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Opening of EIGE: The EU's best kept secret for women

Opening of EIGE


Radio journalists Giedre Ciuzaite and Egle Merkyte © Ieva Grineviciute
Virginija Langbakk also had to overcome prejudices and hesitations of her hosts.

While from the EU's point of view the establishment of EIGE in Vilnius was a bonus one of the newer Member States should receive - more European and international recognition, EU funded jobs and infrastructure and something EU citizens could relate Lithuania to - the people and political class in the Baltic State still have their reservations.

"I think that most people still don't know what EIGE will actually be doing and they question the importance of such an institution because of a general skepticism towards EU bureaucracy and 'talking heads’”, Giedre Ciužaite explains. The Lithuanian journalist works as political reporter at the national radio station where she hosts a weekly program on women's issues.

Another challenge would be to convince Lithuanians of the need for an institution on gender equality. While this is not recognized as one of the priorities the EU should focus on across Europe, it is particularly tricky in a country like Lithuania which ranks among the top in terms of women in the workforce, in decision-making positions and promotion of equal pay among the sexes.

Even more so when it comes to politics: The country has been governed by a female president since 2009 who is widely recognized and one of the most popular heads of state. In a recent survey conducted by the biggest daily, Lietuvos Rytas, 82.5% expressed their support and recognition for President Dalia Grybauskaité. The President ranks second of the most trusted institutions coming even before the Church.

And the second most appreciated politician is the Speaker of Parliament, Irena Degutiene. Where gender equality is so ingrained, no wonder Lithuanians are questioning EIGE.

"Most of them will simply be happy abo
President Grybauskaité is Lithuania's most popular head of state ever.
ut the opportunity to have more foreigners and more international events in Vilnius. The majority of people, especially the male population will probably say 'ok, one more feministic game that gets EU support", Giedre says.

Only time will show if EIGE will succeed to spur the discussion, even in a country like Lithuania.

It may be one of the reasons why this task was given to Virginija. Coming from Sweden, she might know what it takes to re-engage the already converted as Sweden ranks number one in gender equality within the EU.

"It is very important that EIGE was set up as an independent agency, financially and administratively. It will be very interesting to see how much future EU Presidencies will take us into account - or how much we have to inspire them", Langbakk says and gives her deep, comfortable laugh.

"I am determined to focus on raising the public acceptance and knowledge about these issues. They are still prevalent, even today and even in countries like Sweden." 

For now EIGE is in a safe pair of hands. Langbakk has 5 years and a budget of 52.5 million Euros until 2013 to prove that EIGE will find its place.

EIGE is still looking for a logo - do you have ideas? You can view the competition here.


Shila Meyer Behjat
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