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Michael Ebert, Ilona Ostner, Uschi Brand and Steffen Kühnel

Large-scale initiatives to improve individual life chances and social structures face many problems. They need proper theorising and equally proper operationalisation. This is where the EFSQ project on ‘Social Quality Indicators’ comes into play: its main objective was to develop concepts and instruments for a country- and European-wide assessment of social quality. On the basis of ontological considerations about ‘the social’, the new approach defined a ‘quadrangle’ of four basic conditions which were assumed to determine the development of social quality: ‘socio-economic security’, ‘social inclusion’, ‘social cohesion’ and ‘social empowerment’. Relevant domains and sub-domains for each of the four components were identified and a restricted set of ‘ideal’ – mostly objective – indicators was chosen. The availability of already existing ‘hard’ data did not influence that process. Hence the project has stretched beyond the mere description of social quality in Europe and provided a stimulus to gather new relevant data on ‘forgotten’ aspects of the social quality of life. Social indicator research has a long tradition in Germany which helped us to draw effectively upon the results of regularly conducted surveys. The following report starts by explaining the German context. It then summarises key-findings from existing databases to give meaning to the ninety-five social quality indicators in the four components. Finally, we have included discussion of relevant policy initiatives.

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Maria Petmesidou and Periklis Polyzoidis

The subject matter of the ‘social’, defined as the realisation of the self in the context of collective identity, provides the central premise of the social quality perspective. On the basis of this premise the ENIQ (European Network on Indicators of Social Quality) project explored the four conditional factors of social quality, namely the extent to which social structures, patterns of interaction and policy processes, in European societies, promote (or hinder) socio-economic security, social inclusion, social cohesion and empowerment. These are key factors for gauging ‘the extent to which people are able to participate in the social and economic life of their communities under conditions which enhance their well-being and individual potential’ (ENIQ 2004: 2; also Beck et al., 2001). In this article we will briefly examine the four conditional factors of social quality from the viewpoint of socio-economic structures, policies and daily experience in Greece. In the first part we highlight some distinctive features of Greek society that are relevant to our analysis. We then proceed to a short discussion of each of the four conditional factors and their constitutive domains (and indicators). We conclude with some brief remarks on good practices and policy implications.

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Social Quality in Hungary

In the Framework of ENIQ

Szilvia Altorjai and Erzsébet Bukodi

In Hungary, the social and economic conditions have dramatically changed after the political and economical transition. The collapse of communism in 1989–90 forced Hungary, as well as other CEE countries, to reconstruct their political, economic and cultural identity. This process has become known as the ‘transition’ and Europeanisation or globalisation (Manning 2004). Within this transition the ability of adjustment to new conditions has become one of the most important factors – if not the most – in the process of diminishing risks and enhancing life chances. The theoretical and methodological elements of the social quality approach were established in the last two to three years. In this article we aim to outline the most important elements of social quality in the conditional factors socio-economic security, social inclusion, social cohesion as well as social empowerment in Hungary. Here, besides a short description of the national context we will emphasise only the key findings according to the four conditional factors. In the third part of the article we outline some aspects of the Hungarian employment policy.

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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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Ellen Badone

The articles in this special section focus on diverse groups of pilgrims, with each group expressing a different perspective on the Holy Land. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to state that each of these groups, together with their guides, constructs a different Holy Land, resulting in multiple Holy Lands. What exactly is it that makes a land holy? I suggest that we view religion as a social and individual endeavor to interpret experience in ways that are perceived to be meaningful, and as an effort to overcome the isolation of the self through connections with persons, values, and communities that are perceived to elevate, empower, and transcend the individual. From this perspective, places—lands—become holy through their associations with such overarching ‘imagined communities’ (Anderson 1983). Conflict has the potential to arise when the same geographic space is symbolically central for more than one such community. The articles in this section evoke the contestation of meanings as Christians—both Catholic and Protestant—as well as Jews and Muslims visit and dwell within the same territorial space, considered by all, for different reasons, to be ‘holy’.

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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.