The first governmental commitment to gender mainstreaming in Poland was made in the National Action Plan for Women (NAP) 1997 – 2000. Due to a political shift in the 1997 election, the NAP was not implemented. The second National Action Plan for Women (2003–2005) was successfully launched with the aim to mainstream gender equality into government policies at all levels, thanks to the efforts of the Governmental Plenipotentiary for the Equal Status of Men and Women, established in 2001. However, the gender mainstreaming process was somewhat interrupted in 2005, when the Plenipotentiary was dissolved after parliamentary elections, and no new national programme was put into effect in that respect. Several subsequent Offices responsible for preventing discrimination have followed. After the dissolution of the Plenipotentiary, its competencies were taken over by the Department of Women, Family and Counteracting Discrimination within the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy. The department was responsible for the coordination of implementing the gender mainstreaming perspective, but was dissolved in January 2010. However, in order to implement the task of providing equal opportunities to women and men in the labour market, the Division for Gender Equality in the Labour Market was created in the Department of Economic Analyses and Forecasts. In 2008 a new institution was established – the Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment. Among its tasks, described in the Act implementing certain European Union (EU) provisions on equal treatment (2010), the new plenipotentiary has drawn up a National Action Plan for the years 2013–2016, which includes a firm commitment to gender mainstreaming.
Overall, the EU’s influence on gender mainstreaming in Poland has been relatively significant because of EU funding. For instance, all projects co-financed within the European Social Fund (ESF) framework must have a gender impact assessment. Moreover, gender mainstreaming itself has been the focus of a number of projects funded by the ESF.
The Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment was established in 2008 and is a non-ministerial equal treatment agency, integrated within the structures of the Chancellery of the Prime Minister but headed by a Secretary of state. It aims to promote the equal treatment of all persons without discrimination based on gender or other grounds. It filled the institutional vacuum left after the dissolution, in 2005, of the Governmental Plenipotentiary for the Equal Status of Men and Women. Some ministries have units dedicated specifically to gender-equality issues (i.e. Ministry of Labor and Social Policy). Additionally, each Ministry has designated a Ministerial plenipotentiary responsible for coordinating gender equality related issues within its structures. A national advisory body on equal treatment has been established as foreseen in the National Programme for Equal Treatment for the years 2013–2016. The advisory body consists of high level representatives of all Ministries. The first meeting of the Advisory body is scheduled for September 2015.
One of the actions set forth by the National Action Plan for Equal Treatment for 2013-2016 is the development and implementation of the regional network of plenipotentiaries of equal treatment. The Plenipotentiaries coordinate the implementation of the equal treatment principles (including gender mainstreaming issues) at the level of voivodeships.
Laws and policies
There is no national law specifically dedicated to gender equality in Poland. The law addressing the issue is the Equal Treatment Act of 2010, which merely includes gender among the forms of discrimination, or the act implementing certain EU provisions on equal treatment. The law specifies areas and methods for counteracting discrimination, names the grounds on which unequal treatment is unlawful – among them gender – and also defines the responsibilities and competences of the Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Treatment, including the obligation to develop and implement the National Action Plan for Equal Treatment 2013–2016. This Action Plan anticipates activities in all areas, including (but not limited to) the further general implementation of anti-discrimination policies. It also established a national advisory body on equal treatment, which has gender equality and women’s rights within its scope. One of the actions set forth by the National Action Plan for Equal Treatment for 2013-2016 was the development and implementation of the regional network of plenipotentiaries of equal treatment, which should coordinate the implementation of the equal treatment principles (including gender mainstreaming issues) at the level of voivodeships.
Methods and tools
The EU is the driver of gender mainstreaming in Poland. Certain gender-mainstreaming methods are applied almost exclusively within programmes implemented with the support of EU funding.