On International (Working) Women’s Day, 8 March 2017, Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) would like to acknowledge the contribution of rural women to New Zealand’s communities and their pivotal role in primary industries and entrepreneurship.
For over 90 years RWNZ has been an integral part of the rural landscape. “RWNZ’s role is to support rural women through our organisation and help them grow. We have members from all walks of life and all industry sectors. Some members have incredible skills and knowledge which helps us innovate and find new ways to connect with the rural community,” says Fiona Gower, National President of RWNZ.
“One of RWNZ’s greatest strengths is the branch network where members can meet others and learn something new. It is important that women can meet-face-to-face, especially if they are living in isolated areas. RWNZ branches host social outings, community events and regular upskilling workshops.”
RWNZ is building partnerships with education organisations in the rural sector to assist members in developing their leadership skills and knowledge. Many members have progressed into leadership roles on local school boards, health committees, and district councils or become commercial company directors.
The RWNZ Enterprising Rural Women Awards is a showcase for the success of women operating businesses in rural locations and contributing to their local economy and community. The competition has evolved over the years to promote entrepreneurship and encourage innovation in the use of technology in remote locations. Winners of the awards have included women lifestyle publishers, honey producers, native nursery operators, physiotherapists and adventure-tourism providers.
Wellbeing and access to health services is a feature of RWNZ’s ongoing commitment to ensuring rural women and their families continue to thrive. Recently the focus has been managing the challenges of living in rural locations and dealing with adverse events such as drought, fires, earthquakes and floods.
RWNZ are focused on building up community connections by hosting social activities such as Bingo nights and cricket matches which encourages people to socialise and have fun off-farm. It is also a good opportunity for people to connect with their neighbours and communities and talk about their experiences with others in similar situations.
RWNZ also hold an annual Women Walk the World fundraising event in April. It brings together members and local communities to participate in a walk or social get-together. The proceeds are collected for the Associated Country Women of the World (ACWW). RWNZ is a member of ACCW which has a vision of an improved quality of life for women and communities worldwide.
In late April the South Pacific Area Conference for ACWW will be held in New Plymouth, it will bring together rural women from around the Pacific region. Conference proceedings include the Women Walk the World event, business sessions and reports from international representatives. Delegates will hear about the progress of rural women around the world, development of their communities and improved health services, and opportunities for education.
Pictured are Penny Mudford, RWNZ Board Chair with Penelope England, Chief Executive Officer of RWNZ at the Zonta International Women’s Day Parliament Breakfast on Wednesday 8 March.