Game-changing Leaders

Game-changing Leaders
Learning Brief


Women on Farms Project

Creating safe spaces and support groups for young farm women

Category: Game-changing Leaders | Youth leadership pathways | 31 July, 2013 - 14:00

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PROJECT BACKGROUND

The Young Farm Women’s Leadership Project (WFP) aims to build the leadership and self-esteem of school going young farmwomen in South Africa, while supporting and encouraging their continued school attendance and creating new future possibilities beyond farm work.

WFP’s most significant learning is the importance of providing young farmwomen with information and training content relevant to their lives; as well as “safe” and supportive spaces where they could interact freely with other young women.

PROJECT ACTIVITIES

We conduct a weeklong leadership camp during the school holidays. The camp provides invaluable and useful information on career guidance, study opportunities, feminism, gender-based violence, and alcohol and substance dependence. The camp environment and activities are designed to foster a bond between the young women, and it gives them a safe space to share time with each other away from the constraints of farm and family life. We found that during the camp some girls feel safe enough to share about their own sexual abuse and the other girls can rally around them to provide emotional support.

We also host farm-based support groups that offer the young women the opportunity to share daily life experiences and discuss any challenges they face. During these groups we address various topics relevant to their lives and talk about these topics in detail. They are also sometimes used as informal study groups. And they serve to provide a safe space for continued interpersonal support.

PROJECT CHALLENGES

WFP experienced a challenge in implementing a monitoring and evaluation structure for the project. Although we asked girls to journal their reflections and experiences during the leadership camp, these did not present a systematic account of measurable outcomes that we could use to track impact. Going forward, it will become more important for us to systematically monitor project outcomes and impacts – e.g. drawing on the testimonies of the young women themselves, especially regarding the impacts of the project on their lives. We will therefore seek specific assistance in this regard.

LESSONS ON PROGRAM DESIGN

We have learnt that the small support-groups work well because:

  • Women build leadership through both formal capacity-building initiatives (e.g. training workshops) and having access to informal safe spaces.
  • In addition to bringing women together for capacity-building sessions, it is also important to establish local-level structures for and by women. They provide further opportunities for intensive capacity building on various themes such as leadership development.
  • When women come together in safe spaces they share intimate, difficult or challenging experiences. This is especially important given the dearth of available opportunities for women to share experiences. It allows them to acquire essential knowledge about their rights, laws, and resources available; and gives them the opportunity to share experiences, provide support to each other, and process information acquired.

PROGRAM REPLICATION

We are taking this learning into other areas of our work and have decided to implement a similar model amongst adult female farm workers. With the adult farmwomen we will explore creating similar informal support groups and safe spaces, where they can share their experiences and process the information acquired during the WFP capacity-building workshops. While there is a natural tendency for staff to formalise and structure engagements and spaces with women, it might be useful to keep some spaces open and unstructured.

PLANS FOR THE FUTURE

During the development of the education campaign, WFP will bring together girls from various areas and farms to brainstorm ideas and strategies. While the individual farm support groups are useful for covering basic content and proving the girls with information on various topics, we have found that when we bring these small groups together in a larger meeting the exchange and interaction between the girls is invaluable. During these large meetings the young women realise that their experiences are not isolated to their farm or to their own lives, but are systemic and need systemic responses. We plan to host more of these larger groups meetings in the future.

 

 

Women on Farms Project


Molteno Street, Stellenbosch


 (021) 887 2960


 www.wfp.org.za

In Short

This learning brief offers lessons from the Young Farm Women’s female-focused leadership development strategy. Other organisations wanting to empower young women can learn about the importance of creating safe, female spaces where women can grow and share freely with each other.


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