Sunday, July 18, 2010

Rural women's drought experiences key to policy

Nathan Crombie in the Wairarapa Times-Age (New Zealand): The reality of drought for rural Wairarapa women will be put under the microscope next year. University of Otago lecturer Dr Charlotte Chambers has just completed a series of nine interviews in Marlborough as part of a research project exploring the social well-being of rural women during drought in that region.

The second phase of the project comprises a similar series of interviews of rural women in Wairarapa in May next year, she said, and the results from each region would be compared. Wairarapa is the only region in New Zealand that has endured four official back-to-back droughts, the latest being declared for the east coast of the region.

Dr Chambers said the study seeks to capture whether and how women's roles and responsibilities shift during a severe climate event in areas of decision-making, divisions of labour and resource access and control. “What we found in Marlborough was that the women during drought just seem to harden up and get on with it _ they literally become the glue that holds those farming families together,'' Dr Chambers said.

''They were also open and frank about their male partners suffering depression during drought, but thankfully there were no stories of suicide or domestic violence. ''The stories we heard included those about some men who had to take anti-depression medication and their women having to jolly them along in times of emotional stress,'' she said.

''We found the women had family and other off-farm connections while the men were far more bound to the farm, and consequently isolated _ there were precious few opportunities for them to get out and physically interact with others enduring the same trials….

Castlepoint, Wairarapa, New Zealand, shot by Phillip Capper, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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