Gender issues should be integrated into rural policies at various levels and there is a need to intensify research on rural governance structures and processes from a gender equality perspective (Wiest, 2016). Rural women still face serious disadvantages, compared not only to rural men, but also to urban women. Despite policy efforts, results of recent studies and reports show that progress remains insufficient. The MORE partnership has thus decided to foresee one Project Result aimed at an exhaustive analysis of rural women’s multifunctionality as a new way to promote development and regeneration of the EU rural contexts.
The research will address the following aspects, among others:
An analysis of the multifuntionality of rural women as a new paradigm for rural development was undertaken at the EU level and within each of the countries represented within the MORE partnership, namely: Spain, Greece, Italy, Poland, and Romania. Within each of the country level analyses undertaken, a similar methodology was followed to ensure that the following areas were effectively covered: Definition, Policy Framework, Best Practices, Training Needs, and Co-Creation Examples.
Although no official or formal working definition regarding multifunctionality appears present, it is clear that the multiple roles of rural women are indirectly acknowledged and addressed in various contexts. It was concluded that the multifunctional role of rural women is a reality and, although there is no formal definition associated with it, the situation is similar in participant countries to that of the rest of the EU countries. Going forward, to ensure consistency across the EU, there needs to be a modernised, formal definition brought forward for guidance beyond the stereotypical view.
Policy frameworks across the participant countries appear fragmented and haphazard. Each country studied appears to be experiencing similar problems and concerns related to its rural environments and the role of women but their policy approaches differ substantially from reactive to proactive with uneven applications. As such, there needs to be more of a more substantive EU framework setting minimum requirements and obligations to create a semblance of fairness.
Despite varying policy frameworks a number of what can be considered best practices inside MORE participating countries. What is interesting is that many of these practices appear to be related to the area of agriculture and agri-tourism, somewhat stereotypical of rural environments. As well, they tend to be private initiatives rather than policy-level interventions. What appears to be lacking are mechanisms to transfer best practices related to the multifunctionality of women in rural environments across the EU. This would help leverage the positive things that are happening while helping to avoid undesired consequences.
The training needs related to the multifunctionality of rural women were found to, naturally, be varied given the number of different activities they are involved in and are responsible for within their communities. What has been identified across the countries is that, apart from the general training (formal and informal) offered at the country level, targeted training related specifically to the multifunctional needs of rural women is quite absent despite some pockets of activity in some countries. What is clear is that many of the activities are fragmented and primarily focused on building agrarian knowledge as opposed to the fundamentals of entrepreneurship including digital transformation. There exists a dynamic need to much more effectively, and directly, understand the needs of rural women from a holistic perspective and tailor training to their circumstances. This would allow the gearing of such training towards their personal future success as well as that of their communities.
What has been identified in terms of co-creation activities is a lack of initiatives and activities specifically aimed at rural women. Co-creation, together with community hubs, is intended to shape new and innovative ways of improving education and the participation of citizens, particularly women, in rural areas of the EU. It involves building relationships between stakeholder groups and sharing of knowledge and resources for mutual benefit. In the case of rural development, which is characterised by the collaborative economy, associations, and cooperatives, having a space such as a community hub makes it possible to promote synergies between all the parties involved, boosting the development of the rural environment.
This document is the result of the MORE Project Task 2.4 “Final guidelines and recommendations based on the MORE paradigm”. It defines guidelines on how to replicate the MORE educational approach and includes recommendations for policy-makers, academia, trainers and the economic sector on how to better empower rural women and increase their training and skills for their multifunctional role.
THE MORE PROJECT APPROACH
The project has stimulated inclusive participation of rural women and other rural stakeholders by:
Just in the last decade co-creation has started being applied for the design and delivery of public processes and products. The MORE project research (PR2) has analysed how co-creation can be applied in rural areas, to engage women in the educational processes for rural development and regeneration, and to ensure their direct involvement and motivation. The White Paper shows how to achieve these objectives, presenting tips and strategies to all the different actors involved in this development and empowerment process.
THE WHITE PAPER STRUCTURE
First part: A set of boxes collecting partners’ recommendations
Each box addresses the needs of a particular target and a particular domain. Partners provided inputs depending on their particular field of expertise and research; indeed, the content of this section stems directly from the results of the “MORE study on multifunctionality of rural women as a new paradigm for rural development”, carried out by partners in PR2, and the co-creation events carried out in PR3.
Recommendations for VET providers (RADIO ECCA)
To improve the quality of training addressed at rural women, VET providers should:
How to enhance digital skills (ITSFA)
Recommendations for policy makers and participative actions (DEMESTONE & CIRCLE)
To operationalize the multifunctionality and foster rural women inclusion policy makers should:
Recommendations for EU policies and actions (IHF)
EU policies can promote women multifunctionality as a driver for rural development by:
The CAP promotes the LEADER approach as well as the objective “Promote employment, growth, gender equality, including the participation of women in farming, social inclusion and local development in rural areas” (See EU Regulation 2021/2115). According to the European Commission decision-making bodies within the LAGs should be gender-balanced; however, women are still underrepresented (European Court of Auditors, 2022). To address this gap some impact indicators related to the abovementioned CAP’s objective may be integrated as follows:
Indicator R.38: Share of rural population covered by local development strategies (LEADER coverage)
Possible additional indicator: Share of rural women population covered by local development strategies
Indicator R.39: No. of rural businesses, including bio-economy businesses, developed with CAP support
Possible additional indicator: Number or rural female businesses developed with CAP support
How to enhance women economic inclusion and female entrepreneurship (IDP & KLEINON)
Recommendations for the academic sector and the enhancement of research (SEERC)
Second part: Lessons learnt
The second part of the White Paper gathers recommendations and lessons learnt resulting from the Test and Validation phase (Task 3.3). The delivery of the training courses to the target group allowed partners to identify strategies and methods to better address rural women training needs. At the same time, the Test & Validation sessions allowed partners to outline lessons learnt and spot areas for further improvement that can support practitioners and decision makers to better serve the target: