South Africa: Finalising a project with a stronger commitment to Women Sugar Workers

The final event in the IUF Sugar project in Kenya and South Africa (2012-2014) was in fact two different activities that gathered women sugar workers from Harden Heights, a cane supplier to the UCL factory located in the Dalton area, and in Sezela, an Illovo Sugar operation, south of Durban.

The activities were held from November 16-19, and comprised more than a dozen women shop-stewards and FAWU members at large in each location. In Harden Heights, they were farm workers, and in Sezela, they were mostly women employed in the factory-type of jobs. That way, IUF Sugar covered two main areas: cane cultivation and sugar processing.

Workshop with delegates from Harden Heights

Workshop with delegates from Harden Heights

The main topics of the workshops were Sexual Harassment and Occupational Health and Safety. While the latter has been at the core in all IUF Sugar activities in several regions and countries; the former has become a relevant matter in the South African sugar sector, and participants in several events have acknowledged the positive impact this work has in terms of sensitising workers about Sexual Harassment and in encouraging them to take action – in a difficult context for women workers in both factory and farm operations.

FAWU delegates at the Sezela Workshop

FAWU delegates at the Sezela Workshop

The participants also contributed to a conversation about the future joint work between the IUF Global Sugar Program and FAWU. The discussions included the IUF Sugar coordinator, FAWU national sugar organiser, ICT officer and FAWU coordinator of their Gender Department. The workshops proposed continue the focus on women workers and farm workers which, in many cases, corresponds to the reality that the sugar sector employs many women in farm operations in need of extra support to organise themselves. The final objective is of course the strengthening of FAWU through empowering their women members and increased membership with a full integration of farm workers. Networking activities will continue as part of the IUF Sugar Program, with an evaluation and implementation of a sub-regional approach within South Africa, on one hand, and, because of their significant experience in ICT, the contribution that FAWU can make to the enhancement of electronic communication within and among unions in the IUF sugar network. FAWU has also agreed that the IUF Sugar Coordinator will contribute with the planning and implementation of their sugar work program starting in 2015, aiming at strengthening both instances.

Sezela Workshop on Sexual Harassment. Report by Nelisiwe Nxumalo.

Related to the ongoing work of IUF Sugar and the emergence of alleged cases of Sexual Harassment, the Sezela Women’s Forum raised concerns about this topic at meetings of the Employment Equity group, which were materialised in a workshop held on 20 November, immediately after the IUF Sugar activity. Two sessions were held under this training, one for delegates of the Women’s Forum and shop-stewards from the FAWU and UASA unions, that totalled 16 participants; and the second was attended by management. Both male and female employees participated.  A main recommendation was to include Sexual Harassment as part of Sezela’s wellness day program and implement induction and sensitisation sessions for everyone in the company. The training was funded by the company, Illovo Sugar.


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1 comment

    • Miriam Wanyama on December 15, 2014 at 6:41 am

    This is wonderful.Sexual harassment has never been taken seriously at work place in Africa.Many a times our employers create very difficult working environment for Women that become a predisposing factor for sexual harassment.Take an example of working tools like huge motorbikes that Women cannot ride to duty, instead rely on male colleagues for lifts.This makes Women to become subjects and yield to unnecessary demands because they have no option.It is beautiful to have management team in such forums and also health ans safety teams so that this is put into consideration before the purchase of PPE’s. Congratulations Ladies,FAWU and the IUF Global Sugar co-ordinator

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