At 48, Jacoba began to call herself a feminist: A success story
Hearing a description of Jacoba Armoed can sound a lot like hearing someone describe your own mother. She doesn’t stand out in a crowd. She’s not the first one to speak, nor the loudest. She sits down every day to catch the latest intrigue on her favourite soap opera, which provides maybe the only break in her day.
But take a step back and the differences quickly become clear. Jacoba was born in South Africa, into a situation that saw her living on a farm owned by a rich white landowner. She worked alongside her husband who had for years been partly paid in alcohol. He beat her regularly. Without her name on the deed of her own home, she had to ensure the abuse.
Then one day she’d had enough. There was no obvious tipping-point, no cinematic breakthrough moment. It just became unbearable, so Jacoba reached out.
She connected with Oxfam partner Women on Farms Project. An organization determined to see South African women experience the same constitutional rights as men, Women on Farms Project builds capacity through rights-based education, advocacy, lobbying, and work with individual women.
Women on Farms Project has also helped to nurture the evolution of South Africa’s first and only women-led trade union of farm workers, which brings women together to support one another and speak as one voice.
Until these women started talking, explained Glenise Levendal, Oxfam’s Program Officer in Cape Town, South Africa, they didn’t know what was going on in each other’s houses.
As women began to share their stories, however, they quickly picked up on the common threads of poverty, threats of eviction, and gender-based violence.
Before connecting with Women on Farms Project, Jacoba felt isolated and powerless. The only examples of leadership she’d seen had been brutal white male landowners, and that style wasn’t reflected back when she looked in the mirror. Jacoba used the information about her rights and made application for an interdict to stop the abuse. She attributes the cessation of abuse to the interdict but also to her own sense of power and leadership.
But there are a lot of ways to be powerful. And that’s something that has become clear to Jacoba, who served on the board of Women on Farms Projec until December 2011.
Her husband has stopped beating her, and has become proud of her work. In private it is sometimes still a struggle for him to accept that she is often out of the house for meetings, but in public she overhears him bragging about her successes.
And at 48-years-old, Jacoba began to call herself a feminist.
Thanks to Jacoba Armoed for telling the story of how her life was improved as a result of the support of Oxfam Canada and South African partner organization, Women on Farms Project.
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