Forest Reserve memorabilia collected over 70 years.
The 70th birthday cake.
National president Fiona Gower addresses the Forest Reserve Branch of Rural Women NZ.
Women from Waikato, Franklin, Kaitaia and Kourawhero gathered to help celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Forest Reserve Branch of Rural Women NZ based in Tomarata.
Rural Women NZ national president Fiona Gower spoke at the luncheon event, which was held on Women’s Suffrage Day.
Fiona said the conditions for rural women had changed enormously over the last 70 years.
She said seventy years ago rural women faced a huge problem with isolation with poor roads, no phones and limited mail services.
She said thanks to strenuous work by Rural Women NZ (formerly the women’s division of Federated Farmers) all these things were much improved.
Technology had also made a big difference.
The first secretary for the organisation would hand write letters to up to 2000 rural women to invite them to become part of the organisation.
Today, Fiona can write an email to thousands of rural women and it can reach them all in a matter of seconds.
But despite these improvements, Fiona said rural areas still had a long way to go to improve cell phone and broadband coverage, and Rural Women was lobbying hard to extend these services further in rural areas.
She said she often found herself reluctant to give her cell phone number to people because her phone simply did not work when she was at home on her farm in Port Waikato.
“People look at you sideways and say ‘really?’” she said.
She said the poor coverage meant young rural women could often still feel isolated and, even when they did have access to technology, it was no substitute for face-to-face meetings.
Fiona said as one of the best social network support groups in the country, Rural Women had a huge role to play in bringing women together.
She said she continued to work hard to ensure young rural women, in particular, had the opportunity to meet, have a coffee and have their young children taken care of while they did so.
She said young women really enjoyed such experiences, saying it really helped them escape the feelings of isolation they might otherwise have felt.