The Rural Women’s Movement (RWM) of South Africa, based in KwaZulu Natal, is an independent non-profit rural women’s land and property rights organization. We seek to eliminate poverty and to enhance women’s participation in local governance. RWM advocates for women’s independent land, housing, inheritance and property rights, and lobbies for public policy changes. We provide training to respond strategically to the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
RWM works with more than 2,000 orphaned children in KwaZulu Natal, trying to ensure that children do not drop out of school. While nurturing children’s capacity to deal with the loss of their parents, RWM also strives to deepen children’s commitment to personal responsibility, helpfulness, respect for others, and kindness–qualities we believe are essential to leading humane and productive lives.
RWM consists of 500 indigenous women’s organizations involved in projects such as small-scale farming, catering, block making, hand crafts, and arts and culture. Our members include widows, single mothers, young women, married women, deserted women, and the youth. RWM consists of marginalized groups who are suffering poverty and oppression. The majority are living on privately-owned farms, traditional authority, and freehold areas.
- To facilitate a vibrant rural women’s movement that promotes reconstruction and development.
- To represent and promote women’s issues and concerns around women’s ownership, customary inheritance, and property rights.
- To foster the participation of rural women in creating a legislative, economic, and policy environment that implements a land reform program that is consistent with the civil society’s vision.
- To help women become aware of their rights, such as the right to become property owners within land reform processes.
- To promote the participation of indigenous women in decision-making so as to affect management of their land, and land-related resources such as water.
- To create rural development models, including land reform implementation, that maximize opportunities in rural livelihoods and can be used by governments implementing rural development strategies.
- To support women in sharing their practical ideas for improving their lives and lifting their families out of poverty through rights and advocacy-based initiatives.
In 1996, the Minister of Land Affairs and Agriculture of approved a Land Reform Gender Policy framework document aimed at creating an environment for women to access, own, control, and manage land, as well as access to credit for the productive use of land. This framework committed the Department of Land Affairs (which later become the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform) to a wide ranging set of guiding principles intended to “actively promote the principle of gender equity” in land reform. These included mechanisms for ensuring women full and equal participation in decision-making in land reform projects, gender-sensitive methodologies in project identification, planning and data collection, legislative reform, and training for both beneficiaries and implementers. It also made room for collaboration with NGOs and other government structures, and compliance with international commitments such as the Beijing Platform for Action adopted in 1995 at the United Nations 4th World Conference on Women and the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which South Africa signed in 1995.
While this was happening, the stark reality was that indigenous women continued to be discriminated against on the basis of gender, economic status, and geographical location. In rural communities, leadership continued to be male-dominated. Domestic tasks done by women continued to be valued less than work done by men. Women and girls continued to be the victims of gender violence and abuse.
To address this, we felt that it necessary to establish, in collaboration with other women’s organizations, a vibrant rural women’s movement to represent women’s needs and aspirations, and to lobby for policy changes.
RWM was initiated in 1998 and officially launched in November 1999 by 250 participants representing more than 200 community-based organizations (CBOs), NGOs, and representatives from the Commission on Gender Equality and the Human Rights Commission. In 2003, RWM registered with the Department of Social Development in accordance with Non-Profit Act 71.
PO Box 1326,
Hilton, Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu Natal,
South Africa 3245
38 Valley Road,
Secowlake, Durban, KwaZulu Natal,
South Africa 4001
Phone/Fax: +27 31 579 4559
Mobile: +27 73 840 5151
ruralwomensmovement [at] gmail.com
rwm [at] mail.ngo.za
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