REACH in South Africa
The Rural Education, Awareness and Community Health (REACH) is a Non-Profit and Public Benefit Organization that seeks to sensitize rural farming countries, and other relevant stakeholders in he Western Cape, on the issues of sexual harassment and sexual violence, through the implementation of programs that encourage ethical, social, personal awareness and development. REACH seeks to educate and empower women to improve their rights and, in turn, contribute to the eradication of sexual harassment and sexual violence.
One of the many ways in which REACH strives to achieve its mission is through trainings and awareness campaigns. In November 2006, REACH began its first official awareness raising workshop through a pilot project called “Empowering Young Rural Farm Working Women.” The project initially targeted farm workers from two areas, and following its success, was then replicated across various areas in the Overburg Region of the Western Cape, focusing on domestic violence, sexual harassment, rape and HIV/AIDs. REACH also established counseling support services, training farm communities to offer basic counseling, interventions and referrals. REACH also works to reform restrictive policies affecting sexual harassment and sexual violence while advocating for policies that will provide effective recourse ofr victims. REACH is currently lobbying the government of South Africa to pass a new law on sexual harassment.
With support from ILRF, REACH has also completed comprehensive research on factors contributing to sexual harassment and sexual violence on fruit farms and vineyards in the Overberg region. Through five fact finding workshops, REACH has documented the testimonies of women fruit farm workers, whose voices often go unheard. In 2007, this research culminated in the publication of a report, Sexual Harassment: Is it really a Problem on Farms? Report of a fact-finding survey of farm workers conducted in 2006 which, as part of the 2007 Global Development Awards and Medals Competition, was short-listed as one of the top five finalists under the Women’s Rights, Security and Development: Challenges and Opportunities category. This has presented the organization with the opportunity to further elevate the concerns and needs of women rural farm workers, who as a particularly vulnerable group, are subject to low wages, high levels of job insecurity, poor living conditions and limited access to health and legal services.
The organization is currently seeking out funding for a broader research project and study that will heighten the awareness of gender-based violence and other social problems affecting rural farming communities while sourcing greater local and international support for the fight against such abuses.