The UN International Day of Rural Women takes place on Friday 15 October, celebrating women all over the world who live and work in rural areas. In Scotland, women’s contribution to rural life is often overlooked, according to the rural network Scotland’s Regional Moorland Groups.
Lianne MacLennan, national coordinator of Scotland’s Regional Moorland Groups, said: “Women in rural areas are increasingly active in all kinds of traditionally male-dominated careers with it now no longer being a surprise to see women in these roles. In addition, they are undertaking a wide range of unpaid work and services which enable rural communities to survive and thrive. The mental strength and versatility of these women is worth celebrating.”
Women account for a substantial proportion of Scotland’s rural labour force. Their roles can vary from providing informal and seasonal work to making a significant contribution to agricultural production and natural resource management or running their own business.
Lianne MacLennan continued: “Many women have a major role now within the rural economy, for example assisting in meeting the challenges of sustainable food production and others who are entrepreneurs creating businesses that support rural jobs.”
Beth Alexander is a beef and sheep farmer in Blairgowrie, Perthshire. Born and raised on an upland beef and sheep farm in Perthshire, farming is in Beth’s blood having farmed with her grandparents, dad and siblings. She graduated from Newcastle University with a BSc in Agribusiness Management in 2019 and is currently undertaking an MSC in Agriculture Professional Practice.
As a member of The Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs (SAYFC), Beth is involved in the rural community and fundraises regularly. Recently the group has volunteered at a local primary school for maintenance work and gardening and through various campaigns raised over £1,100 for the RSABI (Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution) charity in 2020/21.
Beth says: “The rural community in Scotland is varied, vibrant, and holds the key to so much of what Scotland has to offer. Conservation and productive farming methods go hand in hand. Diversity creates innovation and this is part of women’s contribution to the farming and rural community. We are in pivotal times where we need innovative research and practices to drive our industry forward and create opportunities for the next generation. I believe there is no truer statement than ‘live each day as if it’s your last but farm like you’ll live forever’.”
Kirsty Cousins, based near Canonbie in Dumfriesshire, is another business woman celebrating International Day of Rural Women. Kirsty provides specialist dog training and breeding, as well as services for shoot days, operating all over Scotland. She established her business, Gorton’s Gundogs, over ten years ago and has never been put off despite being one of the few women in the field.
Kirsty says: “I’ve been totally passionate about dog training since I was ten years old and I never wanted to do anything else. I think women have to prove themselves to a certain extent when they are starting out in this line of work but things have worked out well and we are always busy. Women are doing these jobs and making a major contribution to the economy but that isn’t perhaps always recognised. I am lucky that my husband supports me and does the secretarial work for the business and a lot of the cooking and cleaning, that is really invaluable.”
Mhairi Morriss of Glad Rags Events in Aberdeenshire has built up her corporate events business from scratch over the past seven years. Glad Rags and Cartridge Bags started out with a focus on clay shooting for women of all ages and abilities, based in beautiful country houses and castles.
Now the business has diversified to offer other experiences such as fishing, gardening, and dog training days.
Mhairi says: “My aim was and still is to encourage more ladies into what is a predominantly male dominated sport to teach them how to shoot properly in a friendly, fun and relaxed atmosphere. With over 1,000 participants to date, there was a clear demand. The new services such as fishing enable women to access another traditionally male sector on an equal footing.”
Glad Rags events generate additional revenue for the local economy too, as dozens of people often book overnight stays in local hotels and outside suppliers are contracted to provide instruction, catering and other relevant services.
The United Nations’ International Day of Rural Women takes place on Friday 15 October. Scotland’s regional moorland groups are supporting the day on social media.
About Scotland’s Regional Moorland Groups
Scotland’s Regional Moorland Groups have been set up to demonstrate the work sporting estates and their staff undertake in our countryside and highlight the positive impact on local communities, businesses and rare wildlife.
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