• Jenny Shipley
Women's Affairs

"Over the last two decades rural women have met the enormous challenge of increasing demands and changing roles with enterprise and initiative," the Minister of Women's Affairs, Jenny Shipley, said today.

To mark World Rural Women's Day Mrs Shipley released the report, "Change and Diversity: Opportunities for and Constraints on Rural Women in New Zealand".

"I congratulate the authors of this report. It is a comprehensive examination of the reality of rural women's lives, looking at the paid work of rural women, the visibility of their unpaid work, their involvement in decision-making, and how the media and advertising portray them.

"As the report notes, 'the work rural women do in the community is essential for holding the community together and for ensuring its viability. Their contribution is critical to agriculture because strong communities have long been identified as important to maintaining sustainable agriculture'.

"Rural women's roles are diverse and changing. In the 90s, rural women may be involved in family work, domestic work, community work, farm physical work, farm business work and off-farm employment. Yet, they remain poorly represented on agricultural industry governing bodies.

"We need more rural women on decision-making bodies at both the community and the national levels because of the fresh perspectives, experiences and insights they bring," Mrs Shipley said.

"Local and Regional Council elections next year and general Government elections in 1999 provide an opportunity and a goal I hope some women will aspire to.

"Over the past decade, rural women have been closely involved in agricultural sector innovation which has seen a greater range of farming activities and land used for more diverse purposes. Getting more women into agricultural decision making roles is a challenge to industry and Government alike.

"Rural women are now more involved in farm ownership and management and they recognise themselves as farm owners in their own right, rather than as farmers' wives. However, rural women still face barriers to the full recognition of their skills as managers and business operators, especially from the farm servicing community.

"Yet it is the innovation and business skills of rural women which are needed to spearhead the development of new enterprises required to broaden the rural economic base. For enterprise development to occur, there needs to be acceptance, development and support for the many roles of rural women.

"To quote the report, 'Women are good managers. They are not afraid to admit when they do not know something, they think strategically, are well organised, and are lateral thinkers and good communicators. Women are also determined and persistent, are flexible and work well together,....and are less likely than men to "throw money" at problems'.

To assist women to adjust to their changing role the report suggests such strategies as the provision of child care facilities at rural events, the provision of training opportunities designed to suit women and greater acceptance and support for men who take up or share household duties.

The report also suggests that the media and advertising need to present a more realistic portrayal of rural women's lives.

"Rural women contribute so much to the wellbeing of our country and it is important that their contribution is recognised and valued not only on World Rural Women's Day but on an ongoing basis," concluded Jenny Shipley.