In an age when women are still fighting for gender equality, more and more women are stepping into the light to ensure that women from all walks of life have a voice and a platform for representation to tell their stories on their own terms.
Shepherdess publisher and editor-in-chief Kristy McGregor and her team are among those women, working in the trenches to ensure that the stories of women in rural New Zealand are told and shared far and wide. It’s the stories they share in print, the community they create through their events and more recently, pulling the curtain back on the lives of rural wāhine with their TV show, Shepherdess.
Speaking to Farmers Weekly ahead of the show’s premiere in October, McGregor said: “Women in provincial Aotearoa are incredibly resourceful, talented and have many stories to share. At the heart of what we set out to do was not just show the role women play at work, but see women for their whole selves, leaning into the rhythms and routines of their life on the land as we unravel their personal thoughts and experiences.”
Fast-forward to a fully aired season later, and McGregor and her team have achieved just that. She says the response to the show has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I’m honestly so heartened by the response. So many women have written to us and commented on the diversity of life stories, the range of ages and the remote places.
“As well as the response on socials [media]; women have been writing messages to us … so moved by the honest representation of rural life.
“One woman wrote: ‘How I love your show. I cry every week, the honesty that each woman shares her story with moves me so deeply. Their words stay with me long after watching the episode.’”
McGregor says she believes the show resonates with viewers because it is real and honest – it isn’t a glossy picture of rural life, it speaks about the struggles too.
“In one episode, a woman spoke about her long commute to town school for the kids and her work because there just aren’t services on their isolated part of the coast, and that’s something that women watching were really able to connect with.
“I think it’s been quite an emotional watch for some people because they see their own stories represented. Some women have written about how much they have struggled with isolation, others about how they have struggled to adapt to settling down and finding a sense of community after living away. They’ve said the show has given them the courage to be patient with themselves and to find a community.
“I think it just goes to show that there is a need for stories that are real and candid, that share the ups and downs of rural life.”
McGregor is keen to sink her teeth into a second season and encourages viewers to “watch this space”.
Meanwhile, there’s lots more cooking in the Shepherdess kitchen for Kiwi women looking to unwind or explore a sense of community, starting with The Shepherdess Muster, which takes place in the small village of Motu, Tairāwhiti, from February 16 to 18.
“I think we all need a chance to come together after the year that it’s been, especially folks on the east coast of the North Island who have been hit hard by the weather events. “The weekend is about just getting off the farm, coming together with friends – or with friends you haven’t met yet – having a laugh, learning something new, and taking a moment for yourself.”
More: Episodes 1-6 of Season 1 of the Shepherdess TV show are available to stream for free on Sky Go. Neon subscribers are also able to view the show on the pay-to-stream platform.