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Ton Korver and Peter R. A. Oeij

Employability is on the agenda. Yet, we lack the institutional structures and mechanisms to effectively promote it. Most of our labour institutions are at the national level on the one hand, on the industrial and company level on the other hand. Collective bargaining, for example, is typically geared to industries and companies. For the interindustrial or intersectoral levels we have some national forums, but no effective intermediate institutions and mechanisms. In our view, the phenomenon of the covenant may fill the gap. Covenants are an effective way of combining the public interest in enhanced employability, and the collective interests of employers and employees in an adequate, educated and 'empowered' labour force. Against the background of the needs of a 'knowledge economy' and the underinvestment in skills, in particular due to a one-sided 'flexibility' of the labour market, we first sketch the ambitions of the EU, and the present state and the shortcomings of the training efforts in the economy. Next, we explain what the covenant stands for, what its promises are for triggering more training and strengthening employability, and what role the critical issue of trusting co-operation is expected to play.

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Jhan Van de Kerckhove

The current prevention policy continues to be reactive. It is even negative and demotivating. This atmosphere is destroying the working conditions we need in our new social-economic environment. Quality of work has become top of the agenda together with creativity, personal development and involvement. The human being is transformed from a potential source of disturbance into an essential success factor. A new approach to prevention policy is imposing itself in this context. Caring for safety, health and well-being of the employees at the same time means caring for the well-being and the future of the organization. The great challenge now becomes the development of the human potential. In that perspective a real proactive prevention policy is needed. Proactivity implies prevention but goes much further. Real proactivity refers to the dreams and positive objectives people wish to see realised. Well-being, participation and empowerment of all participants are important targets while the expected implications for culture are commitment, trust and open communication. This approach is very close to the conditional factors of social quality as described in the report of the European Foundation on the European Network Indicators of Social Quality.

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Henry Bacon

Bioculturalist approach can be fruitfully employed to explain why fictional violence is such an integral part of both our art and entertainment. In any cultural context aggression related biological traits are controlled and shaped in order to ensure both the internal order and the security of a community. William Flesch has argued that his process is guided by the tendency to admire altruistic punishers, who without self-interest assume the task of punishing evildoers. Spectators of such actions tend to react to it emotionally, both spontaneously and via reflection, thus giving the experience both an emotional and a meta-emotional aspect. This plays an important role in relating to the ways in which resorting to violence is justified in mainstream films. This scenario has a strong emotional appeal, even if the spectator would deplore such means in real life contexts. This discrepancy emerges even more strongly in the revenge scenario, which in a fictional context can appear satisfying and empowering despite the moral qualms the spectator might have concerning the ethics of revenge. Because of the deeply ingrained cult of individuality and doubts about the efficacy of government in maintaining law and order, these narrative patterns have developed especially strongly within American popular culture. However, judging by the worldwide success of such films, their appeal is nonetheless quite universal.

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Community-based Approaches to Reforming Female Genital Operations in Africa

A Case Study from the Oromia Regional State of Ethiopia

Aneesa Kassam and Alemayehu Diro Lalise

In the past, numerous attempts by colonial governments and international agencies to abolish the practice of female genital cutting in Africa failed to make any significant impact on behaviour. In this article, we describe how, since 1996, an indigenous NGO has been attempting to reform the practice in the rural communities of Oromia (Ethiopia). We show that it has brought about enduring change by creating awareness about the health consequences of the practice, facilitating collective debate on the topic using participatory methods, and involving local elders in the decision to abandon it. We compare this approach to other successful African initiatives undertaken during the same period based on similar strategies. We argue that these programmes have been able to amend the practice by empowering the communities to direct their own process of change, based on their own traditions. We caution, however, that such interventions should not be made without a full understanding of the cultural meaning(s) of the practice, which should be seen in a holistic manner.

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Every Woman for Him-self

A Male Feminist Reconsiders – The Death of Eco-feminism?

Brooks Duncan

I am a man and I am a feminist, not only in my own beliefs in equality and empowerment of women but also as a career. As a legal anthropologist, I work on international ‘human rights’ projects with the UN system, governments, NGOs and international donors that increasingly fund women and girls’ rights projects. My history as a feminist is a long one dating back nearly half a century. In the 1960s, as a boy, I was already a feminist. I was motivated by the ideal of eco-feminism; of challenging the patriarchy and its institutions of violence, over-consumption and aggression that not only promoted violence against women but by men against men, by large societies against smaller cultures, by the State against individual creativity, and by human beings against the planet. Feminists now say they have achieved many of their goals in Western societies and they are going global and seeking more male support. But to me, something has run amok.

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France

une géographie à inventer

Jacques Lévy

This article argues that the way French society comprehends its territory is not only an aspect of a more general identity crisis, but also an acting component of an overall political model. France can be characterized as a "state-fatigued" society. Centralism has had an important spatial consequence: an alliance of the nation-state and provincial "notables" against the city. The major cities, especially Paris, produce for the rest of the country but continue to be denied effective local and regional political power. In this context, the peculiar tradition of aménagement du territoire can be analyzed as a discourse based on the myth of a demiurge, the state, which would be the only legitimate actor able to restore France's grandeur by reconquering the deprived parts of its territory. Correlative public polices target moral compensation for a supposed injustice: a partial reimbursement of the debt France once contracted by incorporating the provinces into the national territory. After reviewing disappointing recent changes in the geographical architecture of political power, the article makes some proposals. They are based on the dual framework that an empowerment of relevant spatial units will be necessary and that only a profound and massive debate involving ordinary citizens can overcome the current institutional gridlock.

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Learning to Lead

Challenging Girls in Rural Chinese Schools

Heidi Ross and Lei Wang

Leadership training is often described as an important component and goal of girls' secondary education and also a crucial step for realizing gender equality. This paper explores the possibilities for and barriers to effective leadership training in one "Spring Bud" girls' education project conducted in a poverty-stricken area of Shaanxi Province since 2001. Following a review of the Chinese and international literature on girls' secondary education and leadership training, the authors explore different understandings of "leadership" (and empowerment) among various project stakeholders and indicate the urgency of a mutual understanding of "leadership" and how it might be mentored in girls in formal educational settings. Authors draw upon interviews, observations, student writing, as well as the results of a 2006 survey of nearly 1,000 participating girls and their homeroom teachers, in their discussion of how to connect the concept of "leadership training" with the resources and constraints that shape girls' lives and future educational and career expectations and aspirations. The paper concludes with policy implications.

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Helga A. Welsh

After the two German states unified in 1990, the tendency to transplant West German practices to the former East Germany was particularly pronounced in areas where systemic differences and perceived inefficiency met ideological reservations. The higher education system was among them. Comprehensive institutional, policy, and personnel transfer from West to East ensued. Starting in the mid 1990s after many failed initiatives, however, new policies were launched in the unified Germany. Reinforced by feedback from institutional and policy transfer to the East, factors such as Europeanization and globalization empowered newly formed advocacy coalitions to advance a reform agenda. Competition and performance seeded other ideas, prominent among them diversification, internationalization, autonomy, and accountability. Existing institutions and firmly rooted traditions still condition and limit change, and reforming the reforms has become commonplace. Differentiation among Länder and higher education institutions has become more pronounced, adding to the variety of outcomes. In ways unforeseen in 1990, some areas of the German higher education system have seen paradigmatic change, while others have survived relatively unscathed. The recalibration of the system continues, and reform pressure persists.

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This issue of the International Journal of Social Quality looks at the socio-political and socio-cultural dimensions of sustainability in social quality analysis. Some articles refer to the notion of sustainability, which stimulates transformative changes in society, and the consequences for the explicit or implicit integration with the sociopolitical dimension and the environmental dimension, as well as for the well-being of people all over the world, thus the socio-cultural dimension. Two interesting questions are, first, how can new forms of public participation and democratic practices and policies to stimulate environmental protection be developed, transforming the socio-political and legal context in order to contribute to the development of overall sustainability? Second, how can community involvement and new communication technologies be stimulated, which can be productive for the adequate transformation of the socio-cultural and welfare dimensions? Both issues were addressed in the Aarhus Convention of 1998, which highlighted information on environmental matters as a key right for citizens and a condition for effective public participation in decision-making processes. The concept of “social empowerment” connects the dimensions and – with reference to the four normative factors of social quality as well – delivers arguments for changing the dominant production, distribution and consumption systems and patterns.

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“Yes I am a mother and I am still a teenager”

Teen Moms Use Digital Photography to Share their Views

Leanne Levy and Sandra Weber

If we took the time to listen attentively and carefully to pregnant teenagers and teen mothers what would we hear? If we invited them to articulate their messages to the adults who interact with them, speak to those who judge them, and give advice to their peers, what would they say? Th is photo-essay addresses these related questions by presenting some of the findings of an arts-based activist research project called TEEN M.O.M. (Mirrors of Motherhood). One of the goals of the project was to examine how a media production program, implemented within the context of an existing community organization, can empower teenage girls in diffi cult circumstances to share their views. In a series of workshops, the participants were invited, off ered guidance, and equipped to produce their own images—digital photographs, drawings, and collage work—so as to make visible their views on the personal and social issues that aff ect them directly. (In this photo-essay we concentrate on their photographs and off er comments taken from their writing and from video-taped interviews.) For two hours each week for thirteen weeks, the project gave these young mothers time away from their daily responsibilities and provided them with a safe space in which to focus single-mindedly on creating their images. Th e project culminated in an exhibition in which their work was shown to members of the community, policy makers, family and friends.