Women on Farms Project (WFP) is a registered South African non-governmental organisation (NGO) working with women in commercial agriculture, mainly in the Western Cape Province. The project grew out of a 1992 Lawyers for Human Rights (LHR) initiative aimed at meeting the specialised needs of women who live and work on farms (farmwomen). WFP was formally registered as an independent NGO in 1996.
Historically, WFP operated through a network of Vroue Regte Groepe (VRG) or women’s rights groups on farms. However, by the late 1990s, there was a growing awareness of the vulnerability of donor-funded NGOs which forced the organisation to grapple with the critical question: “What will be left behind if we close our doors tomorrow?” This process led to the dream in 2002 of forming a member-based farmwomen’s movement.
With the belief that a strong organisation of women, led by women, in the sector is vital to bring about change, WFP explored the options for building a member-based organisation through its network of Vroue Regte Groepe on farms. At a workshop in June 2003 with representatives from all VRG, farmwomen took the decision to establish a membership organisation of women, led by women. And this is how Sikhula Sonke came into being.
Sikhula Sonke was duly constituted on 9 August 2004, a fitting date as it also South Africa’s National Women’s Day. Equally symbolic, on 10 December 2004, international Human Rights Day, the Registrar of Labour granted Sikhula Sonke registration as a trade union according to the regulations of the Labour Relations Act of the Republic of South Africa. Today, Sikhula Sonke has 7 branches and a membership of more than 3500 drawn from more than 120 farms in the Western Cape.
WFP is seen as a key role player in the sector and demand for its services and participation, both from its constituency of farmwomen, and other role players, remains high. A 2005 NOVIB-commissioned external evaluation of WFP concluded that:
WFP is a well-known organisation with a strong reputation and is held in high regard by peer organisations in the NGO sector as well as other stakeholders. The organisation is a strongly responsive organisation – well in touch with its external context, making it easily accessible to its target group and to its partners.