Regional Development-Programmes of Lower Austria from a Gender-sensitive Perspective: Discontinuiti

3.2 Regional networking of women in Lower Austria

In Lower Austria participation of women in the formal local and regional sectors is rather low although their honorary work is high. In order to change this situation diverse steps are needed: (i) deconstruction of the traditional role of women in society, (ii) sensibilisation of local/regional actors for the necessity of increasing women's participation in public affairs, (iii) motivation of women to engage to a larger extent in local/regional politics and (iv) strengthening networking of women in rural areas. There exists a big variety of living and working spheres of rural women because of their family situation, education, occupation/work, age. All these circumstances have to be considered, if an encouragement of rural women is intended. The following two descriptions of networking activities are pilot examples which should point to core elements and specific requirements of such initiatives.

Project: Regional Mentoring for Women in the Public Sphere

The access of women in rural/peripheral areas to further education like "mentoring" - as a very effective and cost and time extensive method - is rather difficult. This was the motivation for active women in administration and NGO's of Lower Austria to initiate the project "Regional Mentoring for Women in the Public Sphere" for rural women. In the first year it was financed by the "4th Action Programme on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men" of the EU. Because of the big success of the "mentoring project" it is now financed by the Land Lower Austria.

The main objective of the "regional mentoring project" is to raise the number of women participating in local/regional public sphere. To reach women in rural/peripheral areas first an information campaign was started by the partners located in the regions. The willingness of many well known female politicians and entrepreneurs to act as "mentor" and to support young women starting their career was a big motivation for many rural women to join the "mentoring project". In the meantime there exist about 50 mentorships in Lower Austria.

The intention of a mentorship lies in the individual and occupational development of the mentee and to build a basis for self-reliance of women concerning individual further education, networking and using resources for mutual support. New chances and ways should be created for women (i) to participate in local/regional public decisive positions, (ii) to build up sustainable networks in the regions and (iii) to learn strategic planning from the mentor. With this "mentoring project" a new model of supporting women is created which is adapted to the demands and efforts of women in rural areas. The trans-national networking and cooperation with partners from Germany, Netherlands, and Spain was also of big importance for the success of the project.

Table 3: Project - "Regional Mentoring for women in the public sphere"

Objectives One of the main objectives of the project „Regional Mentoring for women in the public sphere“ is to support women living in rural areas in an adequate way. In a long-term view equal participation of women in local and regional structures and public decision making should increase.

The idea of Mentoring – as an efficient and cost- and time-extensive method of supporting women – should be incorporated in public opinion, local/regional authorities and organisations, enterprises etc. Further activities after the mentorship like after-Mentoring-Programmes and MentoringMeetings for women are supported by consulting, information and infrastructure.

The regional mentoring programme should build a basis for a self-reliant life of women.


1. Establishment of mentorships


Women, who are interested in an active occupational development, can be registered as mentees in the “regional mentoring programme”. The Mentoring Center® (TBW System & Communication) builds up contacts to mentors, who are willing to share their experiences, contacts and to give consultation.


2. Regional MentoringMeetings

For the mutual assistance and networking of women in the regions the starting of MentoringMeetings is supported by the village renewal scheme.


3. Workshops


A series of Workshops for Women was launched within the project which can be held in the regions at request:

  • WS 1 - "Women in Public – the role of rhetoric and self presentation"
  • WS 2 - "Networks & Cooperation from and for Women"
  • WS 3 - "Internet and communication as means for an effective networking of women"

Regional women organisations have the opportunity to ask for these workshops by the Department of women affairs of the government of Lower Austria.


4. Lectures on special issues

To enhance the networking of professional development of women, lectures on special issues for women in the regions can be sponsored by the Department of women affairs of the government of Lower Austria.


5. Internetforum

The Website www.regionalesmentoring.atgives information on events, programmes, useful links (European mentoring initiatives – WebRing, data bank of female experts of Lower Austria – NED) etc.: TBW System & Kommunikation.

  • Department of women affairs of the government of Lower Austria
  • Academy of the government of Lower Austria
  • TBW System & Communication, Mentoring Center®
  • Village renewal scheme
  • Political academy of modern politics
  • Association Pascalina – Centre for Vocational Training of Women
  • Association “Ceiberweiber“ – an online magazine for women

Sources: Mentoring Center® (2001);;


Despite the trans-national networking the regional networking of women's organisations and initiatives in Lower Austria was one of the most important outputs of the "mentoring project". The web-portal was created and all interested women's organisations - political, occupational, social - and persons were invited to present their organisation and to give information about programmes, events etc. The intention of this virtually networking was (i) to make rural women visible, (ii) to reduce the barriers of immobility, isolation, lack of information or problems of integration. And (iii) it should also raise the awareness of the local/regional actors and politicians to start initiatives to improve the situation and living conditions for rural women.

Table 4: Project -

  • Projects
  • Networking
  • Common Objectives
  • Common Action
  • Contacts
  • Activities
  • Create Publicity
Way of action

1.    Start of the initiative on 15th October 2000: „World Rural's Women Day”

2.    Creating of a Website for the networking of rural women, women’s organisations and initiatives

3.    Discussion about the implementation of the project with representatives of women’s organisations (Coordinator: Department of women affairs of the government of Lower Austria)

The target groups are women living in the regions, the multiplicators under the rural women, other interested women in politics and research.


1.    Coaching of interested mulitiplicators in using the new medias (specially in using the website) Possibility of a virtuell exchange between women. Chat-room: the last Tuesday each month. Communication with female politicians, researchers etc.

2.    Information about programmes, events etc.

  • Farm women’s organisations
  • Confessional women organisations
  • Networks of female entreprenneurs
  • Networks of occupation
  • Initiatives in the context of development
  • Advisory services for women and other service-orientierted institutions
  • Other engaged women, institutions and organisations
  • Creation of a Gateway to the international Community of Rural Women.
  • Possibility to present projects on rural women, to make them visible and build up solidarity between and for rural women.


4. Women specific demands with respect to the EU structural funds

To reach "equality between Women and Men" is one of the declared objectives of the EU policy which relates to all policy fields including regional and structural policy. There is both necessary - changes of the structure of society and the improvement of access of women and women's organisations to subsidies e.g. of the structural funds of EU. For raising inclusion of women in order to achieve greater interference and profit in regional policy funding the following criteria will have to be met (Oedl-Wieser 2000a, 200ff; Oedl-Wieser 2000b, 77ff; Meseke 2002, 110; Aufhauser et al. 2002, 62ff):

  • Gender-specific regional analysis, gendered data bases.
  • Qualitative and quantitative indicators to examine the progress in reducing the discrimination of women e.g. by analysing the allocation of subsidies between women and men.
  • The integration of equality between women and men in the programme planning in the shape of an integrative and specific approach of promoting women.
  • Long-term financing of internal and external structures for the implementation of gender-equality on regional/national and trans-national level (e.g. gender mainstreaming coordination bodies).
  • Reassessment of so-called "gender-neutral" measures as indirectly impacting and non-neutral measures on gender issues.
  • Information and transparency in all phases of the implementation of structural fund programmes is very important. Therefore access of women to information has to be seen as priority and improved actively.
  • Women's organisations which are member of the monitoring committees must have a vote in these bodies.
  • Financial support for gender-training, gender-sensibilisation, gender-competence is very important and has to be secured (e.g. through technical assistance funds).
  • Gender mainstreaming can not replace successful instruments of women's supporting structures e.g. law, quotas, budget for women, positive action for women.
  • Women specific information and consulting for the planning and preparing a project.
  • Reaching a critical mass of women in institutional bodies at local, regional, national and trans-national level.

5. References

Amt der NÖ Landesregierung (2001): Einheitliches Programmplanungsdokument für Ziel 2 des Landes Niederösterreich für die Programmplanungsperiode 2000 - 2006. In der Fassung vom 26.7.2001.

Amt der NÖ Landesregierung: Leitbild für die räumliche Entwicklung des Landes Niederösterreich - Raumordnung und Regionalpolitik. O. J.

Aufhauser Elisabeth, Hafner, Sabine (2002): Feminism and the new 'gestalt of scale' in employment policy. Manuskript für die Zeitschrift GeoJournal (Im Erscheinen)

Aufhauser, Elisabeth, Herzog Siegrun, Hinterleitner, Vera, Oedl-Wieser, Theresia, Reisinger, Eva (2002): Grundlagen für eine "Gleichstellungsorientierte Regionalentwicklung". Unveröffentlichter Zwischenbericht. Wien

Braithwaite, Mary (1999): Einbeziehung der Chancengleichheit in die Strukturfondsmaßnahmen: Wie Regionen in Deutschland, Frankreich und dem Vereinigten Königreich das neue Konzept in die Praxis umsetzen. Abschlußbericht der Umfrage zur derzeitigen Praxis und Erkenntnisse des Seminars in Gelsenkirchen, 21. - 22. Januar 1999. Erstellt für Europäische Kommission GD XVI

Braithwaite, Mary (2000): Mainstreaming Gender in the European Structural Funds. Paper prepared for the Mainstreaming Gender in European Public Policy Workshop, University of Wisconsin-Madison, October 14 - 15 2000

Döge, Peter (2001): Was, bitte schön, ist Gender? Konsequenzen des Gender-Konzepts. In: politische ökologie 70: AGender 21. Frau und Mann eine nachhaltige Beziehung? 15 - 17. München

Mentoring Center® (2001): Regionales Mentoring für Frauen in Niederösterreich. Leitfaden für MentorInnen, Mentees und Organisationen. Wien

Meseke, Henriette (2002): Beim Geld hört die Gleichstellung auf! Die Strukturpolitik der Europäischen Union. In: Allroggen, Ulrike, Berger, Tanja, Erbe, Birgit (Hrsg.) (2002): Was bringt Europa den Frauen? Feministische Beiträge zu Chancen und Defiziten der Europäischen Union. Argument Verlag: Hamburg

Meseke, Henriette, Armstroff, Thorsten (2001): Gender-Mainstreaming in der Strukturfondsförderung des Landes Brandenburg. Ein koordiniertes und integriertes Konzept zur Förderung der Chancengleichheit von Frauen und Männern mit Hilfe der Strukturfonds. Machbarkeitsstudie erstellt im Auftrag des Ministeriums für Arbeit, Soziales, Gesundheit und Frauen des Landes Brandenburg (Hrsg.). Potsdam

Oedl-Wieser, Theresia (1997): Emanzipation der Frauen am Land. Ambivalenzen und Lebenszusammenhänge. Forschungsbericht Nr. 40 der Bundesanstalt für Bergbauernfragen. Wien

Oedl-Wieser, Theresia (2000a): Die EU-Frauenpolitik und ihre Auswirkungen auf Frauen in ländlichen Regionen. Eine Untersuchung in zwei österreichischen Ziel 5b-Förderregionen. Dissertation an der Universität für Bodenkultur Wien. Wien

Oedl-Wieser, Theresia (2000b): Anforderungen an eine gender-sensitive Regionalpolitik. In: Hovorka, Gerhard (Red.) (2000): Zukunft mit Aussicht. Beiträge zur Agrar-, Regional-, Umwelt und Sozialforschung im ländlichen Raum. Forschungsbericht Nr. 45 der Bundesanstalt für Bergbauernfragen. Wien

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