Gender Equality Plans in the Western Balkans

Over its lifetime, the WBC-RRI.NET project has been mapping Gender Equality Plans in the Western Balkans region.

During an event in 2021, WBC-RRI.NET project partners presented an analysis in relation to the need for research organisations to prepare Gender Equality Plans. The analysis that was carried out at that time shows that the region does quite well on some of the gender dimensions in R&I.

In the meantime, the project has been working on an overview of GEPs produced so far by organisations in the region. Get a closer look on economy-specific Gender Equality Plans by browsing the following list:


Bosnia and Herzegovina



North Macedonia


The analysis showed an evident upward trajectory in the number of GEPs being formulated, a trend largely attributed to the growing adherence to Horizon participation requirements. This surge underscores a positive stride toward fostering gender equality within the region, indicative of a concerted effort to align with international standards and initiatives.

Delving deeper into a sample of 30 Gender Equality Plans (GEPs) originating from the Western Balkans region aimed to gain insights into the progress and patterns emerging within this crucial domain. The analysis focused on these GEPs, drawing from a diverse pool of organisations across the Western Balkans (Albania contributed 3 plans, Bosnia and Herzegovina 10, Montenegro 2, North Macedonia 4, and Serbia 11 to this preliminary analysis). This distribution offers a comprehensive snapshot of the regional landscape, shedding light on both the commonalities and unique approaches adopted by different nations in addressing gender disparities.

Regarding language accessibility, an interesting aspect emerged with the majority of the sampled GEPs available in both English and the respective local language. This bilingual availability serves to enhance dissemination and comprehension among diverse stakeholders, thereby amplifying the potential impact of these initiatives. Moreover, the inclusion of GEPs in local languages reflects a concerted effort to ensure inclusivity and accessibility.

Scrutinizing the content and structure of the sampled GEPs revealed a notable variance in length, with most plans spanning between 6 to 11 pages. However, several outliers extended beyond the conventional scope, comprising more extensive documents exceeding 20 pages. This diversity in length underscores the multifaceted nature of gender equality initiatives, with some necessitating a more nuanced and expansive treatment to encapsulate the breadth of strategies and interventions outlined within them.

In assessing the sampled Gender Equality Plans (GEPs) from the Western Balkans, a notable divergence in the level of ambition and resource allocation across different documents was observed. While some plans exhibited comprehensive strategies with quantified indicators and clear targets, others appeared less ambitious, lacking detailed resource allocation and specificity in their objectives. This variance underscores the need for greater consistency and rigor in the formulation of GEPs to ensure effectiveness and accountability in achieving gender equality objectives.

A key aspect of good practice identified pertains to the clarity and distinction between the GEP itself as a plan and the accompanying analysis describing fieldwork such as interviews and surveys. In fact, it was unclear in some instances which analysis served as the basis for the GEP, highlighting the importance of transparent methodology and documentation to enhance credibility and understanding.

While some GEPs included quantified indicators and measures, the establishment of clear links between objectives, expected results, and indicators was sometimes lacking. Targets, when specified, sometimes exhibited vagueness, such as the goal of “at least 50% improvements of gender equality in teaching & science by 2024” without any baseline, necessitating greater precision and specificity to facilitate effective monitoring and evaluation of progress.

Additionally, the analysis revealed gaps in the coverage of certain thematic areas across the sampled GEPs. Few plans mentioned initiatives addressing the fight against homo-bi-transphobia, signaling a potential area for increased attention.

Moreover, aspects related to the organisational context were inconsistently addressed, with more than five GEPs neglecting to describe the statutes governing their institutions. While the majority provided at least basic institutional framework information, such as mission, vision, and context, ensuring comprehensive coverage of organisational context is essential for contextualising gender equality efforts within broader institutional structures.

In terms of implementation mechanisms, several best practices emerged, including the establishment of dedicated gender equality focal points, advisory boards, and councils, along with regular monitoring mechanisms such as yearly reviews of quantitative targets and gender pay gaps.

Efforts to enhance work-life balance and foster a supportive organizational culture were evident, with initiatives aimed at improving flexibility, caregiving support, and transparency in workload distribution. The analysis highlighted various initiatives aimed at enhancing gender balance in leadership and decision-making roles within the sampled Gender Equality Plans (GEPs). Efforts included mapping and promoting the representation of less-represented genders, with a focus on improving statistics to better reflect gender diversity. Additionally, strategies were outlined to promote equal representation in decision-making bodies, often with targeted ratios of 50% to ensure parity. Policies addressing recruitment practices and promotion procedures were emphasized, alongside workshops and training sessions tailored to leadership development and mentoring. Awareness-raising activities were also prevalent, tackling stereotypes and prejudices through the promotion of gender-sensitive language and visibility initiatives for women.

In the realm of budgeting, the analysis identified a growing emphasis within the sampled GEPs as measures were outlined to ensure that budget allocations and resource distribution considerations accounted for gender-specific needs and priorities. This included the incorporation of gender-relevant data collection practices to inform budgetary decisions, with a particular focus on supporting underrepresented genders, such as women in STEM fields and men in SSH (Social Sciences and Humanities). Additionally, recruitment and career progression policies were adapted to accommodate parenthood considerations, with standardised CVs and blind assessments implemented to mitigate bias. Mentoring programs and skills enhancement training were also highlighted to support career advancement and address gender disparities in academic and professional settings. Special events and collaborations, such as for example the celebration of International Day of Women and Girls in Science and partnerships with organisations such as the Association of European Women in Mathematics could be mentioned as good practices from the analysed GEPs.

The sampled GEPs also demonstrated a commitment to addressing gender-based violence (GBV) and sexual harassment – according to the guidelines provided by the European Commission to meet the Horizon Europe requirements – through a multifaceted approach. For example, guidelines, policies, and reporting channels were established to provide clear frameworks for addressing incidents of GBV and harassment. Awareness-raising efforts, including educational programs and surveys to evaluate stereotypes, were planned to foster a culture of prevention and support. Provision of psychological support for victims of GBV and harassment was prioritized, with dedicated resources allocated to offer assistance and counseling. Moreover, stringent measures were outlined to define consequences for perpetrators and prohibit the dissemination of harmful content, reinforcing a zero-tolerance stance against all forms of violence and discrimination. Appointing certified commissioners tasked with combating violence and discrimination further underscored the institutional commitment to fostering safe and inclusive environments for all individuals.

Overall, while progress is evident in the formulation of Gender Equality Plans within the Western Balkans region, the analysis underscores the importance of addressing gaps in ambition, specificity, and implementation mechanisms to realize tangible advancements in gender equality outcomes. Through greater consistency, transparency, and targeted interventions, stakeholders can work towards fostering more inclusive and equitable societies.

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