Women's Dreams Catch on in Rural Ontario
Helms, Dorothea, Herizons
(Sunderland) When you want something done, ask a busy woman. As cliche as that sounds, the saying still holds true. When community economic development became a hot topic five or six years ago, a few visionaries blazed a vital trail by harnessing an untapped resource -- rural women.
One of those visionaries is Carol Rock, executive director of Women and Rural Economic Development (WRED). In 1993, Rock sought work that wasn't farm related. She soon realized that there were no easily accessible seminars, courses or small business centres available to rural women.
She and some like-minded individuals brought together rural women from across Ontario for a conference on self-employment for rural women -- and the seeds of WRED were sown.
Today, WRED is a registered community economic development organization dedicated to enhancing the sustainability of rural Ontario communities. It began as a group of networks, a newsletter, self-employment training and mentoring. Soon after, the organization added a loan fund and the organization now has regional offices in Stratford, Markdale, Lindsay and Kemptville.
The first self-employment training delivered by WRED in 1994 through Rural Entrepreneurial Development Initiative (REDI) was funded by the now defunct Jobs Ontario. Other training programs followed: SELF-Start funded by the Agricultural Adaptation Council; Entrepreneurial Training for Rural Youth (ENTRY) funded by Human Resources Development Canada; and Creating Enterprise Opportunities sponsored by a consortium of funders including the Ministry of Education and Training, the Ontario Women's Directorate and the Canadian Auto Workers. Support has also come from the Status of Women and the Trillium Foundation.
Rock is the head juggler in the increasingly difficult funding circus. "We're deliberately diversifying our funding support to include foundations and grants, fees for services, membership fees and fundraising."
Over 500 women have participated in the self-employment programs, boosting Ontario's economy by an estimated $10 million. …