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Our History - from small beginnings

The beginning of the Women’s Division of the Farmer’s Union came in 1925 when a number of farmers’ wives were on holiday in Wellington while their husbands attended the Farmers’ Union Conference.

They heard of the hard, lonely lives of many farm women: the unceasing toil, the mud track roads, rivers unbridged.

But what really touched their hearts were the stories of backblock women, of their loneliness and illness and the lack of help. Some of the women had experienced these conditions themselves, and so sixteen of the women agreed to set up a Women’s Division of the Farmer’s Union to see what could be done to help.

Our first president was Mrs Polson, while others took on other roles. Then home everyone went, some clear on the issue, some not realising in the least the huge scope of the undertaking.

Back on the farms the question for most was what to do.  It was one thing to offer help and another to know just how to give it.

Mrs Jackson, the treasurer, wrote 2,000 letters in the first year alone. The first branch opened in Oakura in June 1926 and by the first conference in 1926 there were a hundred paid up members.

It was decided to form as many branches of possible (in 2017 there are 164 branches and 2000 strong membership).

One of the prime needs for rural women was to organise reliable help to step in when women were ill or had to leave home. So began the Women’s Division Emergency Housekeeping Scheme. In April 1927 advertisements appeared in the New Zealand press for ‘housekeeper, willing to do anything’ and ‘bush nurse, with surgical and midwifery certificates’.

It was realised the wages to pay such women, who could walk into a household and take over its running - including milking the cow and looking after all the children - would be beyond the means of the farmer, so our new organisation set up a Community Chest fund to subsidise their wages, with donations from members all over the country.

At first the number of women employed as housekeepers and nurses was small. The Government then began to set up better facilities in the form of cottage hospitals and district nurses and the need for bush nurses disappeared.  However the need for help in the home continued to grow.

It was the most important and main work of the WDFU “owing to the reliable and capable women sent out to the homes – women who can take charge of a home of six or eight children, or even twelve children, cook, wash and even milk a few cows at a pinch.”

By the 1990s this work became highly regulated.  Today Rural Women New Zealand is still involved in the sector through policy work with government ministries, health boards and heath services.  

Women’s Division of the Farmer’s Union was later renamed Women’s Division Federated Farmers, and at its peak in the 1970s had over 21,000 members.

During the Second World War a call to help saw our members raise $5,000 in a month to fund a Spitfire. The fighter plane with the name WDNZFU inscribed on it had a long and interesting career and was piloted in the first instance by the son of one of our members from Levin Branch, Flt. Lieut. L P Griffith DFC.

Women’s Division, now Rural Women New Zealand, has always been actively involved in rural communities, helping to make them a better place. Our vision is “Growing Dynamic Communities”, and we have achieved this in so many ways, big and small.

 

In the 1970s and 1980s our members raised some $200,000 for leptospirosis research, which played a key role in the development of vaccines for dairy cattle and pigs, thus improving the health of the animals and reducing the risk of contracting this serious disease by farm workers.  In 2009 we re-launched this fundraising campaign and raised a further $107,000 to fund PhD students at Massey University looking into transmission pathways for leptospirosis, following the death of a meat worker at a sheep-only plant.

 

In 2010 we ran the highly successful "Let's Get Plastered for Breast Cancer Campaign", raising awareness of this disease and its prevention, as well as funds for the NZ Breast Cancer Foundation.

 

You’ll find lots more about our present activities on this website.  Our four main areas of interest are centred around rural health, education, land use and social issues.

Read All NewsRecent news

(Pictured: Sticksn'Stones Chairperson Ashleigh Smith with RWNZ National President, Fiona Gower in the UN General Assembly at the CSW62 Opening on Monday). 

 The opening of the 62nd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW62) was held on Monday, 12 March 2018 at the United Nations in New York. The Commission's priority theme for this year is 'Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls'. The work of the Commission is to review the progress made by governments to improve the lives of women and girls in rural areas.

CSW62 is being held in the UN General Assembly and 175 member and observer states are represented. Along with the member states there are 10,000 delegates from 400 Non-Government Organisations (NGO) attending numerous events as part of the CSW62's activities.

The day commenced with the session being opened by the CSW Chair Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason from Ireland. She is also Ireland's Permanent Representative at the UN. Her address was followed by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, and the President of the UN General Assembly Miroslav Lajcak. Other speakers included the Chair of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), a Representative of the Youth, and a Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.

National Chair, Penny Mudford also attended the opening in her role as Civil Society Representative on the New Zealand Government delegation. Both Fiona and Penny attended the opening inside the General Assembly where only government delegations and selected NGO delegates are eligible to attend. It was a great privilege that RWNZ was represented in person at the opening of CSW62.

CSW62 runs until Friday, 23 March 2018 where it is expected to culminate in an Outcome Document which will capture the agreed outcomes in relation to rural women and girls for governments to implement resulting from the work done at this session of the Commission.

New Zealand also held a side event led by Dr Jackie Blue, NZ Human Rights Commission responsible for Womens Rights. The panel comprised Minister for Women Hon Julie Anne Genter, Renee Graham (Ministry for Women Chief Executive), Fiona Gower, Jo Finer (Fonterra), plus representatives from Argentina and Australia. The panel spoke on the topic of Case Studies of Economic Empowerment of Rural Women in New Zealand, Australia, and Argentina. The session was full with over 100 delegates from all around the world attending the panel session. There was keen interest in our message.

National Chair, Penny Mudford. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CSW62 Well Underway

Thursday, March 15, 2018

(Pictured: Sticksn'Stones Chairperson Ashleigh Smith with RWNZ National President, Fiona Gower in the UN General Assembly at the CSW62 Opening on Monday).   Read More

Thursday, 8 March marked this year's International Women's Day. As this year also celebrates 125 years since women in New Zealand won the the right to vote, the day was marked with significance.

Wednesday, 7 March was the launch of the Suffrage125 celebrations which was held at Government House and was attended by RWNZ Board Chair, Penny Mudford, Chief Executive Officer, Penelope England and Office Manager, Felicity Bunny. The launch was hosted by the Governor General, and RWNZ Patron Dame Patsy Reddy. The event was MC'd by journalist, Mihingarangi Forbes, and guest speakers included Minister for Women, Hon Julie Anne Genter and 2017 Young New Zealander of the Year, Rez Gardi.

The following day, Thursday, 8 March marked International Women's Day celebrations. RWNZ attended a breakfast at Parliament hosted by Zonta Wellington and the UN Women. RWNZ Chief Executive Officer Penelope England, and Communications, Marketing & Events Assistant, Catherine Stabb both attended the event.

Discussion topics at the event included recognition of the milestones made by women in New Zealand and the challenges that we still face. Rt Hon Helen Clark spoke of her successes, the obstacles she has faced and the how her rural background contributed to her personal strength, saying "rural people have to be very resilient".

Watch Rt Hon Helen Clark's Q&A with National Council of Women CEO Dr Gill Greer at the breakfast through the link here.

 

(Pictured below: Executive Officer Women’s Institute - Colleen Dryden, National Board Chair - Penny Mudford ONZM, National President Women’s Institute – Kay Hart, RWNZ Chief Executive Officer – Penelope England at the Suffrage125 launch at Government House.)

 


 

 

International Womens Day & Suffrage125

Friday, March 23, 2018

Thursday, 8 March marked this year's International Women's Day. As this year also celebrates 125 years since women in New Zealand won the the right to vote, the day was marked with significance.  Read More

Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) has released a media release today following RWNZ's oral submission on the Trusts Bill. 

 

Please read the media release below. 

 

RURAL WOMEN NEED TO BE INVOLVED IN DECISION MAKING

 

 

Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) influenced positive change for rural families and communities recently, through their oral submission to Parliament on the Trusts Bill.

“RWNZ submitted that both a rural impact and gender impact analysis be conducted on the legislation and intersectionality so that the Bill does not discriminate against women in any way,” says RWNZ National Chair, Penny Mudford.

“RWNZ research indicates that women can be shut out of a share of the family farm through old trusts that fail to acknowledge them in the family as beneficiaries.

“This can lead to women being discriminated against in the dissolution of a relationship where a trust is used to exclude them from a share in the family farm or farm business.

"These situations should not be happening in 2018 and we urge the government to uphold the international instruments and outcome statements when updating legislation such as with the Trusts Bill currently before the Justice Select Committee.

"In particular, the agreed conclusions that came out of the United Nations 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women, which were held in New York in March 2018, make it abundantly clear that government's policies and legislation should not disproportionately disadvantage women and girls living in the rural sector.

"Since trusts are a common type of farm ownership structure in New Zealand we need to be sure they are not being used to disadvantage those who would otherwise be entitled to a share of the farm asset through relationship property or inheritance if the asset was not held in trust," says Ms Mudford.

Ends

 

If you wish to read our oral submission, you can find it here

 


 

Rural women need to be involved in decision making.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) has released a media release today following RWNZ's oral submission on the Trusts Bill.  Read More

Rural Women New Zealand have released a media release raising our concerns for how data is being collected in this year's census.

Please read the media release below.

CENSUS DATA COLLECTION INTEGRITY QUESTIONED

This year’s census is in danger of not providing the data needed to make good decisions, says Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ).

“Whilst we understand and support the excitement of capturing our census data online, our concern is that many people still do not have access to internet while others might not have the capability or capacity to do so,” says National President, Fiona Gower.

“The timing of the delivery of access code letters, which indicate that New Zealanders can opt for paper forms presents challenges for our rural communities, given that delivery of mail is taking longer and might only be delivered three days a week.

“The chances of a rural household without internet or with unreliable internet, receiving census paper forms in time for Tuesday, 6 March is slim, and that is concerning.

“RWNZ is doing everything possible to ensure our networks are aware of the new way of doing the Census although surely more thought should have gone in to how the valuable information about the lives and status of New Zealanders would be collected.

“Maybe this year, there could have been a concerted effort to use both electronic collection and paper collection to ensure integrity of the data,” says Ms Gower.

Ends

 

Please contact the National Office for more information.

 

 

National Office

Rural Women New Zealand

 

[email protected]

04 473 5524


 

 

(image source: www.census.govt.nz)

Census Data Collection Integrity Questioned

Monday, February 26, 2018

Rural Women New Zealand have released a media release raising our concerns for how data is being collected in this year's census.  Read More

Rural Women New Zealand has today released a media release following the announcement that the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) will move to shut down if it does not receive funding.

Read the announcement here.  

 

 

ANOTHER SET BACK FOR THE HEALTH AND WELLBEING OF RURAL COMMUNITIES

Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) are saddened to see that the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) will cease operating if it does not receive government funding next week.

 

“RWNZ supports the work already done by RHAANZ in bringing together various rural groups and rural health providers to develop initiatives for rural communities,” says RWNZ Board Member and Health Portfolio Convenor, Margaret Pittaway.

“Remarkable work has been done to deliver the Rural Health Road Map which sets out a plan and priorities for achieving healthily rural communities.

“Being geographically isolated, often with significant distance to the nearest town or health centre means that rural communities have an immediate need of affordable and reliable access to all health services.

“The Government has committed to rural proofing government policy, and RHAANZ has a vital part to play in this development – without the continuation of RHAANZ, and the work it does, rural communities will go backwards.

“There is no other place where issues impacting the health and wellbeing of rural communities are considered concurrently, and the loss of achievements met and efforts made by RHAANZ will be detrimental for our rural people.

RWNZ urges the Government to recognise the good work that has been done by RHAANZ and to support its continuation," says Mrs Pittaway.

Ends

 

 

Another setback for health and wellbeing of rural communities.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Rural Women New Zealand has today released a media release following the announcement that the Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) will move to shut down if it does not receive funding. Read More

Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) are saddened to hear of the death of a nine-year-old boy whilst riding a quad bike in rural Waikato last night and our thoughts are extended to friends and family.

 

“It is very sad, but it need not have occurred. We need to prevent families and friends from the heartbreak of losing a loved one in such tragic circumstances,” says National President, Fiona Gower.

 

“RWNZ are concerned on two levels, one is children riding age appropriate quad bikes unsupervised and the other is children under the age of 16 riding adult-sized quad bikes.

 

“Last nights’ incident is an unfortunate but timely reminder of manufacturers recommendations that children under the age of 16 should not be riding adult-sized quad bikes.

 

“Children do not have the weight, strength or judgement to be operating these vehicles.

 

“Or if young children are riding age appropriate quad bikes, they need to be wearing a helmet and be supervised at all times.

 

“RWNZ encourage that anyone planning to use any form of machinery on farms receive training, and learn safe practices.

 

“It is heart breaking to receive news like this,” says Ms. Gower.

 

To find the media to which we have responded, follow the link here

 

 

 

Please contact us for further information

[email protected]


 

(photo source: www.nzherald.co.nz)

 

Another Preventable Rural Tragedy

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Rural Women New Zealand (RWNZ) are saddened to hear of the death of a nine-year-old boy whilst riding a quad bike in rural Waikato last night and our thoughts are extended to friends and family. Read More