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Source: University of Guelph

World Rural Women's Day Chance to Recognize Contributions, Prof Says

October 10, 2006

World Rural
Women’s Day is Oct. 15, but rural women around the world probably won’t find
time to celebrate. They’re too busy working in fields, factories and
hospitals and taking care of their families to take a day off, says a
University of Guelph professor.

But urbanites should pause and celebrate working rural women everywhere,
says Prof. Belinda Leach, holder of the University Research Chair in Rural
Gender Studies. "These women’s work sustains our urban lives. Yet urban
people rarely recognize this. World Rural Women’s Day is a great opportunity
for urbanites to think about and recognize the work of rural women."

Leach also directs the Rural Women Making Change (RWMC) community/university
research alliance based in Guelph. The $1-million national project,
supported by the federal Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, is
a blend of advocacy, research and knowledge dissemination. It involves
professors, leading feminist scholars, national unions, volunteers and
advocates in government and community organizations across the country.

Leach and her team stress the diversity of rural women’s work in Canada: as
automotive assembly and parts workers; as clerical, janitorial and
food-service workers; as teachers, nurses and nurses aides, especially in
long-term-care homes; and working in the meat-packing industry, to name just
a few.

For rural life in Canada continues to change, and women seem to be bearing
the brunt of rural economic transformation, Leach said. Women are
simultaneously dealing with disappearing social services, declining farm
incomes and fewer employment and schooling options. Many hold down full-time
jobs both on and off the farm while continuing to be the primary caregivers
of children and elderly relatives. In addition, in some rural communities,
services once offered by various levels of government are now provided by
women through local resource centres on a volunteer basis, she said.

The alliance’s overarching goal is to identify challenges specific to rural
women and to examine better approaches to meeting needs. It also aims to
help empower them to influence public policy at all levels of government.
Already, RWMC teams have produced resources for rural women, including a
workshop for women wanting to work in manufacturing jobs, a "GURALzine" for
rural girls, and new training options.

In celebration of World Rural Women’s Day, RWMC is launching a major
resource for rural women’s organizations, policy-makers and academics: an
interactive website. It’s designed to help rural women who have limited
access to each other and to the information they need. "It directly
addresses the isolation and invisibility that many rural women experience,"
Leach said. "It also provides one-stop shopping for government, grassroots
and academic publications."

Among other things, the website contains cutting-edge research findings, a
database of resources on Canadian rural women and their organizations, an
online version of "GURAL zine," profiles of women working for change, and an
events database. Already, there are more than 200 members. "This is truly a
wonderful site," said Nancy Naples, a professor of sociology and women’s
studies at the University of Connecticut. "I am sending it around to folks I
know will be interested in it."

Colleen Ross, a farmer and women's president of the National Farmers’ Union
of Canada, added: "Whether working off farm to supplement the family income
or working full time on the farm, women on farms are actively supporting
food production in Canada, and their expertise needs to be recognized in
agricultural policy development. The RWMC website will be a useful tool to
make connections and share information about women farmers' economic,
physical and historical contribution to Canadian agriculture and activities
that support women farmers and women in agricultural work."

Gail Erickson of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada says having one website to
go to for links to the types of info rural women need will be very useful.
"In my day-to-day discussions with farming women, the message I hear most
often is that women want access to information and to hear about what other
women and women's groups are doing."

For more information about the website or the Rural Women Making Change
research alliance, contact Leach at 519 835-9240 or 519 824-4120, Ext.
58941, or by e-mail,

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona
Hunt, 519 824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Rachelle Cooper, Ext. 56982.



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