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The conditions of health when health is conditional

The state of health for women farm workers and dwellers in Rawsonville, a case study by Women on Farms Project.

Presenter: Rebecca Mort
Women’s Health and Empowerment Programme Coordinator
Women on Farms Project

Women who live and work on farms exist at the intersections of various conditions that debilitate their health rights. The political economy of this context is one where women farm workers are paid below the national minimum wage, live in poor housing conditions, and face the social stigma of being a “plaasvrou”. Despite this, women on farms continue to mobilise and fight for their rights. The case study explores the linkages between decent work, housing and social protection, in particular health rights. It examines how the systematic failures of the Departments of Labour, and Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform exacerbate the socio-economic determinants of health for women on farms. This includes high rates of pesticide exposure, through inadequate protective clothing and insufficient notice given to farm dwellers prior to spraying. It also includes poor housing conditions and unhygienic sanitation on farms, as it affects farm worker communities on farms as a whole. Finally, the research also seeks to capture how women on farms’ activism has been at the forefront of the fight for the right to health in Rawsonville for farm worker communities. There have been significant successes that women farm workers and dwellers have won for their communities, through consistent and creative protest efforts, in expanding the basket of services delivered by the Department of Health. While delivery of these services is a responsive approach from the Department of Health, the working and living conditions continue to pose a serious threat to the health of women on farms in Rawsonville. The burden of health care will increase and remain with this department, and remain felt by women living and working on farms, unless a whole-of-government approach is fully implemented. The case study begs the question – in what ways should we now fight for a comprehensive coverage of health for women living and working on farms?

Date: Tuesday, October 22, 2019
Time: 13h00-14h00
Venue: PLAAS Boardroom, 2nd Floor Main Hall, University of the Western Cape

For more information, contact: Joy van Dieman
Tel: 021 959 3754 or Email: