1000 Women Trust offers hope amidst gloom on the day of rural women

CAPE TOWN. The international day of rural women (on 15th October) recognizes the critical role and contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security, and eradicating rural poverty.

South Africa’s agricultural quarterly force statistics show that 60 to 80 % of labor in the sector is made up of women. According to the same statistics, only three million people in South Africa are employed in subsistence farming, while another 4.4 million spend time collecting water or wood for subsistence needs.

In May 2021, the Rural Women’s Assembly of South Africa called on the government to implement the Undrop resolution.

According to the Undrop resolution, states shall respect and take measures to recognize and protect, the right of peasants and other people working in rural areas relating to their traditional knowledge, and eliminate discrimination against the traditional knowledge, practices, and technologies of peasants and other people working in rural areas.

However, the Assembly questioned why the resolution was never acted on in South Africa.

“Farmworkers and especially women in rural areas remain incredibly vulnerable and we are still not offered protection three years after the South African government signed the resolution.”

It said farm evictions are all too common occurrence and women did not have full control over the seeds.

“We are being abused, evicted, restricted by quotas, and forced to eat GM foods, among other things and no one is protecting us,” the women said.

“We still have no land to grow on and the government continues to stand on the sidelines. The declaration says that the State shall respect and take measures to recognize and protect the rights of peasants and small-scale farmers. We demand that these rights be protected. We demand that immediate action be taken. (www.iol.co.za, 22nd May 2021).

“We demand that the government give us answers on what progress has been made after they signed the Undrop,” the group said.

In South Africa, women make up more than 51 % of the population, yet they own less than 15 % of the land.

Thandi Modise, minister of defense of South Africa, recently said: “We have also been looking at ways of ensuring that widows and women in the rural areas have access to communal land which is under the custodianship of traditional leaders.”

More than 52 % of women-led households in South Africa still live under the upper bound poverty level.

1000 Women Trust launched an economic empowerment initiative in South Africa in 2021 – the 1000 Women Restart initiative – a comprehensive and wide-ranging campaign to empower those who lost their jobs during the COVID 19-lockdown and provide new resources, skills, business mentorships and hope to South African women.

Through this initiative, 1000 Women Trust invited all women to be their Friends, inspiring women who have suffered a loss to restart by providing them with income-generating ideas or skills for better jobs.

1000 Women Trust also invited all women in business to join and lend a helping land as business mentors to those who have experienced job losses and trauma.

Through 1000 Women Restart an Idea Bank has been created to give women access to more opportunities.

There is an ongoing support service to empower women with a Whatsapp group run by 1000 Women Trust for instant advice and assistance in the pursuit of creating self-sustainable income for them.

1000 Women Trust also support women by referring them to business coach and have set up one-on-one conversations for them with successful business leaders. The Trust will give women access to business skills training and development opportunities.

The Trust invites them to join business networks, including the 1000 Women Restart Network. Recently, the 1000 Women Trust partnered with the Ruben Richards Foundation and Namakwaland Sitrus to establish a restoration center and a joint venture that takes the economic empowerment of women to a new level.

Dr. Richards, executive chairman of Namakwaland Sitrus, and Tina Thiart, founder member of 1000 Women Trust, spearheaded the formation of the partnership. It focuses on the establishment of a new farm, known as 1000 Women Farm, which will accommodate 1000 survivors of gender-based violence.

The women who will be accommodated at the restoration centre will undergo a 12-month rehabilitation program.