the recipient of the Public Service Award, has struggled most of her
adult life, as a grassroots activist and in development organizations,
to create a new South Africa, where women are safe and equal.
has worked in a variety of different, largely rural, communities. In
the townships of Imbali in Pietermaritzburg she worked with youth in
a Community Arts Project; in the townships of Ocean View in Cape Town she
organized parents of pre-school children in a major fundraising initiative;
in Edenvale in Pietermaritzburg she organized pre-school teachers to work
with tenants in Lotus River.
Rita is currently the director of the Women on Farms Project in Stellenbosch
in the Western Cape. This project works with women, men and youth who live
or work on farms. The goal is to build capacity, strengthen organization
and to advocate on behalf of farm workers in order to improve their living
and working conditions and to promote gender equality in the home, workplace
The Women on Farms Project is active in the Farm Worker
Coalition, an organization that advocates on issues such as a minimum wage
for farm workers, and amendments to the Basic Conditions of Service legislation.
The Coalition works with other organizations to explore the impact of globalization
on agriculture and the effect of this on farm workers. Her
concerns extend beyond specific farm worker issues.
was instrumental in launching a Road Safety Campaign after many farm
children were killed
in motor vehicle accidents. She was also successful in launching the
Domestic Violence Campaign when a woman was killed by her partner.
Of her work at the Women on Farms Project Rita notes: “At the
Women on Farms Project I began to understand the agricultural context
and the position of women farm workers in an extremely patriarchal
and paternalistic sector.”
activities are a logical growth from Rita’s earlier work with
the Trust for Community Outreach and Education (TCOE), where she served
as both Deputy Director and Director from 1988 to 1999. The work of
the Trust is rural development; with branches in Phalaborwa, Grahamstown,
King Williamstown, Port Elizabeth, Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Pietermaritzburg
and Cala, Rita had an excellent opportunity to acquaint herself with
conditions in the rural areas throughout the country.
While at the
Trust, Rita initiated discussions with the National Land Committee,
Rural Development Services Network and SANGOCO and formed the Rural
Development Initiative. This Initiative
hosted a Rural Convention in April 1999 attended by 600 delegates from
rural areas throughout the
experience at the Trust, Rita said: “I believe
the experience at TCOE where we worked with Zulu, Xhosa, Sotho, Tswana,
Afrikaans, Pedi, Shangaan speaking communities and staff have prepared
me for forging unity and to build a truly South African nation.”
Rita’s life has been energetically devoted to community involvement and
organization building: she has co-founded a community newspaper, a housing committee,
residents and tenants associations; she has established a community arts project
and 1996 co-founded the New Women’s Movement. Rita has delivered a number
of papers discussing, among other things, strategies for women’s economic
empowerment, advancing the fight against violence against women, strategies for
building a Rural Peoples Movement, and women and the African Renaissance.
is currently completing her Masters Degree in Public Administration with the
School of Government at the University of Western Cape. The subject of her thesis
is “Obstacles to Women’s Participation in Local Government.”
South African Women for Women is proud to recognize Rita for her tireless work – and
remarkable achievements – on behalf of women in rural South Africa.