Is there a disjuncture between policy and practice in South Africa when it comes to gender? When this question was put to Sizani Ngubane, the leader of Rural Women’s Movement in KwaZulu Natal, she did not hesitate to affirm that there was a serious disjuncture. She shared several examples of rural women still being treated and regarded as minors, especially in rural areas. The inheritance practices still favor male children over women and girl children.
On specific questions about how the land restitution act served the interests of rural women, and whether the new window brought about by the amendment creates new opportunities or not. Once again, she was skeptical. She explained that the restitution law was built on the pre-existing cultural fault lines. Claims were lodged by tribal authorities with males’ only tribal councils and household heads (males only). It seems the government is so beholden to the Chiefs. Most laws that have been passed thus far seem to favor cultural practices presided over by Chiefs. The constitution outlaws discrimination of any sort, but practice as experienced by rural women, is something else.
To strengthen the rural women’s lobby for policies and laws that serve the interest of women, the movement leadership hired a small holding at Camperdown to produce organic vegetables, thereby create a model farm to demonstrate the women’s ability to farm, so that government will invest in rural women, who already produce the bulk of household food.