In the Western Cape and Northern Cape provinces of South Africa, FOS works with Women on Farms Project (WFP). It’s a feminist organization that works with women who live and work on commercial farms. WFP seeks to empower farm women primarily through rights-based capacity building for women as well as support for their organization in community based structures. WFP enables farm women to know and claim their rights. Recent campaigns have included violence against women, access to quality healthcare, and proper sanitation facilities on the farms.
In 2016, Women on Farms Project celebrated its 20th anniversary. This was the occasion to look at some key achievements through the stories of women farm workers and dwellers. For the celebration, FOS contributed with the making of a documentary “Everyone Together”. Farm women and girls talk about their experiences, and explain how Women on Farms Project empowered them.
Transforming through knowledge
Farm women have emphasized the importance of learning about their rights through WFP. For all these women, this resulted in strong feelings of empowerment and more control over their lives. Often, such feelings were underpinned by anger at the realization of the extent to which their rights had been violated, because they had previously lacked knowledge of these rights. Such personal transformation, has been accompanied by the commitment to sharing information and knowledge, as well as defending and advancing the rights of other farm women.
“Since I’m going to the meetings of WFP, I feel stronger. Thanks to them, I’m able to say no to alcohol and drugs”
Transforming through sharing
The participatory and transformative methodologies (popular education, drama, free writing, etc.) used by WFP staff in all programmes, created “safe spaces”, where women have found invaluable and unique opportunities to share the most painful aspects of their lives, where they have found support, love and empathy. For most women, such spaces are often their first and only opportunity to talk and share deeply-buried insults, abuse and humiliations.
“I was raped at the age of 8, by my stepfather. That is the one thing that made me the person that I was (quiet); Until I could talk about it, when we had that workshop around health, and the abuse of women and children. And that day I could talk, because for years, years, years, I did not talk about it, until that day…because see, there were other women in the workshop who also went through the same thing, and who also did not talk about it… Because if you feel that trust, that confidence…when you know someone builds your trust and confidence (to talk), then you can talk about your past, and you can release yourself from it. Then you are free… really.”
Transforming through new generations!
Evidence shows that there is a strong tendency towards the intergenerational transfer of socio-economic conditions. Young farm women are hence highly likely to grow up and lead lives which are very similar to their mothers (and other adult farm women). For this reason, farm adult women started to bring their daughters to the workshops, with the will to break the cycle of poverty and violence. WFP now also has an Empowerment Programme for adolescents.