The empowerment of women in rural areas is important. File Photo: IOL
THE INTERNATIONAL Day of Rural Women, October 15, was established by the UN in 2007 to recognise the role that women play in rural development to help fight poverty by enhancing food security. It focuses attention on the contributions that rural women make and the many challenges they face.

The empowerment of women in rural areas is important. Access to land is among the key aspects to empowering them. To this effect, more than 60000 women have been allocated land through the department’s land redistribution programmes since 2009. Through the deliberate act of targeting of women as beneficiaries, the department has allocated land to emerging female farmers, former labour tenants, farmworkers and women who had been dispossessed of their land through discriminatory laws, policies and practices of the past.

This has had the effect of empowering not only the women but the rural communities as well, on account of the developmental role they play in society. Organisations such as Women in Agriculture and Rural Development, the Rural Women’s Movement, the South African Women in Dialogue and Female Traditional Leaders are some of the stakeholder organisations’ that the department consults and collaborates with during the formulation of policies.

Growing the pool of emerging black farmers is one of the priorities of the department. Women are also making strides in the agricultural sector as formidable farmers, some of whom have, with government support, grown from small holder farmers to major players in commercial farming. Women luminaries have emerged in agriculture in areas such as chicken farming, fruit farming and live-stock production.

The One Household One Hectare Programme initiated by the department which provides for the allocation of a one-hectare portion of state land per rural household for the purpose of agricultural activities has benefited a significant numbers of women farmers. Since the inception of the programme in 2015 rural women in various provinces have produced successful crops which they were able to sell to markets in nearby towns and villages. Through this programme poverty has been reduced and food security has been achieved for poor families.

Empowering rural households

In an effort to ensure the programmes meets the objective of empowering rural households, the government has also provided additional support including, providing seeds, fertilisers, agricultural implements and water to rural women who are involved in small-scale agriculture.

The training of rural women is a crucial part of their empowerment especially when it comes to marketing, finances and how to use modern techniques to create goods for the discerning consumer. Proving this support to rural women forms part of the government’s efforts to break the cycle of poverty and joblessness that leads to migration to cities, which results in overcrowding and unsafe living conditions.

Poverty affects millions of South Africans the majority of whom are women in rural areas. Despite the advances made by the government’s poverty alleviation initiatives and programmes, the battle to banish the spectre of poverty and under-development remains a challenge. Rural women are hardest hit by the triple challenge of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

Employment opportunities, access to health facilities and education are still fewer in rural areas than in urban areas. The government is working to bring about the necessary transformation to improve the lives of rural communities.

Despite the progress that has been made since the dawn of democracy there is much to be done to bring about the total emancipation of rural women from the chains of poverty and underdevelopment. The government is intensifying its initiatives, strengthening its programmes and adding resources, in order to speed up efforts to fully realise the vision of bringing about a better life for all, especially rural women.

Tshepo Diale

Nkwe Estate, Akasia