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

Paper for the 15th FAO/ECA WPW Expert Meeting on Gender and Rural Development „Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation of Rural Development Programmes and Projects with a View to Integration of Gender and Participatory Dimensions“

10th – 14th June 2002 in Heimari/Mikkeli, Finland

 Theresia Oedl-Wieser

 Federal Institute for Less-Favoured and Mountainous Areas, Vienna


1. Introduction

In the last decade the Austrian regional policy was characterized by a great dynamic. On the one hand regional policy had to react to the globally intensified competition and on the other hand there were important new incentives for reorientation and redevelopment through Austria's accession to European Union and the implementation of EU-regional and structural policy. Many Austrian regions have a long tradition on endogenous regional development, where the local potential and the regional actors play an important role. Some very positive effects can be identified in the Austrian regional policy through the accession to the European Union. It can be stated that an upgrading of regional policy and regional subsidies in politics, economy and public opinion took place. Beyond that a professionalisation and a higher quality of regional policy due to the framework of EU-programme planning is observed. In addition to encouraging experiences the promotion and the implementation of equality between women and men in the EU-structural fund programmes - in the sense of gender mainstreaming - has become a great challenge and an important commitment for the Austrian regional policy. Regional actors are explicitly requested to contribute within their work to equality between women and men. To integrate questions of equality between women and men into regional policy requires a focus on women and men - their needs, abilities, potentials, their relation to each other, but also the discriminations they experience belonging to a gender-group. However it is not clear yet how equality between women and men can/should be implemented in the field of regional policy.

2. Positions of an "Equality-oriented Regional Development"

The different living conditions and situations and experiences of women and men can be seen in the different involvement in productive and reproductive work, in different possibilities with respect to mobility, in diversities of income-sources and different qualification-levels. These unequal realities of life chances of women and men hardly find the appropriate consideration in the central fields of action of regional policy and gender-specific effects of many regional measures are not perceived (Oedl-Wieser 1997). Therefore the primarily male actors at local and regional level do not see gender-equality-oriented measures as a priority of regional policy.

The most important criteria and requirements to be considered in an "equality-oriented regional development", which aims at improving the living conditions, the life of women and men and promotes the diversity of living models, can be summarized as follows (Aufhauser et al. 2002, 23ff; Meseke und Armstroff 2001, 20):

All these criteria and requirements of an "equality-oriented regional development" intend to reduce the patriarchal structures in our society and to enlarge the self-reliance and participation of women in the different spheres of living, in the family, in the job and the regional surrounding. It can be assumed that an increased participation of women and men in local and regional activities will lead to a strengthening of the creative potential of the region and an increase of regional identity and location quality.

3. Implementation of equality measures - in the case of Lower Austria

The Land Lower Austria implements since three decades a very offensive regional policy, starting with the self-reliant endogenous regional development in the 1970ies and 1980ies which was transformed and developed into the technology- and innovation-oriented endogenous regional development. In the mean time the consulting and service structure concerning regional development and regional policy is differentiated and well established in Lower Austria (regional innovation centres, regional managements, village- and-city-renewal). This was to a big extent initiated through subsidies of the EU structural funds.

3.1 Regional Plans and Programmes of Lower Austria

The technology- and innovation-orientation of regional policy in Lower Austria is seen as crucial for the economic development of Lower Austria - in both the plan of regional development and in the Objective 2-Programme of Lower Austria. To what extent are the criteria of an "equality-oriented regional development" considered and implemented in the rather economical oriented regional plans and programmes of Lower Austria?

The Plan for regional development of Lower Austria

The regional development plan of Lower Austria is conceived as an instrument of coordination and information for the spatial and regional planning. The text of the plan is rather general and women- or gender-specific statements can hardly be found, whether in the regional analysis e.g. on gender-specific labour markets in some regions nor in respect to human resources development. The improvement of the living conditions for women is only addressed by statements concerning better supplying structures and the reduction of traffic in settlements. Perspectives of the further development of society in direction of a gender-democracy are not written down and it seems that the awareness of gender-inequalities and the necessity of its reduction is not widespread among regional planners and actors.

The Single Programming Document of Objective 2 (SPD) (2000 - 2006)

The SPD of objective 2 of Lower Austria is the second structural fund programme in Lower Austria since the accession of Austria to the EU. In the current programme there are only funds by the ERDF available with a funding budget about € 875 777,000,- for the period 2000 - 2006. 2/3 of the budget is reserved for the branches trade, industry, innovation and technology (table 1).

Table 1: Priorities of the SPD of objective 2 Lower Austria and their funding

Priorities of the SPD objective 2 Lower Austria Euro %
P 1: Mobilisation of endogenous potentials through regional development,
       economical infrastructure, regional target-projects
229 466,000 26.2
P 2: Development of trade, industry, innovation and technology 498 982,000 57.0
P 3: Development of Tourism and leisure industry 142 901,000 16.3
P 4: Technical assistance 4 428,000 0.5
  875 777,000 100.0

Source: SPD Objective 2 Lower Austria (2001)

Through the strategy of an explicit technology- and innovation-oriented regional policy Lower Austria should develop - in a long term perspective - to a "European technology region" with high life quality. As the ERDF is funding almost exclusively structures and investments - which are in most cases in male-dominated branches - and not persons, it can be questioned how women could profit from such an economical intervention system? The gender mainstreaming concept of EU follows the strategy, that equality between women and men has to be implemented in all policies and political concepts and measures - from planning, implementation, monitoring to evaluation. The following analysis should examine, to which extent these aspects find attention in the programming of the SPD objective 2 of Lower Austria.

In the planning process of the SPD objective 2 of Lower Austria many relevant partners were involved: (i) experts of regional planning of the regional and the national administration bodies, (ii) social partners, (iii) representatives of the authorities of environment and gender-equality. The programme was planned and prepared in eight sessions where the partners could discuss the draft and make suggestions. The representative of the department of women affairs of the government of Lower Austria organized a gender-training for the participants of the programming committee. Furthermore, this representative is also member of the monitoring committee and in the additional coordination body, acting as a steering committee.

Despite this progress in including women- and gender-specific expertise it has to be noted, that in the analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the objective area only few statements concerning disparities between women and men appear. Gender-specific analysis was only carried out for the issue of education and professional training at regional level. But no analysis of gender-inequalities in respect to the labour market or branches, which could gain information about developments and requirements in the future, took place.

Table 2: Proposals for promoting women in the SPD objective 2 Lower Austria

Priorities (P)/Measures (M) Proposals for promoting women
P 1: Mobilisation of endogenous potentials through regional development, economical Infrastructure, regional target-projects
  • Regional ressource-centres for women
    (Consulting, coaching, further education, networking, communication)
M 1.1: Regional managements
  • Regional manager for gender-equality in the regions1)
M 1.2: Regional consulting and networking
  • Promotion of networking of women on regional level2)
  • Specific coaching and further education for women with respect to their time-disposition and mobility
M 1.3: small-regional development, more attractive cities
  • Promotion of a better supplying structure and services 
M 1.4: Regional cultural networking
  • Promotion of cultural projects of women
M 1.5: Technological infrastructure and technological transfer
  • Promotion of high-quality jobs for women in the so called future-oriented jobs
MN 1.6: traffic infrastructures, logistic infrastructure ---------
M 1.7: Economical infrastructure
  • Promotion of high-quality jobs for women
M 1.8: Regional target-projects ---------
P 2: Development of trade, industry, innovation and technology
  • specific funding-, consulting- and service-infrastructure for women (e.g. credits)
  • Promotion of centres of female entreprenneurs
  • Promotion of „family-friendly enterprises“
P 3: Development of tourism and leisure industry
  • Spezific further education for women
P 4: Technical assistance for the programme implementation
  • Funding for gender-specific regional analysis
  • Qualitative gender-specific Evaluations e.g. of projects

1) In Austria there exist examples for such structures: Upper Austria - regional manager for social affairs and health; Salzbourg: regional manager for gender-equality in the Pinzgau and Lungau. Unfortunatly the personal and financial ressources are very low.
2) regional mentoring project

In the four priorities and in the 22 measures no direct indications about specific or positive actions for women can be found. Only for the selection of projects of the SPD objective 2 Lower Austria the following indicators to be used are relevant in this respect: (i) neutral in respect to gender-equality, (ii) gender-equality oriented and (iii) gender-equality project. From a women-specific point of view perhaps it would be better to examine the projects in respect to (i) reduction, (ii) reproduction and (iii) strengthening of the discrimination of women (Meseke und Armstroff 2001, 27).

Because of the explicit technology- and innovation-orientation of the priorities in SPD objective 2 Lower Austria it is at first sight rather difficult to identify, where women-specific and active promotion could take place and how women could participate more intensively on an equal basis on the ERDF funding. In general, technology and innovation are male occupied branches but technology- and innovation-policy is conceived and presented as gender-neutral. In reality it has extreme gender-specific effects (Döge 2001) with following main aspects: (i) access to jobs for women is limited, even if they have the same qualification as men have, (ii) atmosphere of the working places in technological centres is male dominated, (iii) supplying structure in the surrounding is not supporting sufficiently reproduction tasks, (iv) financing of projects is not oriented at women's needs - women need often specific consulting and financial services.

Experiences on EU- (Braithwaite 1999, 2000) and national level have shown that the implementation of equality between women and men in the fields of structural and regional policy, programmes and projects depends to a large extent on people, for whom gender-equality is important and who are willing to strengthen and spread it. The issue about the implementation of gender-equality is a high emotionalized debate, because it implicates changes in society which affect men in many spheres. Further problems for the implementation of gender-equality seem to be that the personal and financial ressources are very restricted for teaching gender-competence and there exist no sanctions when gender-equality is not implemented.

Despite these circumstances women- and gender-representatives and -experts are getting more and more involved in regional bodies and institutions. But they have to combat against a bulk of problems: (i) their female voice is often one under many male voices, (ii) their voice has to represent the big variety of women interests in the region and (iii) their voice has often less weight because in most cases they have no money to distribute (Aufhauser and Hafner 2002). For that it seems necessary to claim that the presence of women in the institutionell structures of regional policy have to develop to reach the critical mass. The following projects of regional networking of women in Lower Austria will exemplify how the first steps for initiating these efforts could be taken.

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):

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