While in NZ I was asked about the differences between rural women in NZ and Australia …mmm …not a lot would now be my answer.
- Many women on farms fall in love with a man and find themselves married to a man, a farm and his family. They often find themselves in positions of farm administration, book-keeping, marketing and being the farm Gofer – not necessarily using their training, skills or their strengths. Sometimes doing tasks they do not enjoy. A recognition of what these women do bring to the business and community will raise happiness, increase business success and, I’m sure, improve marriages.
- There is enormous value in bringing like-minded women together to share experiences and provide them with the opportunity to talk about their businesses. Women have often told me that facilitated sessions for rural women provide a unique chance for them to focus on themselves and their businesses.
- Women enjoy the opportunity to build their skills in a safe supportive environment – both business and technical skills – before they will feel safe to integrate into the mainstream agricultural sector. Over the years many male deliverers have commented to me about the though provoking questions they receive from a women’s group. The same women will tell me they wouldn’t ask those questions in front of males because they perceive their knowledge of agriculture to be less than the men.
- Programs like First Steps, developed by the Agri Womens Development Trust, provides a valuable time for women to focus on themselves as individuals and put aside the “roles” or “hats” as wife, mother, daughter, farm worker etc and develop personal plans for their future and their role in their farming business.
- Many farm businesses do not include training or professional development in their budgets – this is an important shift that we can make.
I strongly believe investment in training our rural women will ensure vibrant rural communities, family businesses as well as environmental sustainability.