11. Main problems and priority needs in CEE countries
The greatest problems of rural women mentioned by the focal informants in the participating countries are: unemployment, especially in the transition phase; declining or low incomes; economic problems (especially in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria) caused by social and political changes; low level of education; lack of extension and knowledge in home economics, home management and entrepreneurship; heavy workload both in paid employment and at home; lack of free time and inequality in free time compared to men; social problems such as the increasing consumption of alcohol (especially by men); inadequate and distant or diminishing health care and social services; lack of household services and equipment; unhealthy nutrition and poor health; deficiencies in the rural infrastructure; social isolation; lack of social and cultural activities in villages; the low social status of rural women and the tradition that women are outsiders in public life; the traditional division of labour inside families and women's economic dependence on men; women's lack of self-confidence in their potential (mentioned especially by Hungary and Bulgaria); and depopulation of the rural areas, especially the migration of young rural women.
The priority needs mentioned by the focal informants were: paid employment and economic independence; education and training in entrepreneurship, home economics, home management and the mother's role; revival of social and cultural services and activities; better infrastructure and social security systems; increased participation of women in public life; development and training programmes for rural women and families; training in adaptation to the changing social circumstances; better cooperation inside the family; and women's involvement in rural development projects at the local level.
The main problems of rural women can be divided into four main categories economic, social, family level and individual. Most of the problems are connected to the social and political change and transition taking place in the countries. For many rural women and families, the transition from one system to another has meant increased economic problems and a loss of paid labour and unemployment. In private agriculture the main problem is low income levels. For many rural women the economic problem is dependence on their husband's income.
Social problems are connected with economic problems; unemployment and a lack of income are usually connected with malnutrition, illness and alcoholism. In many CEE countries, the social infrastructure in the villages was connected with the agricultural production system; giving up the state and cooperative farms led to the loss of social services such as kindergartens as well as health and maternity care provided by the state and cooperative farms. In addition, many cultural activities were connected with the state and cooperative farms and have been lost during the transition.
Inequality between the sexes in decision-making can also be seen as a social problem. There is a male-dominated decision-making culture at both local and national levels in the CEE countries. The proportion of women in public life is very low.
There is also a-social problem in education and training in rural areas in the CEE countries; women are less educated with respect to the needs of emerging markets and the level of education in rural areas is low.
At the family level, the main problems are in the division of labour inside the household. Often women have a heavy workload and less free time than men. The level of household technology is low and it increases the work burden on women. Lack of knowledge in nutrition and home economics as well as lack of income often mean malnutrition at the family level.
Individual problems are usually economic and social, and there is a lack of self-esteem and self-reliance. Rural women seldom have positive rural role models, and young girls prefer to move to towns and cities. Lack of interest in politics and public issues is also a problem at the individual level.
A vicious circle can be seen at both the personal and the social levels; no income or money, low levels of education and training, combined with economic dependence, tends to restrict women's possibilities to start entrepreneurial activities or to find other income-earning positions where job opportunities are becoming scarce. The lack of economic activities means that there are no social services in rural areas. The vicious circle ought to be broken and a new start made. Local rural development projects, which start by building self-reliance, personal abilities, entrepreneurship, social responsibility and interest in local development, are the priority needs in CEE countries. Unemployed women ought to be seen as a resource and not as a problem.