Rural Women Research Group Going to UN

July 29, 2009 - News Release

Members of the University of Guelph's Rural Women Making Change (RWMC) research group are taking their success story to the United Nations. They'll speak at the 6th annual UN Youth Assembly, which runs Aug. 5 to 7 in New York City, discussing a program that helped change the lives of young women in a rural Ontario town and how it could do the same for women around the world.

“Poverty is poverty, no matter where you are,” said Pam Hanington, a RWMC researcher and community development expert who started the successful “GURAL” program at a high school in Goderich.

“Young women face gender barriers everywhere, whether it’s in China, Africa or right here in rural Ontario. Our success helping girls with the challenges of poverty in Goderich has a lot to teach the world. It’s exciting to be presenting our work to the UN’s Youth Assembly.”

Hanington, along with RWMC co-ordinator Carolyn Pletsch and researcher Wyanne Sandler, will discuss the high school program during an Aug. 6 session.

GURAL focuses on giving at-risk young women a chance to get involved in hands-on projects designed to help them deal with and overcome economic disadvantages.

“It’s all about empowering young women, letting them find and speak their voice," said Hanington. "It makes a real difference in how they face the challenges in their lives. There is a real concern for the success of rural girls in poverty around the world, and I think that what we learned in Goderich can change the lives of women anywhere in the world.”

As a result of Hanington’s work in Goderich, similar programs have started in Fort Albany First Nation, Ont., and Grande Digue, N.B.

This is the second time RWMC researchers have been invited to the UN. The group made presentations on migrant workers and rural poverty in November 2008. “The invitation from the United Nations recognizes the work RWMC is doing,” said Hanington.

RWMC, directed by Prof. Belinda Leach of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, is a community-university research alliance that combines academic research with community-based work by agencies and experts such as Hanington. The goal is to help rural women’s organizations involved in local, national and international policy promote action for change. It involves five Canadian universities and outside agencies that include the National Farmers’ Union and Canadian Auto Workers Local 88.

The UN Youth Assembly is an annual gathering of young people from around the world. They’re looking for practical ways to contribute to the achievement of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, which focus on eliminating poverty and breaking down gender barriers for women.

Pam Hanington, 519 440-0122/519 525-9365
Timothy Grier, RWMC Media Liaison, 519 505-0184
Carolyn Pletsch, RWMC Co-ordinator, 519 823-8079/519 239-5100

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

University of Guelph
50 Stone Road East
Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1