Delegates dive into the mainstream


AS Eurojargon goes, the buzzword at yesterday's equal opportunities seminar was not the worst. To mainstream or not to mainstream seemed to be the focus of the debate in Dublin Castle on the EU's fourth Action Programme on Equal Opportunities.

Basically it meant taking equality out of the pink ghetto of "wimmin's issues" and into every decision that affects every citizen in member states.

The EU Commissioner for Employment and Social Affairs, Mr Padraig Flynn, insisted that mainstreaming was a great idea.

Instead of policy documents making a token reference to equality there should be a "commitment to examine any proposed policy for its impact on women, and to treat the equality dimension as an integral part of the policy".

Even the President of the Commission, Mr Jacques Santer, was taking it seriously these days having set up a group of Commissioners, Mr Flynn said, "to discuss equality issues on a regular basis".

The Minister for Equality and Law Reform, Mr Mervyn Taylor, also praised the m-word, calling it a "central element of the Fourth Action Programme".

However, not all the delegates sang from the same hymn sheet. The Austrian Minister for Women's Affairs, Ms Helga Konrad, warned that mainstreaming, by definition, meant "swimming with the tide". Therefore, women gave up the claim to changing the patriarchal structure.

"Mainstreaming is only one section of the road leading to equality," she said. Europe still needed "strong women in special bodies and ministries to monitor and implement women centred policies".