What do an accountant, a general manager, dental therapist, an insurance assessor, an optometrist, a wool buyer, a shepherd, a finance broker and a police officer have in common?

They are all women and they are all learning to shear sheep to raise money for charity.
Women in Wool is a group of professional women who decided they could learn a new skill and do some good for the community at the same time.

The idea was born of a casual conversation between the Hawke's Bay A and P Society general manager Sally Jackson and Colin Watson-Paul, the man who heads the committee which organises the Great Rahania Shears competition at the spring show each year and a shearing contractor himself.

Jackson and her counterpart at the Canterbury A and P Society had challenged each other to shear a sheep at their respective shows last year.

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However, he had to default because he could not find a teacher. Jackson found Watson-Paul and shore two sheep at last year's show, one against current New Zealand and former world champion Rowland Smith and the other in her pink high heels.

She beat Smith by a whisker and in doing so raised about $3000 for the farmers' mental health charity Farmstrong.

She and Watson-Paul realised they had a great opportunity to raise money and Women in Shearing was born.

The women are out learning every weekend on hoggets belonging to Colin's clients or sheep from lifestyle blocks.

Watson-Paul teaches them with the support of other committee members.

So far nine women are learning to shear with the plan to compete in a display at this year's show in October.

They heard of the group by word of mouth and hope more women will join.
For Maraekakaho wool buyer Maureen Chaffey shearing has become addictive. "If I go a week without picking up my handpiece I get antsy."

She has taken to it so well she is now shearing small numbers of sheep for her neighbours.

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"I've bought my own handpiece and now I'm paying it off."

Dental therapist Kate Boyden wants to learn because she says farming is the backbone of our country and farmers need to be supported.

"I absolutely love it and can't wait to be better. There's a bit of a difference between this handpiece and my drill handpiece."

Lisa Chadwick is an accountant for a wine company. She grew up on a Pongaroa farm and her father is a shearer.

"I'm doing it because Farmstrong is a good cause."

Although most of the women have some kind of rural background at least two of them, Jackson included, had never touched a sheep before.

They have all come to appreciate the skills involved in shearing and want to lift its profile.
They are also enjoying feeling fitter and stronger. Now they are looking for sponsors and supporters. They are setting up a Facebook page to keep their followers up to date with their progress and to look for other fundraising ideas.

"We are really excited about what's ahead, we are a great team."