Behind the farm gates of South Africa, farmworkers face an array of challenges and barriers in the workplace, gender inequality in particular. To address this, farmworkers must be able to identify inequality when faced with it.
To better understand the challenges farmworkers face and arm them with knowledge to address inequality, Fairtrade Africa recently hosted a gender, youth and vulnerable people analysis session.
The session saw farmworkers who work on Fairtrade Africa certified farms in the Western Cape, gathering at the Lord Charles Hotel in Somerset West for an insightful information sharing session.
Speaking at the event, Emerentia Patientia, senior programme officer of Dignified Opportunities Nurtured Through Trade and Sustainability (Donuts), said they aim to better understand farmworker related challenges.
Seeking justice and fairness
“There are numerous challenges on farms and in farming communities. From gender issues to substance abuse among youth, teenage pregnancies, joblessness and more,” Pattentia said.
“The vision of Fairtrade Africa is to see a world in which our farmers and co-producers (farmworkers) can have a sustainable future, and where they can actively participate in decision-making processes.”
Donuts is a four-year development cooperation programme funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland (MFA-Finland), with support from the National Fairtrade Organisations (NFO) and commercial partners.
The programme seeks justice and fairness through exercising rights and freedom, as well as empowerment, through strengthening the assets and capabilities of the most marginalised farmers and workers.
Addressing attendees, Pattentia pointed out that it was particularly important to them that farmworkers earn a decent wage.
“We want to see agricultural workers earn a living wage and not a minimum wage. They need a wage that allows them to actually make a living,” she said.
Issues affect everyone
The session was also attended by Damaris Kiewiets, community liason officer for the University of the Western Cape. She gave an all-important presentation on the Domestic Violence Act and the Gender-based Violence Act.
Kiewiets, who also facilitates health and human rights training sessions in various communities, said it was problematic to have discussion on gender issues without involving men.
“We need to shift the way we think about gender sensitivity, it’s not just an issue affecting women. Imagine if women had their husbands here while we are talking about gender-based violence and the solutions that we want. Wouldn’t that have made a huge difference?” Kiewiets said.
The session was also attended by Leonard Macakati, provincial public education and information officer for the Commission for Gender Equality. Macakati unpacked women leadership on farm level, gender issues facing farmworkers and more.
Those in attendance were also informed about how the Commission for Gender Equality works, its services and what it seeks to achieve.
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