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Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

October 10, 2006

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

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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