A case Study of the Southern African Rural Women's Assembly: "We Can Bend the Stick"

A case Study of the Southern African Rural Women's Assembly: "We Can Bend the Stick"

Author: 
Andrews, Mercia
Place: 
Oxon
Publisher: 
Taylor & Francis
Date published: 
2019
Record type: 
Journal Title: 
Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity
Source: 
Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity Volume 33 Number 1, 2019 pp. 48-58
Abstract: 

The article reflects on feminist movement building in Southern Africa with a specific focus on leadership in rural areas and land struggles. It discusses the experience of the Rural Women's Assembly (RWA). RWA is a self-organised grassroots movement that since its launch in 2009, has located its leadership formation in local struggles, local organising and mobilising in the rural areas across Southern Africa. The movement's membership in the region has extended to ten countries. The base now consists of popular associations, farmers' unions, cross-border traders, producers and farm workers. Presently the RWA has a membership of over 80 000 direct members with a cascading impact on 300 000 to 500 000. This article seeks to reveal first, that African women, especially poor, rural women are invisible, hidden and often marginalised in the leadership roles they perform. Second, it engages with the perception that poor rural women are subservient and nurture a culture of obedience that both sustains and reproduces a system of authority and patriarchy. Third, I show that rural peasant women do not fit comfortably into their ascribed role as toilers of the earth and producers of food; often their struggles and activism are overshadowed by grand narratives of the urban struggle. Through RWA as an illustrative example and through concrete experience I intend to highlight several barriers and contradictions that poor rural women face, in relation to leadership. I will illustrate my argument by analysing the political and social activism within the intersection of race, class, gender and nature. Given the complexity of the land and rural struggles and grand narratives of the region, the RWA's emphasis on women's collective leadership is an important part of movement building and feminist praxis that can challenge power relations and build women's agency.

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CITATION: Andrews, Mercia. A case Study of the Southern African Rural Women's Assembly: "We Can Bend the Stick" . Oxon : Taylor & Francis , 2019. Agenda: Empowering Women for Gender Equity Volume 33 Number 1, 2019 pp. 48-58 - Available at: http://library.au.int/case-study-southern-african-rural-womens-assembly-we-can-bend-stick