Analysing social networks in rural development: a gender approach

Abstract

Gender issues are of growing importance in the European and Spanish rural areas. The literature reflects that women have traditionally been linked to marginal positions in economic life, social activities and even political representation at the local level. Local development programs that have been implemented in Europe’s rural areas have had among its objectives the improvement of the articulation of local communities. To reach them, it has been fostered, among others, a gender perspective, promoting both productive activities led by women and their participation as stakeholders in the management and decision-making structures of such programmes. In this paper, we addressed this latter issue. The study focuses on a sample of 30 relevant social actors linked to the implementation of a rural development programme in the county of Rincón de Ademuz (Valencia, Spain) from the mid-1990s to recent date. Through Social Network Analysis, gender differences and women’s roles within the social network are studied in two differentiated periods. This analysis reveals that despite women representing a minority among the relevant stakeholders, their level of participation, prestige, position in the network, and frequency of relationships, among other indicators, are comparable with respect to those sustained by men. Therefore, it cannot be said, as reflected in some of the literature, that women tend to occupy marginal positions in the structure of social relations of local development programs.

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