At the heart of WFP’s work, has been supporting the development of an independent women-led trade union for farmwomen, called Sikhula Sonke (meaning “We Grow Together” in isiXhosa). In line with our overall strategic objective of building organisations of farmwomen led by farmwomen, this is an integral core of all WFP’s programmes. Each of WFP’s programmes is therefore implemented with the objective of fostering a self-sustaining organisation among farm workers.
To this end, WFP and Sikhula Sonke operate as sister organisations, with WFP committed to providing the required institutional support to Sikhula Sonke to enable it to operate independently by 2009.
Today Sikhula Sonke operates as a member-driven trade union dealing with all the livelihood challenges of especially farmwomen. These include issues such as labour rights, domestic violence, food insecurity and alcohol abuse. Sikhula Sonke’s areas of operation are concentrated in, but not limited to, Stellenbosch, Grabouw, Villiersdorp, Franschhoek, Ceres, Rawsonville, Paarl and Wellington. Current membership is more than 3500 and is made up of more than 120 farms.
The environment in which Sikhula Sonke operates remains very challenging. Despite the legalization of trade unions for farm workers, the level of trade unionization among farm workers is still unacceptably low (less than 5 per cent), leaving workers vulnerable to exploitation.
For women workers, the challenges are particularly harsh. Making up the majority of seasonal and casual workers in the sector, women remain largely unrepresented in most unions in the asbence of organising strategies targetted specifcially at the majority of temporary/seasonal workers. Women are therefore also almost completely absent in the leadership of these unions. Thus, issues that particularly affect women are largely neglected by mainstream trade unions. For these reasons, Sikhula Sonke adopted the following principles of women leadership.
Sikhula Sonke’s overall goal is to craft an organisational model that will not only challenge the unfair labour practices experienced by women farm workers, but will also more broadly address the social and economic development needs of women who live and work on farms.
FOR FURTHER INFROMATIONM CONTACT
General Secretary: Sikhula Sonke
Tel: +27 (0)21-887 2960/1/2
Fax: +27 (0)21-887 2963