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Minister meets Rural Women’s Organisations

4 March, 2008


Sinn Féin Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA has met with representatives from rural women's organisations.

The Minister praised the work of rural women and underlined her department's commitment to supporting the role of women in rural areas. Useful discussions took place on a wide range of issues affecting rural areas, including funding issues and rural deprivation.

The Minister said:

"Rural women play an important role in today's society. As well as contributing to the wellbeing of their families, rural women play a vital part in the development of rural economies. However, lack of economic opportunities, quality affordable childcare and training infrastructure can act as barriers to participation and pose a particular problem for women in rural areas."

The meeting was facilitated by Jennifer McCann MLA and representatives attending were Bernadette McAliskey, First Steps Women's Group Dungannon; Mary Hogg, Positive Steps Cookstown; Brigid McAleer, Omagh Women's Area Network and Kathleen Smith, Newry and Mourne Women Ltd.

The Minister told the delegation that her department, as part of the Programme for Government, is currently preparing proposals for the Executive on the development of a Rural White Paper. She said:

"I hope that an agreed Rural White Paper can identify the challenges facing rural communities and set out what the Executive can collectively do to improve the sustainability of these communities."

"The Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 has over £100million to fund quality of life measures. At least 5% of this funding must be directed to activities in support of the Children and Young People's Strategy. The funding will be delivered through local council clusters and Local Action Groups. This will provide a real opportunity for women's groups to influence the strategies that will be drawn up in each of their areas and I encourage them to play a full and active part in this new programme."

Speaking after the meeting the Minister said:

"My department recognises the contribution that women's organisations make towards sustaining rural communities. By working together we can ensure that the rural way of life is protected and enhanced. I am committed to vibrant, sustainable, rural communities of which women are the backbone. Those who need further encouragement should get it from not only from my department but across government." ENDS


NOTES TO EDITORS:

1. The Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 was approved by the EU's Rural Development Committee on 24 July 2007.

2. Approx £100million of the funding through Axis 3 and some of Axis 1 will be delivered at community level with new local action groups developing tailored strategies and programmes for their area.

3. Axis 3 of the programme contains the following measures:

3.1: Diversification into non-agricultural activities
3.2: Business creation and development
3.3: Encouragement of tourism activities
3.4: Basic services for the economy and rural population
3.5: Village renewal and development
3.6: Conservation and upgrading of the rural heritage

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