The vital contribution of women and young people to rural development through the newly formed Local Action Groups (LAGs) has been commended by Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill.
The Rural Development Council (RDC) revealed that women and young people constitute 62.6% of the total membership of the ten LAGs across Northern Ireland (1,303 of 2,066 members). In addition to this, they represent just over 50% of the total LAG Board membership (113 of 220 members).
Speaking at the event at Loughry College in Cookstown, Minister O’Neill said: “LAGs were designed to offer everyone working and living in rural areas an opportunity to play their part in shaping and delivering local solutions to local challenges which will help our rural communities and economies flourish.
“At the heart of this design was the need for diversity of membership to ensure maximum representation and effectiveness. I have been encouraged by the numbers of women and young people who are keen to get involved in developing their local areas. It is great to see so many individuals from all walks of life come forward to play their part in making the LEADER part of the new programme a success.
“We were particularly conscious of the need to make certain that representatives from the entire community have a role on their LAG and we look forward to your continued contribution and the benefits you will undoubtedly deliver for everyone.”
LAGs use the knowledge and skills of local people to identify the issues that matter most and develop a local rural strategy for implementing their vision on the ground. Delivering their strategy will help to reduce poverty, improve employment opportunities and help their areas flourish.
Teresa Canavan, chief executive of RDC, said: “LAGs are the means of positive change in our rural areas as they offer local people a real chance to engage in the development of their local area and receive information on the programme.
“However, for them to be truly effective they require the support of as many rural organisations, individuals, businesses and groups as possible and we have been overwhelmed by the diversity of support and involvement for all of the LAGs.
“This range of experience, skills and knowledge is the cornerstone in ensuring change for the better for our rural areas and the people who live and work in them.”