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The implementation of gender mainstreaming in Finland can be considered to date back to 1980–1985, when the Finnish government’s first Action Plan for Gender Equality stated that promoting gender equality was a task for every administrative unit. Efforts to institutionalise gender mainstreaming as a concept and practice began in the late 1990s, after Finland committed to implementing the Beijing Platform for Action, including the principle of gender mainstreaming.

In 1995, obligatory gender mainstreaming was included in the Act on Equality, requiring that authorities promote equality between women and men in a systematic manner and change circumstances that prevent de facto equality between women and men.

The second Government Action Plan for Gender Equality, which was designed to implement the Beijing Platform for Action, took a proactive approach to gender mainstreaming. Concrete measures mentioned included training for high-level management, production of gender-disaggregated statistics, and the promotion of women’s studies. The most important of the measures was a three-year project to develop mainstreaming methods and practices, as a result of which new gender equality networks were established in the ministries, a pilot gender impact assessment of a legal initiative was carried out, and a glossary of gender-equality concepts was compiled.

Five ministries contributed to the development and promotion of gender mainstreaming through their own pilot projects. After the first pilot projects, gender-mainstreaming methods, practices and tools have been developed mainly in the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, which coordinated gender-mainstreaming projects throughout the 2000s.

The European Union (EU) has contributed to the development of gender mainstreaming in Finland, in particular through project funding, which has allowed the central gender-equality agency and ministries to produce materials, design and provide trainings, and establish structures, etc. The EU has also been influential in the integration of gender mainstreaming into particular policy areas, such as regional development, rural development and the activities of the European Social Fund. The requirements for gender mainstreaming in programming documents have encouraged the Finnish authorities to include gender considerations in national strategies and programming documents, as well as in their implementation.