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Women changemakers from rural communities gather for national conference

Published: Friday, October 14, 2022

The National Women's Council (NWC) and Minister Heather Humphreys will today bring together women from across the island to mark the International Day of Rural Women. NWC will call for the government’s Rural Development Policy – Our Rural Future – to consider the additional barriers faced by rural women in terms of violence against women, poverty, universal public services, and women in decision making.   

 Speaking in advance of the event in Monaghan, Minister Heather Humphreys TD said:   

“I am delighted that my Department has been able to support this Conference, with its focus on ‘Women in Rural Ireland leading Change’, to provide a platform for women to meet in person and discuss the challenges that women in rural Ireland, of all generations, face.  

I look forward to hearing the discussions which not only highlight the opportunities for women in rural areas, but also showcase the experience and impact of women driving and leading change in our rural communities.” 

 NWC Director Orla O’Connor said:   

“NWC acknowledges the continuing support of the Department of Rural and Community Development, including by sponsoring this conference. Women living in rural Ireland are more likely to experience poverty, assume the responsibility of care, and experience additional obstacles as victims of violence. Their experience and contribution often go unacknowledged in policy making and decision-making structures. It is absolutely crucial that Our Rural Future continues to reflect the needs of women, particularly when it comes to violence experienced by women, living in rural communities.” 

NWC conducted an online survey with rural women in advance of the conference. Respondents told us about the challenges of living in rural Ireland, with lack of public transport a key barrier to economic, social, political, and cultural participation. The cost of living, lack of housing, and access to childcare were also serious concerns.   

Ms O’Connor continued:   

“Planning and investment in rural infrastructure is key to rural women’s equality and to addressing the income inadequacy that exists for rural households. The Government, through Our Rural Future and other strategies must have a specific focus on the needs of older women living alone and women parenting alone in the cost-of-living crisis. It must also address the needs of the most marginalised women, such as disabled women, Traveller and Roma women, and migrant women.” 

NWC’s Membership and Engagement Coordinator Catherine Lane said:  

“Women continue to be underrepresented across all decision-making structures. Particularly at local government level, a significant urban and rural disparity in women’s representation is evident, with many rural Councils having less than five women Councillors. In Monaghan only three Councillors out of eighteen are women. 87% of the citizens of the Citizens’ Assembly on gender equality voted to introduce gender quotas for local elections and for penalties. We need to see this legislation for gender quotas in local elections introduced without delay.”  

Concluding, Ursula McKenna, Coordinator of Womens Collective Ireland Monaghan, said:  

“Womens Collective Monaghan are delighted that NWC are bringing their Conference to celebrate Rural Womens day to Monaghan, giving Monaghan Women the chance to claim their space and have their voices heard as Rural Border Women in Ireland in 2022”  




Find here the Claiming Our Space Conference Programme

Find the full results of NWC’s survey with rural women.   


For more information, please contact Sinéad Nolan, NWC Communications and Social Media Coordinator, sineadn@nwci.ie.  


Please note we will have an Irish speaker available for comment on the day.  


Note on survey  

The National Womens Council released an online survey inviting women in Rural Ireland to share their views to inform our Women in Rural Communities conference and the development of a charter.  The survey ran for 3 weeks (5th September - 23rd September 2022) and there were 801 responses. Questions focused on important issues for women and what they would like to see addressed to ensure equality for all women. Find the full results of NWC’s survey with women in rural communities.   


Background Notes  

37% of women live in rural communities. Women want to continue to be part of rural Ireland and be valued for their contribution to the economic and social fabric of rural communities. Our work has identified an undervaluing of the contribution of women to rural communities and a lack of access to power and resources particularly for women from more marginalised backgrounds. Women face particular barriers to participation in public and political life in rural communities and more progress is required to achieve parity in all decision-making spaces.  


The development of rural policies and programmes must reflect the realities of women’s experience; women are more likely to be poor, to parent alone, to be the main provider of unpaid care work, to be in precarious employment, to earn low wages and to be at risk of domestic or sexual violence.  


What: Claiming our Space: Women in Rural Ireland Leading Change  

When: 14 October 2022 10.30am – 4pm   

Where: Four Seasons Hotel, Monaghan    


About NWC   

The National Women’s Council is the leading national representative organisation for women and women’s groups in Ireland, founded in 1973. We have over 190-member groups and a large and growing community of individual supporters.  

The ambition of the National Women’s Council is an Ireland where every woman enjoys true equality and no woman is left behind. This ambition shapes and informs our work, and, with our living values, how we work.   

We are a movement-building organisation rooted in our membership, working on the whole island of Ireland. We are also part of the international movement to protect and advance women’s and girls’ rights. Our purpose is to lead action for the achievement of women’s and girls’ equality through mobilising, influencing, and building solidarity. Find out more on www.nwci.ie