This international workshop forms part of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation's extensive commitment to women's political issues. It finds expression in a series of national and international conventions which we are carrying out, particularly in the framework of a discussion circle established on "Women and Politics". Within this discussion circle, we provide a forum for debate on questions of political equality for interested women and men from trade unions, politics, the world of science, the media and administration. This is why the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) organised this international workshop in order to enable foreign and German experts to come together and exchange their views on this topic.

In the same vein, a wide range of material and results, produced by the research institute of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, were presented. The proportion of female scholarship holders was increased by a third. At seminars for political adult education about 40 per cent of the participants are women. We contribute to the development of an active democracy

- through political education

- through scientific research and the promotion of studies.

We promote understanding between nations through international cooperation and development projects in the Third World and the intervention of women in politics. Democratization has become a global political theme. Throughout the world,democratic forms of the political constituents of societies are under discussion. In many countries, the social image of female organising abilities, solidarity and social commitment is being shaped.

Countless local and regional groups of women have been formed on a voluntary, democratic basis and in the main independent of the state. Women's self-help organisations have been created out of situations of economic and social need and have taken on important tasks. Many of these networks of mutual aid develop into social movements and are regarded as vehicles of hope for the democratization process. The collapse of the communist system triggered dramatic economic and political developments. Women are particularly affected by the economic downward trend. Will they acquire new importance and new dignity in the process of democratization? How will the scope for discussion and formation of these groups develop, or on which political level will women manage to intervene?

Despite the international women's decade, worldwide women's action programmes and the adoption of a convention to eliminate every form of discrimination against women, the living conditions of many women in the South has deteriorated. Neither in relation to overcoming female poverty, nor in relation to the elimination of differing forms of violence against women was any lasting progress achieved. In recent years, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation was approached with the request to more strongly promote the involvement of women in the development process. Women's promotion components in our projects have been increased in the international department since 1991. Generally speaking, the promotion of women combines all measures for the improvement of living and working conditions of women. This strategy aims at overcoming poverty and sexual inequality and at the same time at influence in politics with regard to the chances of survival of women.

The Friedrich Ebert Foundation, to whose tasks number, alongside the promotion of international understanding and partnership with developing countries, also scientific research, the cultivation and transmission of the history of the social movement, also wants to contribute to recalling again and again what has been achieved in order to do justice to future demands and in order to pose new questions.

All progress towards more equality cannot, however, blind us from the fact that it is also necessary, now and in the future, to fulfill the existing legal norms so as to really enable women to have an equal share in our society. Stocktaking makes these deficits clear. Joint objectives are not solely sufficient on their own. Concrete measures come closer to the aim of according men and women the same rights and obligations, but also the same chances. Stocktaking, suggestions, the consideration of perspectives and discussion, this is what I wish for our conference today.

Eva Rühmkorf

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