Isolation is the most significant issue in the lives of rural women, and traditional rural women's groups are unable to fill that void.

That was the finding of a student research project from the Lincoln University-run Kellogg's Rural Leadership Programme by NZ Young Farmers communication manager Nadine Porter.

Nadine Porter.
Nadine Porter.

Fifty-seven per cent of respondents cited isolation as their major issue, 75 per cent saying they looked to social media for support.

"It is clear from the survey that traditional rural women's groups do not feature in their lives," Ms Porter said.

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"Many commented that they do not feel today's groups represent them.

"The way in which rural mothers find support has changed as the technological age has imprinted on their lives.

"Being able to be honest and have anonymity, if they desired, in a forum such as the 6000-strong Farming Mums NZ Facebook page, was mentioned as being attractive by many women interviewed."

Fifty-eight per cent of women were not using the skills they had been trained for, leaving them unfulfilled.

"There is a wasteland of knowledge among rural women that is not being utilised," Ms Porter added.

"From university, to a career and then back to the farm, where they may not be able to use their skills, a vacuum exists. While the Government is concentrating on bringing new people into the primary industry, we need to ask if there is a way in which we can use the skills that currently exist but are not being used to their full potential."

Research and targeted initiatives for rural women and their families were needed urgently, she said.

Meanwhile around 24 per cent of respondents said their local schools offered them the most support, highlighting the role rural school boards of trustees played in empowering and supporting women in their communities.

"When coupled with the fact that 48 per cent of respondents said they did not have close family living in the same area as them, isolation as a significant issue continued to be a prevalent theme," Ms Porter added.