Ways To Support Rural Women This International Day Of Rural Women
Rural women play a vital role in food security, poverty reduction, environmental protection, and social justice. However, they also face many challenges and barriers, including stereotypes, predetermined gender roles and societal norms in their communities, which limit their potential and well-being. Here are five ways you can support them:
Donate to organisations that empower rural women
Every donation, no matter how small, has the potential to go a long way when added to a bigger pool of donations from like-minded people. In today’s tough economic conditions, rural women supporting dependents are suffering more than most to provide for their families. According to Stats SA, the General Household Survey, 2021 showed that female-headed households are most common in rural areas (47,7%). And, findings from a study on gender and poverty in South African rural areas revealed that females residing in rural and farm areas were most likely to be in poverty compared to their male counterparts.
According to the Statistics South Africa (2017) Vulnerability Report, it is estimated that, of the majority of South Africans living in poverty, women are the most vulnerable to poverty, with women residing in farm areas and rural areas more exposed to poverty compared to their urban areas counterparts.
There are many amazing local and international NGOs that work with rural women in South Africa to provide them with vital healthcare services, clean water, skills training, microfinance, legal aid and advocacy. Some of these organisations include:
Ikamva Labantu is a South African NGO that aims to empower poor communities to become self-sustainable. Their community-led projects range from early childhood development programs to support for the elderly. Five days a week, hundreds of older people are provided transport to and from Ikamva Labantu’s Senior Clubs where they access a range of activities addressing health, nutrition, and cognitive stimulation. Importantly, they are able to be among their peers in a social environment, away from the stress and isolation of their homes. Ikamva Labantu senior members also have access to health and psychosocial support that the field workers provide.
Key Accounts Manager at local non-profit Relate Bracelets, Dalit Shekel says, “The project is also funded, in partnership with us, through the sale of bracelets that are made by unemployed grandmothers, which further supports them with a means to make an income. This also offers members of the public to support this cause directly though purchasing the bracelets.”
PinkDrive is an NGO that aims to raise awareness and provide screening for breast, cervical, prostate, and testicular cancer in South Africa. It was founded in 2009 by Noelene Kotschan with the message that “Early detection will help prolong a life.” PinkDrive operates mobile units that offer clinical breast exams, mammograms, pap smears, and prostate specific antigen tests to people who do not have access to reasonable healthcare.
Mothers2mothers promotes the empowerment and education of, and support to, pregnant women and new mothers living with HIV/AIDS, as well as increased access to medical care.
m2m assists women in combating the stigma of HIV/AIDS within their families and communities, supports a mother’s adherence to medical treatment, and reduces the likelihood that her children will become AIDS orphans. This is also one of the various causes supported by Relate Bracelets.
Support rural women’s cooperatives and enterprises
Rural women often engage in communal entrepreneurial programmes to improve their livelihoods and access to markets.
You can support their efforts by buying products they have made, such as handicrafts, honey, jam, soap, wine and cheese, or by investing in their businesses. You can also help by promoting their work on social media to connect them with potential partners and a wider pool of customers.
Organisations like the South African Women Entrepreneurs Network (SAWEN), which is a Section 21 registered company, supports entrepreneurial programmes by women. Its main aim is to facilitate access to business resources, information, and opportunities for South African women entrepreneurs. This programme targets women who engage in informal income generating activities and/or operate an SMME, or aspire to open businesses, particularly rural-based women-owned SMMEs.
Study their environments and circumstances to know to best support them
A 2023 report by the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation (CSVR) highlighted “that women in rural communities are continually forced to grapple with inequalities, such as poor access to basic amenities, employment opportunities and quality education. The interface between poverty and the environment cannot be ignored and underlines the precarious situation of women in rural areas and other marginalised groups.”
Learn from rural women’s experiences and knowledge.
You can learn from their perspectives and stories by reading books, watching documentaries, listening to podcasts, or attending workshops that feature rural women from South Africa. You can also visit rural areas and interact with rural women directly, respecting their culture and customs to learn about more ways to better empower them.
Celebrate rural women’s achievements and resilience.
Shekel says, “Rural women have overcome many hardships and obstacles to achieve remarkable things in various fields such as agriculture, education, arts, sports, politics, and activism. You can celebrate their achievements and resilience by sharing their stories, honouring and recognising their contributions or sending them messages of appreciation and solidarity.”