The EU is keen to enhance the understanding of current challenges faced by women in EU rural areas, share successful experiences and practices aimed at supporting rural women from different Member States, and explore possible solutions that can be promoted through the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) Strategic Plans and other EU funding tools and policies.
For that purpose on 15 November a dedicated event took place in Andolsheim (France). It was the French National Rural Network, the Grand Est Region, the Rural Network of Grand Est Region and ANCT – National Association for the Cohesion of Territories, together with the new EU CAP Network, of which AEIDL is a partner.
Women play a crucial role in the development and economic growth of EU rural communities. Yet their key role is too often ‘invisible’, not recognised, and rural women continue to face greater difficulties, compared to men, in accessing and maintaining stable employment and taking part in decision-making processes. Traditional gender roles often amplify gender inequalities.
The new GRASSCEILING project that AEIDL will be partnering with organisations from across Europe and which is due to start next January to address these challenges. This is a multi-actor project that will increase women-led socio-ecological innovations in farming, the rural economy and in rural communities (i.e., smart-agri skills, eco-tourism, pasture-led agriculture, organic cheese, energy neutral village halls, community gardens, elderly care cooperatives). Socio-ecological innovation in farming and rural areas is a developing area in Europe, and GRASS Ceiling will co-create tools to ensure women can fully participate. AEIDL will have a key role in formulating actionable policy proposals that can be then implemented through the EU policy agenda.
This is an issue that is very high on AEIDL research, policy and advocacy agendas. Marking the last International Day of Rural Women, our colleague Blanca Casares produced a policy paper “The role of women in rural development and innovation” in collaboration with the women territorial thinkers who contributed to the AEIDL Talk on this issue.
More broadly, the EU is committed to improving the situation, notably through the EU Rural Action Plan, by supporting the uptake of female entrepreneurship, women’s participation in decision-making, and the provision of adequate services in rural areas.
The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will continue supporting gender equality in rural areas through the new CAP Strategic Plans (2023-2027) and particularly under Specific Objective 8, promoting employment, growth, representation in decision-making processes, participation in farming businesses, social inclusion and local development. However, the CAP cannot provide the sole support for accomplishing these aims; therefore, enhanced awareness and integration of all available and relevant EU and national funding tools and policies is needed.
Indeed CAP is not alone in this, as in addition to the European Commission’s Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025, the Europe Parliament has produced a study “The professional status of rural women in the EU“, and DG REGIO developed a Map of the state of women’s equality region. This should help deliver the much more ambitious gender equality requirements for the European Structural Funds 2021-2027 that will be launched shortly. Last but not least the European Court of Auditors, in its Special Report in Gender mainstreaming in the EU budget urges the EU institutions, national, subnational authorities and rural stakeholders to turn words into action.