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Rural Women New Zealand: More than just scones

Rural Women New Zealand: More than just scones
Rural Women New Zealand is in the process of delivering care parcels to over 250 properties affected by Cyclone Gabrielle. Photo supplied

Rural Women New Zealand began as a grassroots organisation in 1925 by a group of women looking at ways to connect and share their life experiences on the farm.

The organisation has stood the test of time, becoming a driving force in advocating for rural communities, providing connection and delivering support in times of need.

"We support our rural communities in whatever way, shape or form that may take," Rural Women New Zealand national president Gill Naylor says.

"Whether that is through social connection, supporting other charities within our communities or through wider national charities that may affect women."

The organisation has gained some traction recently, addressing the increase in postal rates for rural deliveries and working with the Telecom Users Association of New Zealand around rural connectivity issues.

"Ensuring equity of access for everyone is becoming more important even in our daily lives.

"We need to get good internet and cellular coverage to those isolated, and in some cases not so isolated parts of New Zealand., and our postal service is a key service for rural communities, and we tend to miss out."

Rural Women New Zealand has been instrumental in coordinating relief for adverse events, from the flooding in Mid Canterbury to the more recent devastation of Cyclone Gabrielle.

The organisation's adverse events relief fund, buoyed by donations from members and supporters, can grant up to $1000 to those experiencing severe hardship.

It's about more than just money, though, Naylor says.

"There is a massive hug of support that goes with it.

"And we are really key to distributing meals to people that have been affected and checking in on people."

Members have also been compiling care packages, and the organisation has been inundated with items and is in the process of delivering packages to over 250 properties, Naylor said.

"It's that wrap-around care and connection that we pride ourselves on in situations like this."

Taking Rural Women New Zealand into the future

There are arguably some misconceptions about what is involved in being a Rural Women's New Zealand member, which can deter younger women from joining.

Being a member can be as busy or as social as you want it to be, Naylor says.

For those who want to be involved in advocacy work or are interested in government policy, there is scope for members to affect change.

For those wanting social connection, branches provide sessions outside formal meetings for people to connect.

With membership only $50, it's an affordable way to meet new people and help the community.

"There's no compunction for everything to be within a formal branch group; we are very flexible with that as well.

"It can just be a matter of having connection points."

The NZI Rural Women New Zealand Business Awards 2023

The NZI Rural Women New Zealand Business Awards aim to support, recognise and celebrate entrepreneurial rural women.

"We are always blown away by the entries we get, the passion people have and the ingenuity around what they are doing," Naylor says.

"It's amazing and inspiring."

Entries are across seven categories.

  • Emerging Business
  • Love of the Land
  • Creative Arts
  • Rural Health and Well Being
  • Rural Champion
  • Innovation
  • Bountiful Table

The winner from each category will be announced in early October, with awards winners becoming a finalist for the Supreme Award, which will be announced at a presentation at The Rydges Hotel in Christchurch on November 24.

by Claire Inkson