The history of Freja Forum started in the late 1990s. Networks of women in five countries on Western Balkan started projects for democracy and equal opportunities. They wanted to share knowledge and ideas about democracy, equality and reconciliation as well as discussing women’s specific situation during and after the war.
Inspired after a visit to Almedalen Week in Sweden in the early 2000s, Freja Forum was created as an annual forum (the second weekend in November) to develop the work with democracy and equal opportunities.
The overall goal is to strengthen social structures, with the aim of creating / developing non-profit organizations, which in the long term can be a strong part of social development between the countries. These are important elements in structural improvement work to develop civil society opportunities and ensure respect for human rights.
The Swedish Union of Tenants has been running projects with financial project support from Olof Palme International Center (Palmecenter) in Eastern Europe and Western Balkan since 1994. The aim has been to strengthen democracy and the civil society.
The first long term project Ronja started 1997 to support and educate unemployed women in Croatia.
The project included also countries within the European Union and was partly financed by the Leonardo da Vinci programme. This was the first “EU-project” in Croatia long before they were members of the European Union.
Project Ronja was disseminated to other countries in the Western Balkans supported by Palmecenter.
The project Freja mentor programme started 2003. During this time a close relationship was developed between organisations in Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.
The aim has been to establish strong and long term work for democracy and equal opportunities in the region.
Since 2005 the Region Aros-Gävle within the Swedish Union of Tenants is project leader for the development of Freja Forum. In Western Balkan it mainly has been women and youth organisations represented from the civil society sector in the voluntary work with organising the forums every year.
Main Swedish supporters of Freja Forum have been
- Swedish Union of Tenants
- Olof Palme International Center
- SIDA, The Swedish International Cooperation Agency
- Bernadotte Academy
- European Commission
- UN Women, UNDP and international and local organisations has helped to make it possible to organise Freja Forum.
European Commission has supported with speakers every year and with extend support to Freja Forum in Brussels 2013.
In 2017, Freja Forum was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Freja Forum in 2021 was the fifteenth in a row!