Feminist mobilisation and changing landscape of women NGOs in

Feminist Mobilisation and
Changing Landscape of
Women's NGOs in the
Czech Republic
Hana Hašková
Institute of Sociology
Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic
Czech Women’s Groups and
NGOs - pre-89
Period between WWI and WWII
► developed civil society
► number of women's associations promoting civil and
political rights of women
► feminists influencing legislation
Post-WWII – official sphere
► state limited free associations among citizens
► civil associations were supplanted by state-sponsored,
state-controlled and mass organizations
► women’s groups unified and replaced by the
Czechoslovak Women’s Union
Czech unofficial/underground
civic sphere - pre-89
► equality between men and women rarely
► gender stereotypes reproduced
► fewer women than men who were active in
pre-1989 democratization movements achieved
key positions in new political institutions post1989
► women's rights not considered as a political
Diversity of Czech Women’s
Groups and NGOs - post-89
► Founding of women's groups
- interest, self-help, social problem-oriented groups
- professional organizations
- subdivisions of international organizations
- women's groups connected to political parties, churches, social
movements, academia
► Issues on which women have been active
- women in the labor market and public sphere
- violence against women and trafficking
- reproductive rights and social services in health and child care
- minority issues (e.g. Roma women, lesbians)
- environmental issues (eco-feminists)
- increasing public gender sensitivity, awareness & education
Czech Women’s Groups and
NGOs - Transformation Period
► 70 registered women's NGOs
► newly created women's NGOs disavow from former Czech
Women's Union and wary of western feminists
► small in size, based on voluntary work
► lack of recognition, experience, skills and joint public
► lack of interaction with state bodies, women politicians,
media and other social actors
► gender conservative media and political rhetoric; gender
insensitive population
► individual funding arrangements
► importance of informal networks, foreign support and
foreign funding
Women’s NGOs –
EU Accession Period
(since 1998)
► 60 active registered women's NGOs (1/3 of them since
beginning of 90s)
► gender studies at universities
► gender equality focused projects outside group of
women's NGOs
► slightly growing gender sensitivity in population and
► central left-wing government
► more skills, experience and recognition
► starting strategic coalitions and activities
Professionalisation of Women's
NGOs - EU Accession Period
► newly created gov’t gender equality bodies
as new partners
► EU equality directives used in lobbying:
“People accept it much more easily when it is written there that it is
simply within the framework of the European Union and that, simply,
it’s just like that and that it really wasn’t something only we thought
up.” (Czech women's NGO)
► importance of governmental and party
► hierarchical relations between gov´t and
non-gov´t sectors
Project-orientation of women's
NGOs – EU Accession Period
(Part 1)
► foreign funding bodies leaving region vs. new
funding opportunities
► dependence on grant projects
► no all-inclusive long-term and flexible grants: “It
changed when we lost the continuous funding from…. Then we had
to immediately begin to search and search for grants, which is an
extremely difficult activity. This is because when you have a clear
vision and structure of what you want to do and you want to carry
out a specific activity, then it is almost impossible to survive because
grants are always configured a bit differently. The grant has its own
character; there is always a definition that you have to fit into. This
means that you are then required at that moment, even if you have
a clear vision of a certain project, to make the project fit the needs
of the funding institution”. (Czech women's NGO)
Project-orientation of women´s
NGOs – EU Accession Period
(Part 2)
► EU grants require extensive partnerships &
established org. structure: "Our application was
accepted but it was written there that we have to widen our
group of partners…with 30 partners we started the project.… I
said that nobody will make me create such a huge partnership
again … some organization were perfect… but other
organizations were only dead-heads… It happened about twice
or rather three times that we had to change our partners…”
(Czech women's NGO)
Changing Focuses, Radicals and
Mainstream Liberals – EU
Accession Period
► shifts in focuses and strategies of women's NGOs: “I’d say that
at the present time it’s (focus of the NGO) evolved in a somewhat different
direction than where it was going originally. The initial area was ...
reproductive health and caring for children…the focus and everything
changed…This was relatively difficult and painful … we began a process of
strategic planning … So now … for the purpose of some grant applications
we just re-formulated it differently … we’re going to focus on equal
opportunities in connection with the family and the labor market…and the
equality of men and women in the family …”. (Czech women's NGO)
► fear of silencing of issues outside the mainstream (e.g.
ecofeminists; „natural childbirth“ activists; activists dealing with the
issue of domestic violence from the perspective of hierarchical and
gendered distribution of power, etc.)
► raise of informal, creative and campaign rather than project
oriented groups that use resources of sympathetic women's or
other NGOs
Public, politicians and other social actors
► gender equality as marginal political issue
► feminism seen as negative concept
► lack of support for women's groups
Women's NGOs and women´s informal groups
► NGOs: professionalisation, project-orientation,
“strategic” partnerships – (positive + negative
► informal, time to time existing, low cost, rather
campaign oriented groups
► mutual support between NGOs a informal groups