How will you mark International Day of Rural Women this year?
Meet the women on a mission to unite and celebrate rural and regional women across the country.
Jackie Elliot was an 18-year old ag college graduate when she relocated from Emerald, QLD to South West Victoria in 2011. “My parents had just bought a property down here, so I decided to move down and make a place to call home where Mum and Dad were,” she says. But despite being near family, Jackie struggled to feel truly settled in the region.
“For eight years, I struggled to meet other young women. I know they were about, but just finding the events to meet women and actually establish a good connection was tough,” says Jackie (pictured above). “There's a ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ when you see people down the street, but I just didn't feel like I had my own tribe, which is something I think that all women need,” she elaborates.
It was on October 15 that Jackie decided to take action. “So, in 2018, International Day of Rural Women (IDRW) rolled around and there were no events on, there weren't any gatherings. There didn't seem to be a lot of hype,” Jackie explains, perplexed by the lack of recognition for the day observed by the United Nations since 2008. IRWD was established to recognise “the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.”
Without any experience in marketing or events, Jackie spent the following twelve months planning a day to celebrate and unite rural and regional women. “I was working for Western Ag at the time and they were really supportive of me running an event. I was also part of the Dunkeld and District Country Women's Association, and I'd started making good connections with some ladies there and I thought ‘we need something more than just this once a month meeting. We need something really big to look forward to in the year.’” So, she enlisted a panel of prominent rural women from across Australia as guest speakers and started spreading the word – on October 15, 2019, Rural’s Women’s Day (now a registered not-for-profit business entity) was born. “I was imagining about 40 to 60 people coming into Dunkeld for the day, but we ended up having to run a second event because people had missed out on tickets. We had over 170 women attend over the two events coming from all over,” says Jackie (above) with a smile, still surprised by her own success.
This year, Jackie had grand plans to do it all again: enter the COVID19 global pandemic. “For obvious reasons we couldn't do that, but I didn't want to just let it go, it's a day that's really significant and it shouldn't be wasted,” Jackie says. She teamed up with Hamilton-based creative Georgie Morrison (pictured below) to brainstorm other ways to celebrate and share the stories of rural women. The pair landed on a 60-page magazine to be disturbed Australia wide.
“We put a call out on social media for people to nominate stories or to get involved in any way with a running theme: connection, collaboration, community and celebration,” says Georgie. “Writers and contributors have linked in with one or two of those themes and so each story in itself has a unique angle. We've been really lucky with a really rich scope of storytelling from a lot of people, different people from different walks of life and that, I think that's what makes this publication really special.”
“This is our first experience with something like this,” Georgie admits. “We've just been learning as we go, but we've had this amazing network of women who have supported us along the way by contributing and submitting work.” The Rural Women’s Day magazine is not in production, with pre-orders set to open on October 15, of course, after being printed by a local business in Hamilton.
As for how the creative duo are encouraging the rest of us to mark the occasion this year, it’s as simple as calling your neighbour. “I think if every woman could go to their next-door neighbour, go out your drive and turn left. If every woman could do that and go to the next woman's mailbox and drop something in there, cook something or just gather something from the garden, it would connect everyone,” says Jackie, who ultimately founded RWD to make connections, a sentiment shared by Georgie. “I think just even the smallest of gestures can make people feel like they belong and like they have a support network that they never knew was there,” she says.
“What brings us together and what makes us rural and regional women is where we come from and the areas that we love. Why wouldn't you celebrate the day?”