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Women, equal opportunities and rural development

In a word...

Franz Fischler,
Member of the Commission of the European Communities, with responsibility for Agriculture and Rural Development


document type: article
keywords: women, equal opportunities
source: LEADER Magazine
last update: 5/96

While the number of women actively contributing to rural development and initiating new projects is significant, in general, women living in rural areas encounter several disadvantages: their employment opportunities are limited, childminding facilities are inadequate, communal transport in rural areas rarely meets demand, training centres are scarce. These disadvantages underpin the need to provide resources, which can ensure equal opportunities for women living in rural areas.

Even if Community assistance in the framework of the Structural Funds does not discriminate between the sexes, it has emerged that in reality, this tends to benefit men more than women and that measures specifically catering for women are all too infrequent.

Among the financial measures implemented by the European Union in favour of equal opportunities for rural women, the LEADER Initiative deserves a special mention: in the period 1991-1993, LEADER I has already provided women with the opportunity to set up rural development projects. Several examples of successful projects can be found, notably in the areas of rural tourism, the commercial exploitation of farm specialities, setting up small and medium-sized companies and craft enterprises. It is my hope that women will keep up their good work and that they will be even more active and innovative during the second phase of the Initiative (1994-1999), leading to the optimisation of opportunities for rural areas under LEADER.

Nevertheless, the choice of measures to promote equal opportunities ultimately remains the responsibility of the Member States and those in charge of implementing the programme on the ground.

The European Commission has plans to implement several new measures to promote equality of opportunities during 1996: one example of this is the proposed study on the role currently played by women in farming, coupled with a comparative analysis of the various national regulations dealing with legislation protecting women in this sector. These analyses should serve as the basis for proposals leading to further improvements.

We are also planning to launch pilot projects aiming to encourage a greater degree of female participation in rural development. The first call for proposals will be published during the autumn of 1996 - this will receive funding of ECU 20 million for the 1997-1999 period and will focus on a different theme each year. This will also enable us to define concrete needs in terms of projects and to prepare future measures.

Thanks to the support of the European Parliament, ECU 400 000 has been provided for under a separate budget heading of the agricultural strand of the budget. This is intended to cater for the information needs of women in rural areas, as part of agricultural policy in general or in the form of funding for specific projects.

The information network set up in the framework of the LEADER Initiative and coordinated by the European Observatory, also provides an essential facility supplying women living in rural areas with information on examples of successful concrete actions.

Finally, the major conference planned for November next on rural development will bring to light the strategies and measures, intended to further an approach to development, which is genuinely integrated, and which promotes a better appreciation of the role of women in our policy.


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