#IWD: What you don’t know about rural women by Esme

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Thursday 8 March is International Women’s Day, and this year – in keeping with the priority theme of the upcoming annual session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women later this month – the UN is calling attention to the rights and activism of rural women around the world. 

As rural women we make sacrifices.

By deciding to make a career in rural community, we quietly agree to a larger gender pay gap and to watching our male peers fall in to well paid manual work while we’re forced to make the choice to be left behind financially or leave for further education, with no promise of a better job if we decide to return once we’ve done.

When we decide to raise our children outside of the cities, we say yes to hard to access, unaffordable and inflexible childcare options. We agree to facing the struggles of relying on our relatives to look after our children or giving up work completely and watching the men we went to school with earn more and more.

As rural women, we welcome outdated opinions about ambitious women at work. We encourage the controversy of talking about the apparently taboo subjects of our mental health, contraceptive choices and abortions with no shame. Your judgement just makes us want to shout louder.

We know there might be more support and opportunities for us elsewhere and we get that we might not stick out as much in the city – you don’t need to remind us. We’re getting pretty good at ignoring your patronising looks and rising above your comments.

What you don’t know is why we do it. We do it because we know change comes from the individual. We do it because of the feeling that we’re contributing to something bigger than us. We do it because we know that the only woman on your male dominated community board doesn’t have to take the minutes and we feel someone should make that point.

We do it for the excitement we get when we find someone who feels the same and suddenly our rural community feels like part of something amazing.  We do it because we know the work we do directly benefits the community that helped raised us and so we can really make a difference to the place we love.

We do it in spite of everything that says we can’t and the days when sometimes we feel like everything is against us, and that’s what you don’t know.

Picture courtesy of  Esme Leitch

Originally from Brighton, Esme now lives in the Highlands and splits her working week between the local community radio station and her old high school, where she supports students through a social enterprise scheme. She is dedicated to raising awareness of the mental health issues that face young people and, one day, would love to make a career out of writing. When she’s not running, writing, studying or working, you can probably find Esme talking loudly at people about the importance of feminism and getting excited about the Young Women Lead Programme. Follow Esme on Instagram @esmeleitch.

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