8 Mar 2017

Rural women 'backbone of the economy'

3:04 pm on 8 March 2017

It's International Women's Day and New Zealanders should pay tribute to rural women because they are essentially the backbone of the economy, says the Rural Health Alliance.

Rural Health Alliance chief executive, Michelle Thompson

Michelle Thompson says it is harder for rural women to get support because of their isolation. Photo: Supplied

King Country farm

King Country farm Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

Chief executive Michelle Thompson said in rural areas the burden of historical oppression and discrimination could be exaggerated because women were isolated and further away from support.

She said it was important to recognise this.

"It's a celebration of the wonderful contribution that women make to all aspects of rural living - we want to wave the flag for them.

"By being isolated they are further from ammenities like our health services, they are further from employment opportunities and they are further away from family and friends."

When things got tough, it was harder for rural women to get help, Ms Thompson said.

"Also because of the technological issues with poor cellphone coverage and unreliable access to broadband when you do need to call for help or connect with somebody it can be much more difficult."

Ms Thompson said support around rural communities often fell short.

"Definitely more needs to be done. There is a lot going on at the moment around empowering rural communities to look after themselves, but more needs to be done to integrate the services and make them function more smoothly.

"We all know rural women are big on combatting family violence, but few people realise that rural domestic violence rates are higher than in urban areas."

Agriculture and tourism were the powerhouses of the economy, and this needed to be highlighted, said Ms Thompson.

"If the spending power of rural people is considered, then the contribution of the agri-food sector is $53 billion, or one dollar in every four dollars spent in the economy."

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