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„Blind Spots“ of Rural Development Policy in Austria from a gender-equality perspective

Year of publication2005
Author(s)Theresia Oedl-Wieser
Number of pages1
Publication typeJournal, booklet
Planning and development in regional policy are always an expression and a result of power-related processes in society and thus are closely linked to the issue of equality between women and men. Spatial structures are socially constructed and therefore they reflect the social, economic and (power) political relations of a society and hence the gender relations inherent in this society. The imbalances in the distribution of resources and access opportunities imply very different challenges for different social groups. These groups enjoy highly different potential for participating in the shaping or modification of space. Those who have access to greater resources– traditionally men – are in charge of the physical shaping of space in keeping with their needs, requirements and wishes. However, those who hold power in society not only determine the material-physical appointments of space, but also the discourses that define the usability, accessibility, availability and symbolism of space. In this sense, a gender-based hierarchisation is inherent in spatial structures. The institutionalised patterns of Austria’s rural development policy likewise tend to favour male perspectives. Compared to men, women dispose of restricted opportunities to take an active part in the shaping of rural development policy. Amongst the actors, there still exists great scepticism regarding the possibility and necessity of linking a type of gender policy aimed at greater equality between women and men to a form of regional policy primarily interested in initiating and safeguarding socio-economic processes of innovation at the regional level. This paper addresses the dynamics of change concerning the life situations of women compared to those of men in different Austrian regional contexts over the past few years and identifies “problem zones” of rural development emerging if viewed from the perspective of equality between women and men.
Paper submitted to the XXI ESRS Congress Keszthely, Hungary 22-27 August 2005