Women and men as rural community leaders in Poland: activities, strategies of local cooperation and social networks. Is gender the strongly differentiating factor?
Institute for Social Studies Warsaw University Warsaw, Poland
According to the investigations on rural families and their living conditions, Polish rural women used to cope with the "triple burden": working in the household and agriculture, taking care of their families and doing professional jobs. Apart from that, the women were highly involved in community activities. However, they have not been considered to be important actors of local public life.
Nowadays the situation seems to change. In today's Poland, due to the implementation of decentralization reform and than access to the European Union, rural areas in Poland seem to develop more dynamically than the cities. According to the decentralization reform, "so-tysi" - officially elected rural community leaders are more to support the activities and decisions of local authorities. Practically, they often convert to leaders who initiate the process of the community development. Despite the lack of statistical data related to the exact number of women rural community leaders, the increasing trend of "feminization" of this group has been highly discussed in Polish mass media.
Therefore, it could be extremely interesting to analyze the types of activities, strategies of undertaking the initiatives and social networks that are built by women and men rural community leaders. What are their ideas for rural community development, how do they involve other people in the local cooperation, what kind of local resources do they use while putting their ideas into action. What is the influence of the gender factor in this area? Apart from that, what types of "the channels of entrance" to the local public sphere could be identified? How do these "channels" differ in relation to women and men? How do rural women and men build and use their social capital, especially in terms of social networks? All these questions will be discussed on the basis of existing relevant quantitative and qualitative data and also the results of the author's recent research (survey conducted in chosen group of women and men rural community leaders and case study analysis of two different Polish rural areas).