RoSa's vision and mission statement
RoSa, as centre of expertise, aims at promoting gender awareness in Flanders thus helping to reduce and eliminate the factual inequality between women and men in our society.
RoSa defines gender as the social ideas, expectations and norms on masculinity and femininity: what does it mean in our society to be a man or a woman? The concept of gender embodies the idea of change. Social expectations vary in time and culture. According to RoSa, he concept of gender transcends the personal aspect. Gender is not only a vital part of one's identity, it equally works as an ordering principle in society and it is embedded in ruling norms and values of a culture. Historically grown gender constructions lead to social inequalities.
RoSa believes that promoting gender awareness is a first and crucial step in every action on equal opportunities for men and women - whether personal, social or in policy-making. It is RoSa's task to contribute to creating a fertile ground for such actions in every corner of the Flemish society.
RoSa's vision on gender and gender relations is framed within an international perspective. Social inequalities as a result of unbalanced gender relations are not merely a Flemish phenomenon. Neither does theorizing gender nor the origins of interesting evolutions stop at state borders. RoSa considers it important to keep informed on international developments concerning gender related topics, in order to be able to compare with our own national context. Furthermore, RoSa aspires to play a part on international gender fora, thus increasing Flanders' visibility abroad.
RoSa researches and documents gender relations within the larger picture. Mechanisms of discrimination based on gender aren't isolated. More often than not, they can be found on the crossing with other discriminations such as sexual orientation, ethnicity, disabilities and age. They all are embedded in historically grown social, policy and cultural arrangements. RoSa values this intersectionality in its own functioning. In the broader landscape of equal opportunities in Flanders, RoSa wishes to build and maintain rewarding relations with the other partners.
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The foundation of RoSa was strongly embedded in the second-wave feminism of the seventies, which itself had its roots in the 68 movement. Student protests and demonstrations for the rights of minorities led to fundamental changes in society. They raised their voice against racism, they demanded a more democratic society and more individual responsibility. People also began to rethink the traditional division of gender roles and the balance of power between men and women. Moreover, the introduction of the contraceptive pill opened new perspectives on sexuality and family planning. Women could now control their own fertility. Being a mother became a choice. Books as 'The feminine mystique' by Betty Friedan showed women all over the world that being a woman was more than being a good housewife and mother.
As a result of this movement, several social and political organizations for women were founded. In Flanders we had PAG, Dolle Mina and VOK. Pluralistic Action Groups for Equal Rights of Men and Women were founded in Flanders in 1970. PAG was meant to be a pragmatic action movement, pointing at discriminatory situations and trying to abolish them. They campaigned for equal wages, political participation and for a reform of the law on marital goods. PAG launched discussion groups, which led to establishing Women's Houses toward the end of the seventies. Dolle Mina was also founded in 1970 with 5 local sections: Antwerp, Ostend, Leuven, Brussels and Ghent. Activities were mostly focused on family problems: better child care, more playgrounds. They also shattered taboos with actions like 'Boss of your own belly'. Another organization is VOK (the Women's Consultation Committee) that is founded in 1972. It officially represents "progressive women in Flanders", but it actually was a women's network. The VOK still organizes the annual Flemish Women's Day on November 11.
Not only were there social movements, within the framework of existing political parties, women started to organize themselves as well. They were aware of the fact that they had to struggle for a real policy of emancipation and equal rights. By the end of 1973, the first political feminist group was created within the Christian's People Party. It was called 'Vrouw en Maatschappij' (Woman and Society). Miet Smet was the great inspirer of the movement. Later in the seventies Woman and Society was followed by women's groups in the socialist, liberal and Flemish-nationalist parties.
In the late seventies, the mood shifted within the feminist movement. The awareness grew that legal measures were not enough, and that there was a need for a behavioural change. Women's houses were created all over the country. They held discussion groups in order to raise consciousness with different groups of women. In these houses, women were offered a place to stay, they could get emergency aid, they found distraction as well as education. In order to be able to provide education, people needed information. Furthermore, the commitment of the second-wave feminism was also translated into several feminist magazines and studies.
All these evolutions made it necessary to have a documentation centre that would collect all the information and make it accessible to the public. Renée Van Mechelen took the initiative to start a pluralistic documentation centre and called it RoSa, short for 'Rol en Samenleving' (Role and Society). The headquarters of RoSa was first situated in the cultural center of Vorst (Brussels)- and financially supported by the Ministry of Dutch-speaking Culture. The center was inaugurated on October 26, 1978. In order to make the more than ten thousand publications gathered by RoSa available to the general public , a computerized library system was used from 1990 onwards with a thesaurus module. The library system covers our entire collection: books, magazines, articles, press cuttings, archives,... It is being used to find materials by searching their titles, authors, keywords,... in a user-friendly way.
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