Rural women are vital to enriching rural livelihoods and wellbeing

Rural women - a quarter of the world’s population - work as farmers, wage earners, and entrepreneurs. Image: pexels cottonbro

BYADUK, population 123, is where Jackie Elliot lives and launched Rural Women’s Day, a registered not-for-profit enterprise that connects rural and regional women through community, collaboration and celebrations.

Ms Elliot said she uses the platform to encourage these women to host events to celebrate the United Nations International Day of Rural Women on October 15 each year.

“It isn’t as widely covered, and it should be the same celebrations as International Women’s Day in March, which celebrates the achievements of women, whether social, political, economic or cultural,” she said.

The RWD organisation is not a membership group but has 8000 followers in its social media community.

Ms Elliot has the gregariousness of a confident, purposeful woman.

When COVID-19 intervened in the events she had planned over the past two years, undaunted Ms Elliot instead organised a campaign on social media to encourage stories about inspiring rural women.

She collaborated with Kirsten Diprose to produce a podcast ‘Ducks on the Pond’ to connect and share stories and advice for women on the land.

Ms Elliot said there are a lot of creative women living on farms who use markets and agricultural shows for marketing purposes.

“Rural women are disconnecting from their communities because these events were cancelled due to Covid,” she said

“Committee meetings also suffer from cancellations; while you can have meetings online, it’s not the same as in personal interaction.”

She works from home in the township and doesn’t see anyone day in and day out.

“You need a personal connection,” Ms Elliot said.

“While the green valleys are a beautiful outlook, it would be great to see people.” 

She wanted a community of women to reach out to, which inspired her to create RWD.

According to The United Nations, women and girls are disadvantaged due to the pandemic.

With a crucial role in agriculture, food security, and nutrition, rural women already face struggles in their daily lives.

Many are less likely to have access to quality health services, essential medicines, and vaccines.

Furthermore, many rural women suffer from isolation and lack access to critical technologies to improve their work and personal lives.

The United Nations considers the crucial role that women and girls play in ensuring the sustainability of rural households and communities, improving rural livelihoods and overall wellbeing is an invaluable contribution.

Julie Mayne, Queensland Rural Regional Remote Women’s Network’s president, recently sent a submission to the state’s Attorney General about its Queensland Women’s Strategy.

“I felt emotional about it,” Ms Mayne said.

“Women are the future for farming and have been for a long time; 100 years ago, women were [and still are] involved in agriculture.

“History hasn’t written them up as major participants in agriculture, so I am hoping we gain a bit of traction and get some respect for what we do and what we contribute.

Ms Mayne said there is a need to celebrate female leadership styles and strength and build respect around their contribution.

She is a cattle producer located a six-hour drive west from Brisbane, between Roma and Miles.

“We have to start championing this work, put a value on our work,” she said.

“Governments have to write policy to look after us, so we stay in the industry.”

The way Ms Mayne sees it is that women are leaders in the family unit and their community, and they are the ones that raise issues and lead on the ground.

There is no school bus; we have no doctor, and depression is taking over the community, so we have to do something about it.

“Our isolated lifestyle hasn’t changed much due to Covid, remotely is our normal,” she said.

“But what it has affected is logistics; the ability to get parts, to get food and the internet suffers due to extra loads.

“I am finding now there is a huge disconnection between industry and government to grassroots.”

Ms Mayne said many remarkable, talented, resilient women are forging careers and businesses and creating a strong focus on community and family and do it with minimal resources. 

“I would love to have these women on board, growing the organisation and diversifying QRRRWN into more remote areas through networking, knowledge, creativity and upskilling,” she said.

The theme for this year’s International Day of Rural Women is Rural Women Cultivating Good Food for All.

The United Nations Women’s report ‘Beyond COVID-19: A feminist plan for sustainability and social justice’ asserts that supporting diverse and healthy food crop production for local, national and regional markets is critical to supporting rural women’s livelihoods and ensuring food security for all.



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Carol Saffer

Carol Saffer is an award-winning journalist enthusiastic about creating copy that engages audiences. She is curious by nature, possesses a growth mindset and thrives on new and unusual challenges. Carol has experience as a reporter for various regional Victorian newspapers and writing for Business Day in The Age. Her previous career was in the fashion industry, and she holds post-graduate degrees in business and journalism.

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