Over 100 rural women attended an information event organised by Northern Ireland Rural Women’s Network (NIRWN) on Monday 30th March in Loughry College, Cookstown. The event focussed on the potential opportunities for funding under the Rural Development Programme (RDP) 2007-2013.
Those in attendance were given an overview of the funding themes, and the various options open to them.
Opening the conference Michelle Gildernew MP MLA said: “In my role as Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, I am continually inspired by the ordinary women I meet doing extraordinary things, juggling multiple roles as mothers, wives, carers, farmers and entrepreneurs. The vital contribution that rural women make to society is seldom recognised.
Today’s conference provides a valuable opportunity at an ideal time, the outset of the Rural Development Programme, to encourage women to make the most of the openings available. The new Programme offers opportunities for women at a range of levels whether starting a business or looking for ways to provide and improve much needed services in their local communities. Whatever the chosen role, we can contribute to improving the quality of life for all rural dwellers.”
Over 100 million pounds has been allocated under RDP specifically to strengthen local economies and communities for rural dwellers. The funding is delivered through the 7 Local Action Groups (LAGS), made up of representatives from businesses, public agencies, local community bodies and local Councillors. Each of the 7 LAGs were represented at the event.
Mary Duggan Chairperson of NIRWN and LAG member with South West Action for Rural Development (SWARD) commented: ‘We very much hope that today’s event will provide women and women’s groups with information and contacts, to empower them to access the funding under RDP. Traditionally rural women have not accessed RDP funding in the past. We are delighted with the interest and turn out, and hope that rural women can take advantage of the funding available’.
Speakers will also included rural women who have established local businesses, Invest NI and Rural Network for Northern Ireland. Information stands with from Department of Agricultural and Rural Development (DARD), the 7 LAGS, Invest NI, Ulster Community Investment Trust, as well as a number of others.
Feedback from the participants was very positive. On leaving the event one rural woman commented: “This is exactly the type of event we need as rural women. I have had a business idea for using some of our old farm buildings for a lifetime and up until today I really had no idea that there was so much support out there. I really feel very excited by the prospect of delving deeper into the Rural Development Programme to see exactly how I can benefit from this funding and in turn benefit my family by generating a little more income to the household.”
Nora Smith, Policy Officer with NIRWN said: “It is fantastic to see so much interest by rural women in the Rural Development Programme. We, as an organisation set up to support the voices of rural women, felt that this was an opportunity for women to hear about this programme, to hear how other women have benefited from the previous funding and to share with them all the possible support mechanisms already in place to make the RDP more accessible to them. It was a great success and hopefully it will lead to more rural women making applications to their Local Action Group for funding.”
Further information on the Rural Development Programme and the assistance available can be found on a new dedicated website www.rdpni.info or by calling 0845 3044 509 to request an information pack.
The Rural Development Programme 2007-2013 is part financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.