Empowering Farm Women
How the Rural Social Scheme (RSS) provided a pathway
Back in 2003, the Rural Social Scheme (RSS) was launched by the then Department of Social Affairs.
The work carried out under the scheme helps to support countless sports clubs, community services and rural facilities.
It is also an important source of extra income to farmers and fishermen who may be working in agriculture or fishing on a part-time basis and who have a low income.
To qualify, participants must be actively farming or fishing with an underlying entitlement to a qualifying Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection payment, such as Farm Assist.
Notwithstanding the success of the RSS across Ireland, the scheme has traditionally been mistaken as an income support for older male farmers.
However, recent figures published by Eurostat show that 11.6% of agricultural workers in Ireland are women. So, where are our farm women and why are they not coming forward to take their place on this much sought after scheme?
In 2019, we assembled an experienced team in-house to take a fresh look at the advertising and promotion campaigns underpinning the RSS. The team were very focused on making sure that the RSS was positioned as an inclusive and viable option for women. This review highlighted the need to better emphasis three key characteristics of the RSS which are most relevant for women, namely; the flexible working hours, the broad range of work placements available under the RSS and that the entitlement to participate was transferable. What we also found was that word of mouth was the optimal communication channel to reaching farm women.
And the new approach worked – in 2020, there were five women, from different family backgrounds, participating in the RSS as a result of our proactive and inclusive recruitment campaign. Each woman with her own personal story to tell about how important the RSS has been in terms of her independence, financial freedom and confidence building.
“I had over 30 years of office work experience, yet I wasn’t successful at interviews and it made me wonder if it was because of my age –I’m in my 50’s – because I knew how capable I would be in any work environment.
“It was the RSS Co-ordinator, Niamh Murphy, who introduced me to the RSS scheme and helped me get my confidence back. She offered me an administration position and I haven’t looked back. This scheme has been a godsend.”
Doreen Quinnlan, RSS Worker
For more information on the Carlow RSS please contact Niamh Murphy, RSS Co-ordinator.