Isolation of women key issue for new Rural Women deputy

A desire to prevent the isolation of women living in rural areas is just one of the driving forces for Rural Women New Zealand's new vice-president.

Kerry Maw, of Dorie, near Rakaia, took over the role at the recent annual meeting of the organisation.

Primarily, she sees her role as supporting the new national president, Wendy McGowan, from Bay of Plenty, but she will be maintaining a keen interest in the role of Rural Women overall.

''It's all about the core services and supporting sustainable growth in the community, helping to fill in gaps in isolation and having fun,'' Mrs Maw said.

As a city girl who married a farmer she is aware of how isolated women can become in the rural sector.

''I joined to meet people of interest, to keep the brain active, to help with the isolation. It's good to feel you are giving something back, too.

''There is still isolation although it may be felt in different ways.''

Mrs Maw, a member of the Seafield branch, farms a 445ha sheep and mixed cropping farm with her husband, Geoff.

She has been involved at a national level for around six years, serving as the councillor for the Canterbury region and its 20 branches.

Like any organisation, Rural Women has been going through change.

''We have to be aware of how it impacts on rural communities,'' Mrs Maw said.

She is keen to keep fees as low as possible to ensure membership is accessible to all who want to join, and wants to ensure the organisation is relevant to young women.

''We are attracting younger women. Of course, a lot of women are actively working on farms and are increasingly hands on. That's why we started the Women in Farming groups,'' Mrs Maw said.

The groups provide opportunities for women who wanted to share their farming knowledge and develop new farm-based skills in a friendly, supportive environment.

With five children aged from 9 to 15 years, life is always busy for Mrs Maw.

The new role might bring even more travel. Combine that with her recent election to the Associated Countrywomen of the World United Nations committee, and her organisational skills will be called on even more to enable her to fill all her roles.