The Karat Coalition is an association that has carried out activities for gender equality on the local, regional, European and global levels, constantly since 1997. Established to combine and represent the voice of non-governmental organizations from Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia, it builds and influences the shape of the feminist movement and actively works for women experiencing discrimination, in particular multiple discrimination. For over 15 years, the Karat Coalition has held the status of ECOSOC at the UN Social and Economic Council.
The mission of the Karat Coalition is to act for the observance of women’s rights and socio-economic justice in the context of gender.
Areas of Activities
Currently our priority is a work in two areas:
- Women’s rights and
- Socio-economic justice
Within the area of “Women’s Rights“, we act for the state’s compliance with international obligations regarding women’s rights. We promote international human rights’ instruments and state’s obligations related to these rights. We use the potential of UN and European conventions and agreements to improve the observance of women’s right to equality.
Within the area “Socio-Economic Justice and Gender”, we engage in combating intersectional / cross-cutting discrimination on the grounds of gender and low socio-economic status. Our activities focus on groups of women experiencing discrimination on the labour market due to, among others, the low level of education, gender stereotypes and related to these the barriers to accessing the professions. Recently, we have been trying to counteract cross-cutting discrimination on the grounds of gender, ethnic and national identity, religion and country of origin.
Our History and Achievements
Our activity was initiated after the Fourth World UN Conference on Women in Beijing (1995). Since the establishment of Karat Coalition, we have been involved in the political, economic and social processes that are important for the situation of women in the Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia regions. Initially, we were more active in the Region, in recent years we have focused mainly on Poland.
Our Strategy for the Observance of Women’s Rights
Acting for women’s rights, we used the reporting mechanisms on implementation of the commitments undertaken by the state. As a part of joint actions (1998-2000), the national alternative reports and a regional report on the implementation of Beijing recommendations by the governments were made. The reports were presented at the UN forum and in the countries of the Region. The UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and its Optional Protocol have become our main tools in a work for women’s rights in both the Region (2008-2012) and Poland (2010-17). In the countries of the Region, we promoted the mechanisms of the CEDAW Convention’s Optional Protocol (OP CEDAW), which were unknown and not used by organizations promoting women’s rights in the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia (2008-2014). Our work contributed to the ratification of the Optional Protocol by the government in Tajikistan and the use of the Optional Protocol’s mechanism of submitting a complaint in Poland. Initiating the Coalition for CEDAW in Poland, creating a joint alternative report on the implementation of the Convention, and the advocacy that resulted in inclusion of most of our recommendations in the CEDAW Committee’s recommendations to the Polish government (2014) were the significant successes.
We paid special attention to reproductive rights and labour rights of women; these were a subject of our research, analyses and studies.
Why Socio-Economic Justice in a context of Gender?
Economic transformation in the 90s contributed to a significant deterioration of the situation of women with low level of education in the labour market. To an disproportionately greater extent than men with the same education and groups of women with a higher level of education, they were affected by unemployment and “pushed out” of the labour market. An important reason for addressing the economic situation of women who “lost” on the introduction of a free market economy was also the fact that only a few feminist organizations / groups addressed this issue at that time; it is still not very popular in the feminist movement. Since the early 2000s, we have been conducting research in Poland, analysing the phenomena of discrimination on the grounds of gender and socio-economic status, and based on its results, we have carried out many projects, mainly advocacy ones. The inspiration for our research was, among others: trends in the labour market in the 90s – mass transfer of clothing industry production to the countries of Eastern Europe (mainly women work in this industry); the defence of their rights by women employed in supermarkets; the need to monitor government’s programs for women that did not include the strategies for improving situation of the above-mentioned groups of women in the labour market.
For the last two years, we have been dynamically working in the field of supporting women refugees and migrants who are looking for security and job in EU countries.
Women and Development
In 2009-2012, we implemented the “Women and Development” program. We strived to ensure that policies and programs within the framework of development cooperation of the new EU member states took into account gender equality issues and promoted the active participation of women in the political, social and economic lives of countries. We also worked for raising awareness and knowledge of civil society organizations that work in the area of development cooperation, on the gender aspect in development.