;

  • it focuses on equal opportunities for Flemish citizens of the 5 known target groups: men/women – migrants – gays and lesbians – handicapped and elderly people;

  • the Service “Equal Opportunities in Flanders” acts secretary and chairperson to the Interdepartmental Commission Equal Opportunities;

    Read more (exists in Dutch only): www.gelijkekansen.vlaanderen.be

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Unit 3 belgian and flemish equal opportunity institutions a word of explanation9

Unit 3:” Belgian and Flemish Equal Opportunity Institutions: a word of explanation”

Administrative bodies explained:Flemish Level

The Service for Emancipation Affairs

  • The Service merely works for the personnel of the Flemish Administration. It’s an internal body for stimulating equal opportunities for Flemish civil servants. It’s a subdivision of the Ministry of General Affairs and Finance, the Flemish Minister of Civil Service is in charge of the Service.

  • Some of its activities:

    • Equal opportunities for men and women in Flemish public institutions;

    • Equal opportunities for migrants and handicapped people in the Flemish Administration;

    • Day care for children of civil servants working in Brussels;

    • Undesirable sexual behaviour at the workplace.

      Read more (in Dutch): Emancipation Matters

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Unit 3:” Belgian and Flemish Equal Opportunity Institutions: a word of explanation”

Advisory bodies explained

Apart from Administrative bodies, there are also advisory bodies, some of them hold both functions.

Federal Level

The Institute for the Equality of Women and Men :

  • The Institute is not only an administrative but also an advisory body to the federal government: it evaluates the impact of policies from a gender perspective and puts forward proposals for the authorities to improve laws;

  • structure and activities have been explained earlier under “Administrative bodies”.

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Unit 3 belgian and flemish equal opportunity institutions a word of explanation11

Unit 3:” Belgian and Flemish Equal Opportunity Institutions: a word of explanation”

Advisory bodies explained

Apart from Administrative bodies, there are also advisory bodies, some of them hold both functions.

Federal Level

The Council of Equal Opportunities for Men and Women:

  • was created in 1993 resulting from a merger between the Commission Women’s Labour and the Equal Rights Council.

  • The allocation of tasks between both the Institute and the Council has been described in the Royal decree of 4th April 2003 regarding the “Reorganisation of the Council of Equal Opportunities for Men and Women”, published in the Belgian Law Gazette of 5th June 2003, page 30761.

  • Informs and advises of its own accord, at the request of the Institute, a federal Minister or a federal member of parliament;

  • Orders research, draws up reports and proposes measures about equal opportunities between men and women;

  • Has a number of standing committees;

  • mirrors social diversity through its composition :

    • women’s organisations, family organisations, social partners;

    • advisory organs for youth and culture policy, political parties;

    • experts

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Unit 4 the french community

Unit 4:” The French Community”

The structure of Equal Opportunities policy in the

French speaking part of Belgium rests on:

  • The Minister President of the French Community charged with Equal Opportunities

    Read more: Hervé Hasquin, Minister President

  • Equal Opportunities Direction of the Ministry of the French Community

    Read more: Equal Opportunities Direction

  • Advisory Committee charged with examining matters related to equal opportunities between men and women

    Parliament of the French Community, Palais de la Nation 6 – 1012 Brussels

  • European Social Fund

    Ministry of the French Community – Cell ESF, Rue Royale 123 – 1000 Brussels

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