Celebrating International Rural Women’s Day









365 days of gratitude


International Rural Women’s  Day, gives me cause to appreciate how much better life is for a rural woman in New Zealand than it is for the many in other parts of the world.

It’s not something I take for granted and it is something for which I”m grateful.

Rural women’s empowerment crucial for end of hunger, poverty


Empowering rural women is crucial for ending hunger and poverty.

This is the message from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the International Day of Rural Women which is celebrated on October 15th each year.

Rural women produce much of the world’s food, care for the environment and help reduce the risk of disaster in their communities. Yet they continue to face disadvantages and discrimination that prevent them from realizing their potential. For too many rural women, their daily reality is one in which they do not own the land they farm, are denied the financial services that could lift them out of poverty, and live without the guarantee of basic nutrition, health services and amenities such as clean water and sanitation. Unpaid care work imposes a heavy burden and prevents their access to decent wage employment.

Empowering rural women is crucial for ending hunger and poverty. By denying women rights and opportunities, we deny their children and societies a better future. This is why the United Nations recently launched a programme to empower rural women and enhance food security. The joint programme of the three Rome-based food and agricultural organizations and UN Women will work with rural women to remove the barriers they face, and to boost their skills as producers, leaders and entrepreneurs

When food and nutrition security are improved, rural women have more opportunities to find decent work and provide for the education and health of their children. With equal access to land, credit and productive resources, rural women can increase their productivity and sell their goods. As equal members of society, rural women can raise their voices as decision-makers and propel sustainable development.

The world has increasingly recognized the vital role that women play in building peace, justice and democracy. As we approach the 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, it is time to invest more in rural women, protect their rights, and improve their status. On this International Day, I call on all partners to support rural women, listen to their voices and ideas, and ensure that policies respond to their needs and demands. Let us do everything we can to enable them to reach their potential for the benefit of all.

The day day recognises the contribution of women in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating poverty.

In line with this, seven Rural Women NZ members have just returned from an enriching and rewarding experience connecting with village women near the Indian city of Chennai.

The group was attending the triennial world conference of the Associated Countrywomen of the World (ACWW), an organisation with a worldwide membership of over a million that has had consultative status at the United Nations since 1949.

But it was meeting the rural women of India that had most impact, Rural Women NZ national president, Liz Evans, said.

“The women, many of whom worked in the rice paddies, were so hospitable and so keen to tell us about their everyday lives, their aspirations and family ambitions. None of them had many financial resources, but, through project based aid organisations like ACWW, they were able to demonstrate their successes – especially around establishing small businesses.”

At the conference, which was attended by about 500 women from around the world, Rural Women NZ’s resolution calling for “well trained and resourced quality maternity services and best outcomes for mother and baby, giving particular regard to the special needs and isolation of rural women” was adopted unanimously.

Other adopted resolutions included a call to ban the use of the “hazardous” chemical Bisphenol A (BPA), which is used in many plastic products; the need for governments to record the births of all children to ensure they are recognised as citizens, and a call to stop the practice of female genital mutilation, female circumcision and cutting, which endangers the health and lives of young girls.

Members are expected to take these adopted resolutions back to their home countries and advocate for their governments to action them.

‘Grow locally, benefit globally’ was the theme of the women in agriculture workshop, where some speakers expressed concern at the large increase in heart disease, diabetes and obesity as a result of changing diets. What to do with the growing volumes of food waste was also a hot topic.

ACWW has been leading on water issues for many years, funding and supporting water storage and purifying projects in many countries.

Recognising the importance of education to help raise families out of poverty, Rural Women NZ members gave $1000 worth of books to local Indian school children, with funds raised earlier in the year at our ‘Women Walk the World’ events. . .



Dairying helps increase female participation in ag


It’s International Rural Women’s Day on which we learn:

. . . more than a third of the female workforce is engaged in agriculture, while in regions like Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, more than 60 per cent of all female employment is in this sector.1 To afford food and other basic expenses, men and women in rural areas often diversify their income by combining multiple forms of employment. Women generally work as subsistence farmers, small-scale entrepreneurs, unpaid workers on family farms or casual wage labourers – but they may take on all or a number of these activities at different times.

In general countries with more women in the rural workforce tend to be poorer.

In wealthier countries men are more likely to work in agriculture and rural support and servicing industries.

However, the number of women in what were once jobs regarded as mainly male preserves is increasing.

More women are actively involved in farming, and are increasingly likely to be found at work in the paddock and in governance and other supporting roles.

One reason for that is the increase of dairying. Two of our three sharemilkers are women and four of the six staff they employ are too.



Another reminder that it’s  International Rural Women’s Day:


“Waddya mean resign . . . y’can’t resign . . .  the boy leaves next week, and besides . . .  we’re married.”

From The Best of Jock  by David Henshaw.

A new breed of rural women


Some women are rural by birth, some by choice and others like me become rural by marriage.

It’s now more than a quarter of a century since I took on my farmer. Back then it was the norm if you married a man of the land to follow him to his land regardless of whether or not you could follow your own career in the country.

Now, many younger women place a much higher value on their right to follow their chosen path then my contemporaries and I did. But some still find that they can’t have it all. It isn’t always possible to follow their careers if they follow their hearts and find themselves on a farm too far from a city for commuting.

Irrigation has brought farmers’ offspring and other young people back to our valley for the first time since the ag-sag of the 1980s. Some are women coming home to farm, more are men and many of them have  brought partners or wives with them.

Among them are intelligent, well-educated, confident young women with established careers and some find they aren’t able to carry on working in their chosen fields.

Improved communication through texting and the internet mean they aren’t as isolated as they would have been a decade or two ago. It helps that it is no longer unusual to have women working as stock agents, fertiliser reps, vets and in other positions which were once regarded as “men’s jobs”. But the women who choose farmers still have to adapt to a different way of life in the country.

They aren’t martyrs, though. Some take an active role on the farm, some find other ways to use their talents in paid work and in the community.

The theme of this year’s International Rural Women’s Day, which is being marked today, is rural women at the heart of innovation.

The new breed of rural women is living proof of that.

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