9 October 1998

Getting what you really, really


WOMEN in the UK can achieve anything – if they really want to. Week after week we write about women in business or active in organisations and campaigns, just as we write about men.

Long gone are the days when Farmlife featured women who pursued skills in crafts or ran little sidelines "to have some money of my own," or "to do something for me".

In many of todays farm households it is the womans income from paid employment off the farm or from an enterprise run on it that keeps the family, fed, clothed and supplied with spending money. If there is a job to be done women will do it.

So why is there only one woman on the council of the NFU for England and Wales and relatively few women in other areas of public life?"

Probably because it is a game that few want to play keenly enough.

As we have already said, next Thursday (Oct 15) is World Rural Womens Day and one of the ways in which Farmlife is marking the occasion is with readers views on the subject. Early in September we asked how you felt this day should be marked; how you saw womens role in UK agriculture; whether there were inequalities still to be addressed and the above mentioned question about women, the NFU and public life. We also said there was no need to address all the questions posed and offered £25 for each letter published.

Here they are. There were others but not many, which could mean that letter writing is one of the games most people do not want to play. On the other hand it could be that most people are happy with the current situation, that they do not feel there is much sexual inequality to bother about and just accept that the part women play in UK agriculture is a fact of life, one that does not need flagging up.

The NFU, in association with the Country Landowners Association, the National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs and the Womens Farming Union, is marking World Rural Womens Day with a conference for female members and members spouses which aims to help women gain self-confidence, branch out into their own enterprises and make their mark in public life.

I have a sneaky feeling that women who can organise their rural concerns for the day and get up to London to attend a conference are achievers already.

While many women farm or run rural enterprises on their own account, most come into them through marriage. For the latter success depends on good personal relationships, particularly within the marriage and with in-laws. Good health too.

With these they can cope with everything apart from the reaction of some males – bank managers and farm reps among them – who cannot accept that farmers wives are anything but second class citizens when it comes to the business. These are the people who need some training.

Ann Rogers.

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