History, institutional development, ideas and insights
In the early 1980s a group of women researchers and political activists started to promote a family-friendly policy within their own organisations. This led to the creation of two childcare services (initially self-run and later more structured): a kindergarten and then, in the following years, a club for boys and girls. In line with the changes taking place all over the world in the wake of the international feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s, the main aim was that of assuring women's full participation in working life as well as in social and political life. At the same time, the aim was to conduct an action to educate men to fatherhood. The promoter of all this was the original core group of the women's assembly which then also became a spark for cultural and anthropological change.
The key ideas characterising the origins of ASDO include the following:
- Work is non-renounceable and non-negotiable: it is not just a right, but is also part of a person's very being.
-The family: to have a family life that is full and not second rate.
- Sharing with partners and the opening of a "male issue".
- Housework and care-giving must be socialised through public, private and collective actions.
- A career can only have a positive and authentic meaning if it meets three conditions: fullness, intellectual development and participation in decision-making.
- The risk of being (socially) excluded is paradoxically linked to the excluding decision of one of the two poles, i.e. the family, on the one hand, and one's public and professional life, on the other.
- Art, mythical contexts, symbols and religious dynamics are all fundamental for leading a full life.
- Women's status in society must be formalised.
In the autumn of 1985, the women's assembly carried out a reorganisation of the kindergarten in order to constantly monitor and assure the quality of service offered to working mothers and to their children. This reorganisation also saw the voluntary cooperation of a group of young people already involved in training and working activities in the organisations the ASDO women belonged to.
Underlying this new contribution was an attempt to experiment the issue of childcare as one concerning society as a whole and not just one of its sectors, both from a political and professional standpoint. There was also an attempt to devise original childcare methods that were both socialised and personalised, based on a different view of the man-woman and work-family relationship, based on greater balance in sharing tasks.
Some issues which ASDO focused on at the time:
- The socialisation of childcare between generations and genders.
- The fullness of the anthropological dimension, linked to practising the various spheres of life (public, private, professional, family, recreational, artistic, etc.).
- Greater formalisation of kindergarten educational programmes.
- The importance of sociality in all stages of life.
In autumn 1989, within the School of Sociology and Human Sciences, ASDO promoted and ran a course of advanced studies in the anthropology of women. As a follow-up to this course, amongst other things, a limited liability cooperative called Centro di Cooperazione Familiare (CCF) was set up for family care services. This provided stability to the services both at an organisational and financial level, and had positive effects on the women's careers. The ensuing changes had beneficial effects not only on the families' lives but also on the very way everyone involved - both men and women - started to view important aspects of their jobs (career, use of time, etc.). ASDO paid continuous attention to these issues and carried out an active role as stimulus both within the CCF and in the working environments.
In this phase, ASDO focused its study and reflection, at various levels, on the following:
- Philosophical theories of gender, with particular reference to the equality/difference antinomy.
- The literature on gender (sociology, cultural anthropology, other human sciences, gender studies).
- The crisis of the male gender and education to fatherhood.
- Constitution of the CCF membership and fund-raising.
- Devising educational programmes for school-age children.
The early months of 1994 saw a heated debate within ASDO between those who saw the organisation's mission as only geared to its own members and those who wanted to extend its scope, with a firm orientation in favour of research. The members felt a need for knowledge not only as regards women's conditions but also on contemporary societies as a whole, in which such an important epistemic viewpoint as that of gender risked being insufficiently represented. In this way, ASDO could make a more specific contribution to developing a research programme on contemporary societies. The impasse was overcome in just a few months and in the spring of 1995 ASDO acquired a legal status enabling it to gain access to research and training funds. In this very same period, ASDO opened up to international relations by taking part in the Beijing Summit on women, and would then constantly and actively follow up the development of this reflection within the United Nations.
The issues under debate both inside and outside ASDO were the following:
- Scientific research in a gender perspective and, more generally, the theme of the relationship between gender and knowledge.
- Social exclusion and its measurement as well as the characteristics of the exclusion process as regards women.
- The development of contemporary societies and the specific role played by women in this.
- Women and conflict resolution.
- The participation in an operational coordination of non-profit research institutes
The years 1995-1999 saw ASDO involved in some large research, training and experimentation projects in Italy and abroad, but the year 2000 saw the real beginnings of its definitive presence in the field by consolidating its relations with national and international institutions and with women's association networks as well as by further extending its sphere of action to Latin America and Africa.
ASDO's research lines in this period included:
- Welfare reform, with a more positive approach to family-friendly policies.
- Territorial coalitions for family services.
- Women's leadership and its potential for change.
- Women's entrepreneurship.
- Migration and gender.
- Reconciling work and family life.
In relation to an increase in theoretical study, to increased activity of institutional and scientific relations and to the implementation of projects financed with European funds, the year 2004 saw ASDO strengthen its presence in Italy and in the European and international scientific and political debate.
Marina Cacace's book "Femminismo e generazioni. Valori, culture e comportamenti a confronto", is published by Baldini, Castoldi & Dalai Editore. At the some time ASDO moved into new European and Euro-Mediterranean networks of women researchers and professionals, by taking part in scientific and political discussions on women's role in contemporary societies. ASDO also greatly increased its number of contacts with organisations of the working and professional world and with women's organisation all over Italy and in some European countries, including new EU member states.
The issues dealt with in this period included:
- The importance of women's social action all over the world and the differences between generations of women and of feminists.
- Work/family life balance as the key to women's improved relations with politics.
Since 2008, ASDO has been strongly committed with the implementation of projects aimed at promoting and encouraging women's access to professional fields connected with science and technology. As a partner, it is involved in several projects under the EC 7th Framework Programme and, in this framework, it is strengthening its presence especially at the European level.
The main research paths and issues in this phase are:
- Gender issue in scientific and technological research.
- The promotion of women's presence in scientific institutions;
- The socialization of gender in science;
- The introduction of gender contents in scientific research;
- The policies relating to gender diversity management.