About Rural Women's Network


What is the Rural Women’s Network?
The Rural Women’s Network (RWN) (2001-2006) was set up through Voluntary Action Cumbria to help women in Cumbria realise their full potential through business support and the development of personal and workplace skills.

Why do we need a Rural Women’s Network?
The Rural Women’s Network enables women to gain confidence in their ability to create a business, learn new skills, work with like-minded women and improve their prospects for finding work.

What does the Rural Women’s Network do currently?
The Network Groups, originally set up by Rural Women’s Network are carrying on meeting and continue to be accessible to a diverse and varied membership. 


How did the Rural Women’s Network work?
The Rural Women’s Network has helped women in Cumbria by providing a wide range of services. These have included:

  • Inspirational and motivational tools such as workshops, case-studies and networking opportunities
  • Personal development training (confidence building, negotiating, time management etc)
  • One to one business advice in the client’s own home for as long as it is wanted.
  • Practical and interactive business start up and ICT training courses with take-away materials and a follow up service
  • Network groups (both geographical and sectoral, and higher level networking events (regional, national and transnational) with inspirational speakers)
  • Signposting to other private, public and voluntary sector organisations
  • Locally based support with a focus on individual needs

What has the Rural Women’s Network achieved?
Over the last few years, the Rural Women’s Network has had a significant impact on the entrepreneurial women and economy of Cumbria. Some of its achievementsare:

  • Over 2,800 members
  • Over 800 women benefited from training and/or training bursaries.
  • Over 1200 women taking part in networking opportunities.
  • Over 400 women have received/are receiving one to one business advice
  • 158 new businesses started
  • The average business turnover for businesses started by the RWN in their first year is £22,000, with approximately 50 businesses started each year. This contributes an additional £1,100,000 to the Cumbrian economy each year.
  • The average number of jobs provided by businesses started by the RWN is 1.5 per business, contributing an additional 75 jobs to the Cumbrian economy each year.


Many of the women that we have helped through our services have commented on how much the support has helped them:

“The service has enabled me to gain the confidence to move my business plans forward.”
“I have learnt to be more positively assertive.”
“Services are delivered in a professional, informative manner. It is free of charge, delivered for women and tailored for women.”


The high quality of the Network’s services has been recognised through:

  • Business Link Pride of Cumbria’s Most Innovative Business Support Provider Award 2004
  • Cumberland News Community Contribution Award 2004
  • City of Carlisle Civic Award 2004/5
  • Achievement of matrix accreditation for information, advice and guidance
  • Achievement of PROWESS Flagship status during 2004.

National Rural Women’s Conference (April 2005)
The Rural Women’s Network organised a National Conference which was held at Carlisle Racecourse on 20 and 21 April 2005. The theme for the Conference was ‘Women’s Contribution to the Future of Rural Regeneration: challenges, constraints, strategies and solutions’.

Please click here to read the full conference report

Please click here to read the statement by HRH The Prince of Wales