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SA Women in Sugarcane improve leadership skills

SA Women in Sugarcane improve leadership skills

BY: Colleen Dardagan 15 Nov 2019 Filed in: Canegrowers News

In a first for agriculture over 40 women sugarcane growers gathered in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands for five days to improve their leadership skills and cement their vision for the newly formed Non-Profit Corporation (NPC), South African Women in Sugarcane (SAWIS).

But, the women say, while they might all be sugarcane growers, their ultimate vision is to change the lives of all women who are either already farmers or have dreams about becoming farmers.

Kiki Mzoneli who is one of the founders and a member of the SAWIS Board said the training which was funded and championed by SA Canegrowers had not only improved the group’s business skills but had resulted in a dynamic change in attitude towards the role they had to play in the agriculture sector at large.

“What we have learned this week is that empowerment doesn’t start with money or education, it starts with the spirit of sympathy. That is a value that we have to have at the centre of all our development initiatives if we are to see women take their rightful place in the agricultural sector in this country. This week has made us feel validated as women leaders,” Mzoneli said.

The training which was held at Lythwood Lodge near Lidgetton in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands in earlier this month was carried out by the internationally acclaimed and Western Cape-based training entity Emerging Leaders.

The course was titled, “Leadership for Life – A Certificate in Community Leadership”.

Lead trainer for the week, Lennox Plaatjies said working with the women had inspired him.

“This is the first leadership training I have done in KwaZulu-Natal and the first all-women group of farmers I have ever worked with. I believe they have a lot they can teach all of us on agricultural development and leadership,” Plaatjies said.

Topics addressed during the course included learning how to lead yourself, how to think like a leader, writing your story, how to lead through your own finances, how to lead a project and how to lead a team.

Rejoice Ncwane, who is also a founding member and on the board of the of the newly formed association said the training had taught her how to prioritise her leadership.

“First, I have to lead myself and that means I must know myself and I must be brave enough to identify where I can change and improve myself. What we have learned during this week has not only given me the tools I need to go forward as a leader but shown how we can help and support each other,” Ncwane said.

Dipuo Ntuli who is the SA Canegrowers Vice Chair and also on the board of the new association said the goal now was not only to develop women sugarcane growers but to develop all women in South Africa’s agriculture sector.

SA Canegrowers Corporate Executive Kathy Hurly said a similar organisation was being set up in the sugarcane growing sector in Mpumalanga with further training earmarked in the 2020 budget.

“The next event is our annual Women’s Conference where the SA Women in Sugarcane will present on the progress they have made and invite all our women members to join them. We are also placing emphasis on leadership roles among the young women in the rural areas who are in many cases taking over the sugarcane farming from their mothers. These women have very specific needs and we want to be at the forefront in providing training and support for them. Our future depends on them,” she said.