Job opportunity: Association for Women’s Rights in Development: Programme Coordinator – Young Feminist Activism

Opportunity closing date:  Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID) is an international feminist organisation working to be a driving force within the global community of feminist and women’s rights activists, organisations and movements, strengthening our collective voice, influencing and transforming structures of power and decision-making and advancing human rights, gender justice and environmental sustainability worldwide.

AWID’s Young Feminist Activism (YFA) Program contributes to stronger multigenerational movements that are diverse and inclusive and where young feminists’ contributions, activism, perspectives and needs are highlighted in women’s movements; accurately reflected in international decision-making spaces, development debates; and translated into policies and programs that are grounded in human rights and gender equality.

AWID seeks to appoint a Programme Coordinator – Young Feminist. Work location is flexible.

The YFA has recently established a Co-Coordinator structure to lead the YFA program by complementing each other’s skills, capacities and experiences thus ensuring that the YFA continues to be responsive and connected to young feminists from around the world. The YFA Program Co-coordinator is a full-time position responsible for strategic project planning, coordination and timely production of high-quality YFA deliverables.  The YFA Co-Coordinators will closely collaborate on strategic leadership, coordination, constituency and alliance building for the Program. The primary responsibilities include:

  • Co-lead the development and implementation of the YFA’s strategic plan, annual plans and related work planning;
  • Co-lead the YFA’s strategies to support the political engagement of young feminists in policy and program development processes such as the post 2015 development framework, in line with the overall strategic plan;
  • Work closely with all AWID strategic initiatives to identify opportunities to support young feminists activism across the organization;
  • Co-coordinate knowledge building projects including on effective multigenerational organizing and mapping of young feminist organizing;
  • Strengthen existing, and build new relationships and alliances with young feminist activists including across social movements and other regional international feminist organizations;
  • Co-responsible for engaging with the YFA Advisory Group including selection of new members and planning/input meeting with advisors;
  • Represent the YFA Program/AWID in international, regional or local venues.


Project management

  • Develop, implement and monitor progress of one or more projects to ensure deliverables are in place and completed in accordance with quality requirements and established timelines and budgets;
  • Coordinate regular reporting and updates related to YFA’s work in line with AWID’s M&E strategy as required;
  • Work with relevant Manager to regularly take stock of the YFA strategies ensuring they are responsive to the YFA constituency and strategic goals of AWID;
  • Advance project work, taking initiative in methodology development, documentation, identifying potential strategic alliances and opportunities (external and  internal).

Capacity-development (internal and external)

  • Liaise with staff of other AWID programs to support integration of young feminist activists, contributions and perspectives across the organization as well as to identify opportunities for collaboration;
  • Coordinate the development, facilitation and implementation of learning opportunities (both online and face to face processes) for and by young feminists;
  • Develop and implement follow-up activities, as appropriate, to capacity-building processes.

Knowledge building

  • Identify priority issues for knowledge building relevant to young feminist organizing and to the YFA’s overall strategy;
  • Contribute to the conceptualization and project planning of knowledge building project on multigenerational and young feminist organizing;
  • Co-coordinate the production of knowledge resources produced by the initiative.

Alliance-building, constituency engagement and advocacy

  • Work with other initiatives within AWID and collaborate with key women’s rights organizations and activists to advocate for the active engagement of young feminists in political dialogues and policy makings spaces affecting the rights of young women;
  • Identify relevant organizations, activists, networks and other resources through which to establish strategic partnerships with in order to support young feminist activists;
  • Maintain communications with YFA constituencies, including past participants in program activities, organizational partners, and AWID’s membership (i.e. responding to electronic requests for information, following up with participants in AWID activities);
  • Conduct occasional Needs Assessments with YFA constituencies to ensure the program’s relevance and strategic focus;
  • Represent AWID in international (or local/regional) international venues to profile the YFA program, creating and delivering presentations or speeches as required.

Organisational processes

  • Work with the Finance team to administer and monitor program budget;
  • Actively co-lead and contribute to regular YFA team meetings;
  • Participate actively in organizational meetings and committees.


  • Three or more years of activism with young feminist organizations/initiatives working for women’s rights and gender justice, including at least two years in a leadership role;
  • Experience with young feminist mobilizing and policy advocacy at the international and regional levels;
  • Planning, implementing and coordinating of projects or initiatives led by or for young feminists;
  • Experience in developing and implementing capacity building and mobilization activities to strengthen young women’s organizing both online and face-to-face;
  • Experience  working with young women between the ages of 18 to 29 years old in the Global South;
  • University degree or related experience in Gender and Development, Women’s Human Rights, International Development, Women’s Studies or a related Social Science field;
  • Knowledgeable about current trends in young feminist activism in regional and/or global contexts as well as familiarity with empowerment strategies developed for and by young feminists;
  • Knowledgeable about women’s human rights and/or gender and development policies at the regional and/or international level;
  • Knowledgeable about challenges and best practices for effective multigenerational organizing;
  • Excellent interpersonal and relationship building skills;
  • Strong written communication (and editing) skills;
  • Innovative, flexible, fosters/manages change;
  • Demonstrated capacity to establish focus (develop and communicate goals of Work plans), think strategically and be forward thinking;
  • Excellent analytical and diagnostic information gathering abilities (specifically regarding analysis of information across a range of disciplines and ability to extract relevant information/themes or solve problems);
  • Displays good judgment, sensitivity and attention to communication;
  • Strong time management, detail orientation and thoroughness of work;
  • Ability to prioritize and multi task;
  • Results-oriented and takes initiative;
  • Strong project management experience: ability to develop, implement, monitor and evaluate a work plan with multiple projects, multiple deliverables and deadlines;
  • Public speaking and facilitation skills;
  • Basic knowledge of the latest communication technologies; particularly content management systems and web 2.0 for the purpose of building online communities, information sharing and e-learning;
  • Knowledge of basic budgeting and financial procedures and analysis;
  • Ability to work independently and remotely;
  • Ability to communicate effectively in English as well as French and/or Spanish.

Other Requirements:

  • Familiarity with elements of feminist theory and women’s rights frameworks;
  • Able and willing to travel internationally;
  • Committed to the principles and values of feminism, anti-discrimination and anti-racism.


  • Training and capacity building experience with young feminists from diverse background;
  • Experience working with social justice educational/learning processes with young women;
  • Trilingual – English, French, Spanish;
  • Knowledge of WordPress publishing platform.

To apply, submit a CV and motivation letter to with “YFA Coordinator” in the subject line. Explain in your motivation letter why you think it is important to support young feminist organizing and why you think this position is the right fit for you.

Please quote the source of this advertisement in your application – NGO Pulse Portal.

Young feminist women and transgender persons under 30 from the Global South are strongly encouraged to apply.

For more about AWID, refer to

For other vacancies in the NGO sector, refer to

Originally found on


Do we deserve the way we are treated in the workplace

jahni cowley
Jahni Cowley

By Jahni Cowley

I’m a trade unionist and a single mother. As part of my job, I am confronted by people with problems in their workplace, on a daily basis. It continues to strike me how easily women accept the way they are treated at work: It seems we believe we deserve to be second class citizens.

I don’t mean to perpetuate the stereotype of nurturing woman versus hunter man. I accept that this isn’t always the case, but the difference between masculinity and femininity reaches a climax in the workplace. It’s almost like we retreat to our primal brain. Maybe it’s the desk, I don’t know.

Why is it that we are so apologetic about ourselves? I do believe in differences between people related to gender, we can probably argue whether this is nature or nurture, innate or learned behaviour, but the fact is we have certain qualities that make us women. Different from men. I do not have a problem with the fact that I am softer than my male colleagues, because different does not mean weak.

I have deep empathy with other people, and it’s a trait more naturally associated with women than men. It’s also a trait that will garner you ridicule, if you allow it. It’s seen as an undesirable, negative thing to develop an emotional bond with your colleagues or clients or people you are helping, because it makes you less productive, a little slower, a little more human, and we don’t do human anymore. We are here to do a job and to get out, that’s it.

Our reaction is often immediately apologetic.We change our ways, we surpress our caring. We will become artificially business-like.

Why do we believe that we are wrong? Why do we subscribe to the belief that there is only one right way, which is the way we perceive a male colleague would handle a situation?

We tolerate cultural differences in the workplace, but we do not tolerate gender differences. We do not accept the fact that a mother with a sick child cannot possibly concentrate fully on her work, no matter how good her childcare options are. We see her as weak. We would regard a father in the same situation as weak too, because caring and showing emotion are regarded as weak, feminine traits.

None of this is news, we know it. It’s ingrained. What bothers me is how women react to it: We accept the status quo, we don’t rock the boat. We try to change ourselves, creating so much inner conflict that we end up unable to do our work anyway, end up in trouble. In that case, I would argue that we deserve the treatment we get, we deserve to be less than, because we don’t stand up!

Wouldn’t it be revolutionary if we said no? Wouldn’t it be so wonderful if we used our voices instead of meekly accepting? We have come so far, we choose to have careers AND children AND love, but we are still so far behind in terms of acceptance of ourselves as equal.

I have stood up and rebelled. I am no longer apologising for the softer parts of me, I do have empathy, I do get involved, so be it. I challenge every working woman to do the same. Life is not about competition, it’s about balance: To balance the male and female, the hard and the soft, the masculine and the feminine, in order to reach a goal.

We are different, but we are not less than.


Jahni Cowley is an LLB graduate from NMMU, who fell in love with labour law and labour relations. She’s a trade unionist, single mom, social media addict and blogs in the little bit of spare time she has left (

Why feminists (and all men and women) should care about paternity leave

By Jen Thorpe 

When two people decide to have a child, is it fair that one of those people gets more paid time away from work to bond with that child? Is it also fair that this situates parental responsibility firmly in the hands of the parent with more leave?

In South Africa, women are given up to four months paid/unpaid maternity leave when they fall pregnant. Women make up around 38% of the formal work force (though, as we know much of the work women do in South Africa is part of the informal economy, so this number is therefore an underestimation of the amount that women actually contribute to the economy), and are entitled to these four months by law. This time allows them to rest and prepare for the actual act of child-birth, and then allows them time to recover and bond with their child.

The Basic Conditions of Employment Act has the following to say about maternity leave:

Workers may take maternity leave 1 month before their due date, or earlier or later as agreed or required for health reasons. Workers may not go back to work within 6 weeks after the birth unless their doctor or midwife says it is safe. Based on Legislation in Section 25, of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act

However for men in South Africa, the law only provides for three days paid family responsibility leave (Section 27 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act). It makes no real mention of ‘paternity leave’ at all. This means that if a family member passes away, or a familial emergency occurs in the same year that these three days of paid leave have been taken, the man cannot ask for these as paid family responsibility leave.

Whilst we as feminists and women should certainly appreciate and be glad that we have the opportunity to keep our jobs whilst having a baby, we need to recognise that something is amiss here, and that the legislation we have at present is starving fathers of the opportunity to fully engage with their children when they are at their youngest, and is setting a precedent that places the psychological and physical burden of child raising firmly with women. The legislation that we have places no pressure on employers to recognise that men should be equally entitled to spend time with their newborn child, or to take responsibility from the very beginning for raising the child.

In 2009, the Commission on the Status of Women held their annual meeting with a focus on shared responsibilities between parents, particularly in the light of the HIV/AIDS infection rates in the developing world.  The health minister at that time, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, called for a change in the law relating to paternity leave in order to recognise that the country was under pressure to empower women, and that men needed to take responsibility for child raising.

“We must encourage family friendly policies… which will encourage a paradigm shift in that employees of both sexes are given the same opportunities to organise their family and work responsibilities,” she said.

She was quite right. It is both sexist and unfair to assume that men do not want to spend those first weeks with their child, and sexist to assume that women do.

Overseas, countries such as Norway (men get 10 weeks paternity leave) and Italy (men get 13 weeks) have provided men with the opportunity to balance their economic responsibilities to the state, with the responsibilities of developing a home.  Is it perhaps that the South African state has chosen the economic value of men’s contribution in the formal economy over the responsibility of men to contribute to the development of the next generation of workers?

This limit that is set by the law stereotypes men and women before they have even had the opportunity to become parents. It assumes that women are better primary care givers than men, and that men are more economically important, or that men prefer their economic responsibilities to their familial ones.  It also assumes that mothers will be better at raising children than fathers, which could negatively influence good dad’s chances of getting custody of their children in a divorce. These assumptions, and this legislation, has a very real impact on the way that men and women are treated in society, and the assumptions that society makes about what men and women are capable of.

We must recognise that both mothers and fathers have a shared responsibility for developing their children, and that allowing men to bond with newborns, and to take on some of that responsibility is an important step in the recreation of a South African masculinity in which it is acceptable for men to be good fathers, and to be involved in families in a way that steps outside the ‘man as strong’, ‘man as breadwinner’ trope.  In addition, we need to support women in their choices to become breadwinners, and recognise that allowing men to have time off will better allow women to recover from the physical strain of child-birth, and will help to share the load in the first few months of a child’s life which will help women to sleep better, live better, and return to their jobs feeling restored rather than flattened.

I think it’s time to change laws that box men and women into narrow categories of parenthood. And if we can’t change the law, then lets start having these conversations with our employers, and encouraging them to develop policies that recognise that children are every parent’s responsibility.

Put on a black sash and occupy – we are the 99!

By Linda Stewart

As a young academic I was repeatedly warned not to become emotional or passionate about my research. I was told that academics should pursue their work objectively, that they should not write in the first person, and that every opinion should be supported by referencing other authorities on the matter. What a load of crap! It is impossible to separate who you are from what you do and what you believe in. Academics should also be allowed to dream, imagine and refigure … and so should our students.

And that is how the Occupy Movement romantically and instinctively captured my imagination. Finally, I thought, a space, to bypass politicians, institutions, and other social structures to voice your opinion and to listen to others. I saw a space to dream, to imagine, to listen, to share and to belong.

Again as an academic (fearful of allegations by others that I am going bonkers) I needed to rationalise my instincts and in what follows I share my (preliminary) thoughts on why I (and maybe you) NEED to occupy:

I firstly felt that OcccupySouthAfrica should connect and show solidarity to the Occupy movement mainly started by OccupyWallStreet. My research on socio-economic rights has repeatedly indicated that neo-liberalism perpetuates social and economic inequalities.

Neoliberalism is a philosophy in which the existence and operation of a market are valued in themselves, separately from any previous relationship with the production of goods and services, and without any attempt to justify them in terms of their effect on the production of goods and services; and where the operation of a market or market-like structure is seen as an ethic in itself, capable of acting as a guide for all human action, and substituting for all previously existing ethical beliefs.

Around the world, neo-liberalism has been imposed by powerful financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank and has forced states, including South Africa to pursue free market systems where government does not interfere or does little interfering in the economic system of the country. For governments pursuing neo-liberalism, social measures (such as social grants and unemployment benefits) are almost meaningless. That’s why the National Planning Commission (NPC) mainly focuses on job creation to address poverty rather than other social measures.

Patel, The Value of Nothing (2010: 135) remarks

Despite the government having replaced the predations of apartheid with one of the most inclusive and progressive constitutions on earth, neoliberal capitalism has stalled the rights of ordinary people in South Africa.

I truly believe that we have a mandate to occupy! The South African Constitution has a transformative mandate which also requires engagement with the future that it will partly shape. Albertyn and Goldblatt (SAJHR, 1998, 249) describe the process of transformative constitutionalism as

… a complete reconstruction of the state and society, including a redistribution of power and resources along egalitarian lines. The challenge of achieving equality within this transformation project involves the eradication of systemic forms of domination and material disadvantage based on race, gender, class and other grounds of inequality. It also entails the development of opportunities which allow people to realise their full human potential within positive social relationships.

Neo-liberalism contradicts the transformative constitutional vision of our Constitution. If government refrains from or does little interfering with the free market system, social change will be hindered and substantive equality in terms of gender, race and socio-economic rights will never be achieved. Creating employment alone cannot solve the current social and economic inequalities in or country.

How do I occupy to say enough is enough! How do I occupy on behalf of people who have no food, for the mothers with HIV who cannot access anti-retroviral medicine especially in rural areas, the 80+ children sitting in one classroom with no access to books, the rape survivors, the refugees sleeping in front of the church, the women in rural areas who have to walk kilometres to fetch water?

For now I need to say, “Government, politicians, multi-nationals and corporations [the 1%]: You are raping my Constitution and I cry when I see you doing this! Be warned we (the women and the greater part of the 99%) of this country will again put on a black sash, speak out and occupy!” and to the 99%, I wish to say “I love you“.

Women making decisions

By Athambile Masola

How will you make your mark? This is the kind of question that could potentially leave me paralysed for days because it invokes who I want to be, an existential crises. Often as a growing woman with many expectations from others and my own dreams in my head, I stumble when I need to make a decision for me. But nonetheless, I always seem to make a decision in spite of the background noise of expectations.

In August alone I have been on a journey of making decisions. I keep telling my friends that this a marker of “playing adult”. All of a sudden in one month I have had 3 job prospects and I may have to make a decision about soon. One of the decisions is whether or not to leave the Eastern Cape and contribute to the brain drain that takes place here as a brain drain takes place in Africa (where an average of 20 000 people leave Africa for employment somewhere else in the world).

Leaving wouldn’t have been an added anxiety until I read a report on the state of the Eastern Cape  and I had to consider, “how will I make my mark here?”. The reality is, I am the minority of people in South Africa who have been privileged because of the education I received, the decisions that I made and the support system that I have. As a young woman, I’m realising that these are only a fantasy for many other women who live in poverty, neglect and abuse not only in this province but in many parts of Africa. By saying I’m privileged to have the life that any other human being should have is evidence of how warped our reality is, that we think living with the basic necessities is a privilege and the converse is the norm.

Friends and I always lament that many of us are emerging from a legacy where many women in our families did not have the choices we have. In relation to my mother, aunts and grandmothers, I am on unchartered territory. My greatest challenge is being allowed to make a decision, whereas their greatest challenge was realising that they should be allowed to make decisions for themselves but became adults within a government that treated them as minors, making decisions for them throughout most of their adult life.

Part of this legacy has also been coupled with the adage “you educate a woman, you educate a village”, where as a (black ) woman, my decisions are not my own, but have to take into account the collective who will benefit from opportunities I have because of my education. I form part of the less than 10% of young people in South Africa who have had a 15 year education (12 years in high school and a 3 year degree) and one of the few to graduate from university in my family. So the question, “how will you make your mark?” is very apt at this point in my life.

Everyone keeps telling me to relax into it and not to think too much about this. And I probably will relax into becoming an adult and accept that I am a small part of the world. But what I will not accept is being made of “tick tacky” like the people Malvina Reynolds describes in her poem “Little Boxes”.

For me, making a mark has little to do with fame and greatness but more to do realising that I do not want to be pinched by poverty or limitations but rather be like the pine-tree near the sea that D. H Lawrence describes in his poem “Poverty”, “to have a natural abundance/and plume forth and be splendid.” So I’ll make the right decisions this month and inch towards making my mark as a woman with different prospects and opportunities.

Glencore and Feminism

By Sarah Duff

Last week, Glencore was floated on the London Stock Exchange. Valued at $61 billion, the secretive, Swiss-based commodity group’s decision to go public caused a flurry of interest, and not only in commodities markets.

So why should feminists care? Shortly before the flotation, Simon Murray, Glencore’s chairman, gave an interview with Britain’s Daily Telegraph. He said:

‘Women are quite as intelligent as men. They have a tendency not to be so involved quite often and they’re not so ambitious in business as men because they’ve got better things to do. Quite often they like bringing up their children and all sorts of other things.’

He added:

‘All these things have unintended consequences. Pregnant ladies have nine months off. Do you think that means when I rush out, what I’m absolutely desperate to have is young women who are about to get married in my company, and that I really need them on board because I know they’re going to get pregnant and they’re going to go off for nine months?’

These comments would be appalling under any circumstances, but coming from a man in charge of one of the most powerful businesses in the world, these are frightening views. Glencore specialises in the trade of raw materials (commodities, in other words) relating primarily to mining and energy. An enormous business, it has a controlling stake in the zinc, lead, copper, and alumina markets. Just think of all the lead and copper in the world (that’s a lot of lead and copper) – and that one company, Glencore, has the most say in how they’re traded.

But it gets more worrying: Glencore also has interests in agriculture. It controls about a quarter of the world’s barley, sunflower and rape seed markets, and 10% of the global wheat market. We’re currently in the midst of a spike in food prices and it seems that Glencore may have played a role in causing them to jump. Raj Patel explains:

In the weeks before flotation, Glencore allowed us a glimpse of the kind of power it wields. Last year Russia, the world’s third largest wheat exporter, experienced a drought the like of which had never been recorded; fires damaged tens of thousands of acres of cereal.

Glencore has now revealed its traders placed bets that the price of wheat would go up. On 2 August Glencore’s head of Russian grain trading called on Russia’s government to ban wheat exports. Three days later, that’s what it did. The price of wheat went up by 15% in two days. Of course, just because a senior executive at one of the world’s most powerful companies suggested a course of action that a country chose to follow doesn’t mean Glencore made it happen. But happen it did, and the consequences rippled round the world.

At the time, Mozambique experienced a massive uprising in response to increased food and fuel prices. Protests were organised via text messages and, in actions that foreshadowed those of governments in the Arab spring, the Mozambican state responded by shutting down text capability for pre-paid phones and sweeping up hundreds of protesters. Over a dozen people died, many were injured, and millions of dollars of damage was caused. It’s safe to say that tens of thousands were pushed further towards hunger as a result of the higher wheat prices.

Six months later, the Arab world exploded. In simple terms, Glencore seems to be willing to do just about anything to make a profit: regardless if it means causing widespread political instability and contributing to world hunger. Even if this were not the case, the fact that Glencore controls so much of commodity markets means that there is little anyone or anything can do control commodity prices. If they continue to rise, so do interest rates all over the world.

What Glencore does has an impact on all of us. They influence the price of food – and bread in particular – and have a say in the functioning of our economy. The board of Glencore has, then, an influence over our lives which rivals – possibly exceeds – that of elected officials. If Simon Murray were in public office, there’s a strong chance that he’d be punished in some way for his remarks about women in business. But as the head of an extremely powerful business, he can get away with them.

This is why we need feminism.

The Justice Hypocrisy: Racism and Sexism

By Jonathan Smith

The recent saga around the comments made by Jimmy Manyi regarding ‘coloured’ people working in the Cape have been condemned from all corners as Racist and Unacceptable; and one needs to agree wholeheartedly and applaud this condemnation.  However, this again got me thinking about the hypocritical differences that is seen in society and the work place between 2 key ‘Justice’ issues, that of racism and sexism.

You see, the issue is that Sexism is NOT seen in the same light as racism; and even more concerning is that this is considered socially acceptable. Surely the time has come to challenge this assumption.

Now, I am sure that if Manyi had said that women need to leave their jobs for men, he would have been rightly condemned. But would the reaction have been so strong? Or would the Justice Hypocrisy been evident? The gender gulf still exists so strongly in the workplace (as a reflection of society) and yet it remains one of the hidden injustices we accept. What would the uproar be if most black people were paid less than white people (and I know this does occur at times; but it generally dealt with or an isolated incidents). This would be viewed as an act of racism of the highest degree. Yet we allow Sexism like this to happen before our very eyes, and apart from some of us occasionally drawing attention to it, no Government leader has written a letter against it, it has not become a key part of someone’s election campaign. Even recently, in a company document I came across, the wording still refers to a person in a masculine form. Imagine if it referenced a ‘European’ to reflect all humans.  This should be unacceptable, but it happens. Day in and day out. There has been no major march or strike or even threats of strikes about it. It is Ironic, as some of the first feminist strikes were on these workplace issues; yet they still remains, and we allow them to.

So is there space for feminism to be seen the same as racism in the workplace and society? Is there energy left for condemnation of our hypocrisy, in the public and political discourses, but as well as in our day to day lives and encounters. Are we willing to strongly disagree with someone who clearly doesn’t care. Racism and sexism, and any other “ism”, are injustices that cannot be allowed to continue, and need to be spoken up against, fought against. As equal injustices. The idea that injustice can be measured on a scale needs to disappear from our psyche. But I fear that in SA today justice hypocrisy is growing in strength; many think the feminist fight has been won. We have let the fight for racial equality overshadow the fight for gender equality. And this is so evident in the work place. We say that feminism is the radical notion that a woman is human as well. Let us not forget that.

The Jam and Matchstick Problem

By Sarah Duff

All over the world, women’s work changed profoundly as a result of the industrial revolution. Middle- class women were confined increasingly to the home, while poorer women left their households for domestic service or factory work. South Africa was no different in this regard. As businesses and factories were established in Cape Town from the 1880s onwards, young women from around the world and the colony’s interior flocked to the city, in search of work.

Most of them became domestic servants. According to the 1891 census, 62,584 domestic servants were employed in the Cape Colony. Just over ninety per cent of these servants were female, and more than 84 per cent of the total domestic workforce was made up by African and coloured women. But there was a perception in the Cape that young women preferred factory work to domestic service – two servants’ agents said to the 1894 Labour Commission that they had lost many servants to ‘match and cigarette making…everlasting flowing sorting, rough feather sorting’ and to ‘jam and matchstick-making’. But only a handful of women were employed in industries in 1891: out of a total of 15,934 industrial workers, 2,851 were women – considerably fewer than the 57,531 in service. So why the perception that girls were leaving domestic service for factory work in droves?

At first glance, it’s difficult to understand the attractiveness of factory employment. While the basic rate for a young, female servant was around 25s. a month, newly-employed factory girls could only expect to be paid half as much, which, as W. Dieterle, the manager of J.H. Sturck’s, a local cigar manufacturer, admitted, was hardly enough to live on. He commented that they

‘live three times worse than when in service. … I told a girl this morning that she goes in a Sunday dress when she is certainly not earning one. It would seem incredible how cheaply and sparsely they live.’

Despite this low pay, around twelve girls applied for every position advertised by Sturk’s.

A closer look at the conditions in which servants worked explains why they preferred factory employment. The Rev. Henry Osborne explained that the ‘domestic servant’s hours are too long. … They have to get up at perhaps 5.30 in the morning and keep up to ten or eleven at night, where they are the general servants in a family.’ Most had one only one afternoon off a month. In contrast, girls working in Sturk’s matchstick factory began work at seven o’clock, took an hour at midday for dinner, and finished at five o’clock in the afternoon. Domestic servants lacked privacy and had little control over their free time. Not only did the shop or factory girl have the opportunity ‘to make her own dresses’, but her evenings and Sundays were free and she didn’t run the risk of being sacked if she had to miss work due to illness. The domestic servant had no time either for dressmaking or reading, and had to ask her employer’s permission to ‘visit a sick friend or to go shopping… She may get leave to go to a funeral, but if she asks again the mistress will say that she wants to go out too often and will refuse.’

Domestic workers’ living conditions were also notoriously bad. Osborne said: ‘I know two white girls who were in the Somerset Hospital with typhoid fever. They were housed in a ruinous outhouse, with a dam or pool of water under the floor. Asked whether they were going to return to the same place, they said yes; they were under two or three years’ contract. Asked whether they expected to sleep in the same place again; they replied that they hoped not.’

Part of the objection to women working in factories was also on the grounds that they behaved ‘immorally’ when they moved away from domestic service. As servants, they were part of a household and, at least in theory, under the control of middle-class masters and mistresses, but factory workers could do as they pleased. They could make friends with their fellow workers, had free time, and enjoyed much more personal liberty then those in domestic service. The idea of working women bothered the Victorian middle classes, who preferred for women’s work to remain domesticated – women who went into factories profoundly undermined expectations of how women ‘should’ work.

Black Women’s Work

By Athambile Masola

If you live on the right side of town and have the right kind of employment or are fortunate enough to be a student, living in Rhini-Grahamstown has its perks in spite of the scorn it suffers because it’s so small: everything is in walking distance, there’s endless access to the internet and I personally enjoy being able to sit under a tree at the Bot gardens reading and feeling like I’m adding value to the world because being a Masters student means reading endlessly!

But if you’re not in a privileged position in Rhini and you’re a black woman, life does not seem so blissful. With an unemployment rate over 80%, the inequalities are tangible in Rhini, it’s not something I read in a book. I am often declining offers from women who are offering to come clean my flat as domestic workers for a pittance so they can support their families. These women spent their days moving from digs to digs cleaning for students who can afford to pay them what they spend on airtime on a daily basis perhaps. I have been approached countless times by women offering to accept any items of clothing or household things that I no longer use so they can sell or re-use in their own homes. I am often asked to assist at the ATM because many women cannot read and operate the machines themselves. And on a daily basis I have to ward off sexual harassment from men who whistle at my “sexiness” the same way they whistle at a dog.

The idea of work for many women in places like Grahamstown means settling for pittance in order to support a family. Whenever I’m in town around 5pm I cannot help but notice the streams of women pouring down New Street and High Street going home after working in the suburban homes. I have no stats on this but the majority of women who work in Rhini are domestic workers and service staff at Rhodes University. The point is though, they are working right? But the truth is what kind of choice did they have in landing up with this kind of occupation? A friend I met while she was in high school dropped out of school because she could no longer feign that she could not read and write and is now  domestic worker; she’s younger than me and already has a daughter. And I’m sure she is not the only one.

My attempt is not to be emotional about this, but we often hear talk about getting more women to become CEOs and engineers and I do not doubt that is important, but some black women in obscure places like Paterson and Rhini do not have the opportunity to get a matric (in spite of Rhini being dubbed an education town). Those who do get a matric often cannot make it to university or an FET college, but if there is money, they will go to GADRA education and improve their marks in order to be able to consider an FET college, university is often out of the question. I have racialised this issue purposefully because we can’t talk about women’s rights without talking about race, class and sexuality. And talking about women’s work in South Africa almost 20 years after a democracy means accepting that many women have been let down by a government whose education system engineers a working class further exacerbating the inequalities for women in this country. I don’t have all the answers, this is just an observation at the resilience many women have in the face of disappointment and dashed dreams.

What is Women’s Work?

By Jennifer Thorpe

One of the first struggles for equality took place in the playgrounds of work. Women wanted to work, they wanted equal pay, and thanks to World War they were finally accepted into the formalised economy. The struggle for equal pay, although resolved in some industries, is not yet complete with many women being paid less for the same work. The formalised economy is not yet a woman-friendly sphere, and because of the emphasis on the ‘progressive realisation’ of these goals this process is likely to be slow and ongoing.

In South Africa there are certainly sectors of the economy where women are dominant – the NGO world where I work is just one example. In these spheres women are at the top, the bottom and in the middle. They are employers and employed. Men are a rarity, and are sometimes treated as unwelcome guests in an arena that is still getting used to their involvement. Why is it that in industries relating to care, to support and to giving are normally dominated by women?

What has been really interesting for me is the different types of work done by different types of women. Women in rural communities seem to become more involved in building up communities, whereas in urban areas it is sometimes easier for us to think only of ourselves. How do these to activities or styles of work relate to one another, and how do they relate to feminism? These are key questions we need to ask ourselves.

Another question to ask ourselves is what types of work we think are wrong for women? Why do we support a teacher more than a sex worker, and why do we think it is nice for women to be social workers but rarely head of State? Do we lock ourselves into understandings of what it means to be women?

So for the busy month of March, and on International Women’s Day, I hope that we begin to see all types of work as open for women, that we support women in all the work we do, and that we find work in the post recession world.

Good luck this month,


What makes people care?

By Claire Martens

As a means to change my career path, and perhaps because I find student life so appealing, I have recently started an Honours in Social Development. Social development is an admittedly wishy-washy concept, but conjures up images of brave and tired individuals entering homes of abuse, poverty and despair and trying to lessen the burden that suffocates whole families. Essentially, social development workers, and social workers, are those do-gooders of society who are trying to make a difference to the lives of the less privileged.

Despite the research that this is going to entail, there is another interesting dimension to Social Development; the class itself.  If there are a handful of male students, then that is a lot. Predominantly female, a mixed crowd of whites and blacks with a delicious international flavour of Americans and Southern Africans (and a Dutch and Mauritian student thrown in), it really does beg the question: what it is about us, as individuals, that makes us want to embark on one of the most under-recognised and thankless jobs out there?

Logic dictates that women are more likely to enter those professions that require empathy, caring, immense amounts of patience and the listening abilities of saints. Just to reinforce, more concretely, the concept of these feminine qualities within the Social Development sector, the research methodologies which are utilised very rarely use quantitative methods, which reduce humans to numbers and conveniently forget that feelings cannot be statistically analysed; essentially patriarchal.

This is not my original thinking; Rothery et al (1996) contend that the quantitative approach is rooted in male values of dispassionate logic, distance and little consultation[1]. Having done both quantitative and qualitative research in the past, I must admit that qualitative research, which is based on forming a trusting relationship with those being studied, and sitting down to long, probing conversations about their lives, sits much better with me that the reduction of experiences to neutral numbers.

However, is there more to this female bias in Social Development, than the requirement of empathy? Could it also be a question of what is valued most in South African today? Money, success, professionalism and recognition are definitely valued above small, every day acts of kindness. Recognition is found in those professions like engineering, medicine and finance, which are still largely male-orientated. Certain jobs can give you those things that you require, but being social worker rarely does.

What complicates my thinking is something I read a while back. According to a study, South Africans are one of the most giving and altruistic societies on the planet. Acts of kindness, as well as social development projects abound – so in a sense, the formal and informal philanthropy is everywhere, to the extent that it is, in all likelihood, impossible to say that there is also a gender bias to caring.

I would like to think that everyone can care, but what puts you in a class with other Social Development students is not about your gender, but about the kind of employment which you seek. But I would like to hear from you what you think.

[1] Rothery, M.A., Tutty, C.M. and Grinnell, R.M. 1996. Qualitative research for Social Workers.

I’m a Slave, but at least I’ve got a job

By Cobus Fourie

I am your average corporate weasel. There, I said it. I confess. I am neither a rabid libertarian nor an unthinking progressive. Cosatu will not burn me at the stake along with my hypothetical Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand collections and neither will I get honorary life-membership by extolling the virtues of Friedrich Engels.

According to the Department of Labour, I earn too much to qualify for some essential labour law protections, so I see our “progressive” labour law as not egalitarian enough. Yet it is a case of the rather devil you know than the devil you don’t. Strangely enough, Allister Sparks, writing for the Business Day, made my blood boil the other day.

Mr Sparks in all of his libertarian wisdom proposed some pseudo Industrial Revolution labour law relaxations in AT HOME AND ABROAD: Tiny puff of a possible wind of change. Mr Sparks hedges his assumptions on the warm welcome South Africa got when it was invited to the BRIC bloc of self-congratulating nations (I suppose it is BRICS now).

I have worked for shysters and have seen our esteemed labour law in action. I propose calling Johannesburg the Wild West of Exploitation since I have seen so many transgressions and constructive dismissals that I am immune to any of it and consequently suffer compassion fatigue. Worst is that employers get away with these violations with total impunity.

I know a couple of lawyers who will not touch labour law with a ten-metre stick. I completely understand. Labour law is a messy business. I had to deal with a couple of situations and I would be lying if I said I was completely unscathed.

I cherish the Basic Conditions of Employment Act, 1997, the Employment Equity Act, 1998 and the Labour Relations Act, 1995 – although in practice, I have seen that the lofty provisions contained therein are not even worth the paper it is printed on. Women still face the infamous glass ceiling and continue to be relegated and objectified. It is still very much an “old-boys club” out there and despite being male I just don’t feel any belonging there. I think my feelings towards the Old Grey Suits border on disgust.

My previous director often summoned me regarding the sectoral and ministerial determinations of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the subsequent wage increases. We discussed a certain sectoral determination and unexpectedly the question came from the 46 year-old: “do women get the same amount?” I nearly fell off my chair in disbelief and had to force my mouth shut before any insects could accumulate. I feigned nonchalance, answered a couple of other equally bigoted questions, and excused myself.

I vividly remember my mother bitching in the late 1980s that they were paid less than men for no other reason than gender. Even as a small child I couldn’t comprehend this inequality, let alone the other vast and ruthless inequalities that existed. I discussed this income disparity with one of my colleagues who lived through those times and the discrepancy was largely unquestioned. I cannot fathom why, but then again, those were different times. These days the 1950s stereotype nuclear family doesn’t really exist and many household are headed by single (female) parents.

As we are inundated with speak of job creation and having to listen to the President saying the word “jobs” so many times in 80 minutes, we need to look were we came from before we consider giving up equality and a semblance of human dignity and implement slave wages. Do we really want to revert to a crude winner-takes-it-all labour market? What will happen to women who fall pregnant? Will they be deemed an economic and ideological burden?

I feel there is almost an unhealthy obsession with jobs amongst politicians and economists and columnists alike. I am lead to believe this panacea will be our saving grace and miraculously all of our problems will disappear while we are working together doing more.

There are supposedly so many hurdles and red tape that private enterprise isn’t incentivised to employ people. Apparently our minimum wages are too high. I wonder if these pompous columnists ever tried to live on a minimum wage. I wonder if they considered that a lot of women raise their children by themselves with the fathers disappearing long before birth.

Sparks et al argue that it is better to employ people on ridiculous wages than to have the outrageous levels of unemployment that we face. I see a catch here. The first thing that will happen is that the classic supply-and-demand economics will kick in and wages will fall to inhumanely low levels.

I can just imagine the Tea Party speak; it might sound something like this:

My skiewie from the DRC is prepared to work for R10 a day, so why would I employ these arrogant South Africans? They’ve got human rights now, remember. Human rights! We didn’t have human rights and we survived just fine.

I see exploitation and a lot of it. If our current lofty labour laws cannot even protect the average worker, how on earth will our society look on ruthless, anarcho-capitalist policies?

But don’t forget those jobs; they will cure all social malaise.

The Long View: Human Trafficking in South Africa

By Sarah Duff

Cape Town has recently been rocked by allegations of human trafficking between the Northern and Western Cape. According to police reports, around six adolescent girls from Prieska had been sold into slavery in Atlantis, for as little as R1200 each. These young women appear to have been the victims of a scam which promised to help them to find employment in Cape Town in exchange for a few hundred rand. Instead, they found themselves enslaved in Atlantis.

Listening to CapeTalk radio’s coverage of this case, I was struck not only by the bravery of the young woman who allegedly alerted the police to her plight, but also to the similarities between this crime and similar events in and around Cape Town over a century ago. We know that human trafficking did not end with the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade during the early nineteenth century. Organisations and campaigns such as the Coalition against Trafficking in Women and the UN’s Blueheart Campaign have drawn the world’s attention to the current trafficking of women and children between developed and developing nations.

The roots of human trafficking – and particularly of women and children – are deep. In The Fox and the Flies: The World of Joseph Silver, Racketeer and Psychopath (2007), Charles van Onselen describes a crime network which operated within the Atlantic world during the late nineteenth century: gangsters lured impoverished young women to London from central and eastern Europe, usually with the promise of employment. Once in Britain these women were drugged, raped, and shipped off to brothels in New York, Buenos Aires, and Cape Town. During the 1840s, some white farmers on the eastern frontier of the Cape Colony were implicated in the systematic kidnapping and enslavement of African children on their farms.

But in many ways, the trafficking and exploitation of young women in Cape Town was a daily occurrence during the final decades of the nineteenth century.  The discovery of diamonds (1867) and gold (1886) caused South Africa to industrialise. Industry and business expanded; new roads, railways, and a telegraph network connected the country far more closely than ever before. In Cape Town, the city’s population more than quadrupled, from 45,000 in 1875 to 170,000 in 1904. Many of these new Capetonians were immigrants from Europe, but more than half came from within South Africa itself. These internal migrants – who represented all ages and races and both genders – came to Cape Town in search of work. Among these were young women, usually in their early teens, who sought domestic work in the city’s middle-class households.

Domestic work in Victorian South Africa was tough: housekeeping was physically strenuous, hours were long, and pay was very low. Some former domestic servants decided to swop housekeeping for factory work, while a few became involved in prostitution. While it’s certain that some of these women chose prostitution over other forms of employment – it was better paid and women had greater freedom to choose when they worked – it’s also clear that many of Cape Town’s young prostitutes had been lured to the city with promises of well-paid employment. Jane Elizabeth Waterston, Cape Town’s first female doctor, described in 1894 how some young women whom she treated had fallen into sex work:

I…was informed that generally their mistresses had brought them to town – respectable mistresses coming to town, as country ladies are wont to do. When the servants arrive here, old companions, or as they call them, ‘chums’, get hold of them and lead them off. The great direct cause is those dances. They are taken to a dance and never come home again.

The reasons why these girls came to Cape Town were the same as those who travelled this year from Prieska to Atlantis: rural poverty and bad, or little education, meant that their prospects for finding well-paid work in the country’s rural interior were low. Life in the city, they believed, offered them a fairer chance for employment.

Human trafficking today may differ in some respects from that in the nineteenth century – faster communication and travel have had a significant impact – but its causes are identical: poverty, inadequate education, and a continued refusal on the part of governments to respond to the ways in which women are sexually exploited. As Victorian feminists in South Africa, like Waterston, rallied to support young women trapped into prostitution in late-nineteenth-century Cape Town, so we should do the same to protect vulnerable girls today.