Arnemuiden Women

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Arnemuiden is a small town in the province of Zeeland, located in the municipality of Middleburg in what is known as the island of Walcheren. It has around 5400 inhabitants and before becoming part of the city of Middleburg it was an independent village with its own city council. The distinctiveness of the village is that it has a fishing fleet even though it is not geographically located by the sea. The Arnemuiden fleet has around 12 fishing boats, all moored in the nearby port of Flushing or Vlissingen, however fishing families are still living in Arnemuiden and have a “fisherman’s life style”. Historically the town was originally located by the sea, however due to territorial adjustments in the topography of the island, it is now far away from the sea but continues to have the heritage and identity of a fishing village. Arnemuiden is a very conservative town in which roles between men and women are dictated by their religious affiliation. Protestant religion beliefs are strictly followed by the majority of community members; this means that traditional roles are the norm with women in the household as the carer and childrearing responsibilities, while men go out and work as the main breadwinner. Until very recently the town was mainly made up of members of the same family, however in recent years people from neighbouring towns and even from abroad have arrived, which is changing the town’s genealogy.

In Arnemuiden the majority of people have a strong religious faith and on many occasions life revolves around activities developed in the church, creating a close-knit community neighbourhood. The church represents a social space in which people get together to pray and to express affection for each other in a collective manner. Most churches have a number of activities especially during the autumn and winter. Social connectedness starts in the church from early in life, through attendance at Sunday school and club meetings for children while teenagers (from 12 until about 18 years old) attend confirmation classes. The adults develop bible study groups, sometimes tailored only for men or women. In the same way the church also organises activities for older people. Social life manifests in the affiliation to a club; most people in Arnemuiden are member of social groups or societies and carry out voluntary work. There are several sport clubs (e.g. football, korfball, tennis, table tennis) some of which have more than 350 members. Cultural activities play an important role in the maintenance of informal connections, for instance there is a harmony orchestra, a bird society, a pigeon society, a historical society and a scouting society. All these groups play a very important role in the sustenance of social networks in the community.

In Arnemuiden community members consider family and friends as the most important social value. The research demonstrated that child care and care of the elderly is generally regarded as a responsibility not only of the state but by the family members. The Dutch social welfare state, as in the rest of the researched countries, provides for basic needs such as health and unemployment benefit, which is covered by the national system.

The Town of Arnemuiden is one of the GIFS project case studies. It was selected on the basis of its fishing heritage and legacy in community life. The town was marketed by the municipality as a fishing village and has a women think tank group which supports the development of ideas in favour of community social, cultural and economic activity.