Twenty-eight GBV survivors are learning a variety of sustainable permaculture farming skills in the Winterveld in the North West Province. The initiative is led by People Opposing Women Abuse (Powa) and funded by the French Embassy’s Civil Society Development Fund. The beneficiaries of the program are from the town of Ga-Kekana and its surrounding communities in the Winterveld, not far from Pretoria.
Through the programme, partner organization Food & Trees for Africa is teaching them to use permaculture methods to grow organic foods, such as spinach, squash, cabbage, beets, lettuce and herbs.
Jeanette Sera, interim CEO of Powa, says the project provides the women with vegetables to share with their families, thus improving their food security and nutrition. “You’re also increasing your confidence, self-esteem, and sense of self-sufficiency,” she adds. “We plan to run a workshop where we teach them how to start a business to help them turn their gardening skills into an activity that helps them generate a sustainable income.”
By being empowered to earn some money to support themselves and their children, they are less at risk of going back to the men who abused them or entering into other abusive relationships, because they are financially independent.
“Powa’s work with GBV survivors in the Winterveld is essentially focused on the theme of agency to break the cycle of violence, through economic empowerment, but also restoring survivors’ self-confidence,” says Noelle. Garcin, the attaché for development cooperation and gender equality. official of the French Embassy in South Africa, Lesotho and Malawi.
“The community garden is a safe and therapeutic space for survivors to deal with their experience of abuse. Without even realizing it, they are developing not only livelihood skills and opportunities, but also inner strength, self-esteem, and pride in what they are capable of achieving, individually and as a group. It also provides an opportunity to learn and support each other.”
Program beneficiaries are learning to grow vegetables on a plot of land with water tanks at St. John the Baptist Catholic Clinic and Home for the Elderly in Winterveld. The clinic’s food horticulture program was closed for some time due to lack of funds and it is wonderful that horticulture activities have now been reactivated.
Some of their nutritious and delicious products are delivered to the nearby orphanage and nursing home. There are women who have taken advantage of the skills they have acquired and are now cultivating gardens at home.
In addition to learning farming skills, project participants also have the opportunity to participate in sessions on various aspects of GBV, including legal and practical options for addressing abusive relationships. Powa’s social workers provide counseling to those who need it.
Funding from the French Embassy is paying for Food & Trees for Africa to carry out the training, as well as snacks and money to transport the women to travel to the project.
“Most of the women are unemployed, and for many of them, the snacks provided are the only meal they have all day,” says Sera. “There are some women who choose to walk to the garden of St. John the Baptist Catholic Clinic and Nursing Home, so they can save transportation money to buy food for their families. One is using the money to pay for extra lessons for her daughter who is enrolling”.
Through the Civil Society Development Fund, the French Embassy is supporting eight other feminist organizations in South Africa and Lesotho to implement GBV prevention interventions and economic empowerment programs for rural women. These interventions help women, particularly GBV survivors, to break the cycle of abuse and secure climate-friendly and sustainable livelihoods.
In addition to the organic food gardening program in the Winterveld, the French Embassy has supported Powa with training in monitoring and evaluation, project management, governance and financial planning, and budgetary capacity building for Powa managers, in an effort to help to strengthen the organization.
Thandiwe McCloy is the communications manager for People Against Abuse of Women.