In autumn 2017, the affordable housing company Botkyrkabyggen started the gender equality project Qvinna in Botkyrka, which provides unemployed women of foreign descent who live in Botkyrkabyggen residences with jobs and language classes. The women clean the entryways and yards of the residential housing blocks. They get training in gender equality, health and fitness, CPR, as well as how to handle threatening and violent situations. They also undergo a health exam via the company’s health service and develop their own action plans as a result.
Today, the company can confirm that the work of these women has helped contribute to an increased sense of well-being in the areas where the women work. Vandalism has decreased, they act as good role models for the area and their sense of independence has increased, which is a consequence of their ability to provide for themselves, a better knowledge of Swedish and Swedish society. They are good ambassadors for the affordable housing company and act as role models for other people in the area who want to break free of their isolation, earn their own money and develop better Swedish skills and a better understanding of mainstream society.
Botkyrkabyggen sees that when the women work on and take over the public spaces – the sense of security increases for everyone. Environments where women and children thrive and where everyone thrives regardless of their sex and age. Environments that are dominated by men and are shaped by men do not create a sense of security for everyone; the men thrive but not all of the women and children. Making Qvinna in Botkyrka visible, having them take over and work in these areas has a longer lasting effect than just keeping the areas clean and tidy.
There are currently 15 women who are employed as part of the Qvinna in Botkyrka project.
The majority of the residences with the affordable housing company Botkyrkabyggen are located in socio-economically vulnerable areas. The tenants’ incomes are low, many are unemployed and have difficulty integrating into the Swedish society. The health of the residents in these areas is worse than that of other areas in the Stockholm region, for example in terms of weight and fitness. Many women are isolated at home, and in many parts of the area, men dominate the public spaces. The areas also have problems with security since criminals have taken over certain public spaces. The residents, in particular women and children, therefore avoid certain locations. The housing company also has problems with litter and graffiti.
The gender equality project Qvinna in Botkyrka was started by Botkyrkabyggen in autumn 2017. The goal is to offer jobs and language classes to women who live in the affordable housing company’s residences and who are of foreign descent and are outside of the labour market. This allows them to become employable for both Botkyrkabyggen and other housing companies. The women have the ability to support themselves and develop better skills in the Swedish language as well as better experience integrating into Swedish society. This allows them to develop their own voice and increase their sense of independence with respect to their husbands. The work that they perform for the company means that they take over the public areas where they perform cleaning in locations such as stairways and yards. Their work creates clean and pleasant environments. With their presence, the women take over the public spaces and create a sense of security for other women and children, as well as for other men who live and work in these areas.
Botkyrkabyggen’s ultimate objective is for the company to hire 100 women as a part of the Qvinna in Botkyrka project by 2025 and to have all of cleaning in the company’s housing areas performed by the women.
Surveys show that the tenants are more satisfied with the cleaning services for the yard and local area since the women from Qvinna in Botkyrka started cleaning there. The company’s tenants also give Botkyrkabyggen high marks in the most recent survey regarding the sense of security at all of the company’s housing areas. Botkyrkabyggen has concluded that the work that the women do that creates a sense of satisfaction in the area also positively affects the overall sense of security for the company´s areas.
Botkyrkabyggen has reviewed through the cost and quality of the cleaning agreements that are currently in place with other contractors and compared them with what Qvinna in Botkyrka provides. The results are clear: there is a clear return on investment in transitioning to having all of the cleaning services be provided by women employed as part of Qvinna in Botkyrka. Therefore the goal is to have 100 women employed by Qvinna in Botkyrka by 2025. This financial consideration is important, because by law, Swedish affordable housing companies must combine social responsibility with corporate principles. In other words, efforts to achieve social and economic sustainability for the tenants also need to be able to be linked to financial sustainability for the company.
Participating in Qvinna in Botkyrka has also improved the women’s health. Previously, a number of them had problems with obesity and high blood sugar levels. Health examinations reveals clear improvements in their health. There will be additional follow-up in the spring of 2019, which includes classes on health and lifestyle changes. In addition to that, the women’s self-confidence has improved. Some of them have been inspired to get a drivers license, some have moved on to other jobs at Botkyrkabyggen. Those who were far outside of the regular labour market are now important employees and form an attractive workforce for other housing companies.
The lessons that can be drawn is to incorporate it into regular operations, to keep persevering and to set aside resources, primarily in the form of personnel. The work supervisor for these women requires a lot of time and commitment. There may be language problems as well as a lack of experience with the Swedish labour market, rules at the workplace, among other things. Support on other issues that aren’t work-related may also be required since a number of the women are in vulnerable situations in their private life. Botkyrkabyggen also sees a need for improved procedures at the Swedish Public Employment Service in terms of who is registered there, what type of support they will receive from the agency and the type of follow-up that should be performed.