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Equality is for men too

News Current affairs 03.04.2012 Aaron Grunwald
Photo: Olivier Minaire

Interview: In advance of Girls Day-Boys Day, Françoise Hetto-Gaasch talks to Delano about what the equality ministry is doing to support the male half of the population.

April 26 marks the 11th annual Girls Day-Boys Day, when 13- to 17-year-olds have a chance to learn about careers that break gender stereotypes. Young women spend a day working alongside artisans, scientists and female executives, while young men shadow education, health and social services professionals. More than 900 students and 100 companies are expected to participate.

One of the main backers of the event is Françoise Hetto-Gaasch, the CSV minister for equal opportunity.

AG: Are there any misconceptions today about the equality ministry?

FH-G: Sometimes people don’t know the ministry is no longer the ministry for the advancement of women. Since 2005 it’s been the ministry for equal opportunities between men and women. There are still many people who don’t know that we also take care of the men.

AG: How are things unequal for men?

FH-G: Early school leavers are mostly boys. Boys are more dependent on drugs than girls. We have lots of suicides among boys. There is a problem and we have to face it.

We know also, for example, that in situations of divorce, men don’t [do as well] with that situation and they have really sad experiences when we talk about childcare. They don’t get [custody of] their children, and need a place to talk and a place to be helped.

So we decided to open information centres, a place where men and young men can go to find help. These will have a psychologist and also social workers who will help them, or tell them where they can go to find better care.

AG: When will the centres launch?

FH-G: They will open officially in November, for international men’s day. There will be one in the south, in Dudelange; in Luxembourg City; and we are planning to also [open one] in the north of country, but we have not yet decided [the exact location].

AG: What about in professional life?

FH-G: We have a problem of recruitment in the domain of education and childcare. There we have to promote the access of men in these kinds [of jobs].

Children grow up in a purely maternal atmosphere and this is really bad for children. So we also have to make a big effort to better mix of men and women in these [professions].

AG: Why aren’t men interested in jobs in education?

FH-G: Perhaps it’s a way of stereotypical thinking. They think it’s better that women do this.

Look, when you have a family--now in the year 2012--girls are still playing with dolls, they play little mamas, and boys play with the Dinky toys. It’s the same as in my generation. We have to change this. We have to show both boys and girls what opportunities and which possibilities they have. And I think we should start with that earlier than in high school.

Hetto-Gaasch talks about the proposed European quota for women on corporate boards in the April print edition of Delano, coming out this Thursday.