This study documented the education process that engendered activism
among six female farm activists, who lived and/or worked on commercial
farms in the Western Cape, South Africa.
The study was located in an interpretative paradigm and a qualitative
approach was followed. A collective case study design was employed and
snowball sampling used to select six research participants who participated in
the non-formal, popular education programme of a farm-based grassroots
organisation, which the research called Female Farm Organisation (FFO).
Ethnographic data in the form of interviews, participant observation and
archival documents were used to provide a narrative account of each female
farm activist’s educational journey.
These educational journeys were biographical, and they provided the context
in which the central phenomenon of the study could be explored. Educational
journeys were framed as learning that took place across different educational
sites over a person’s lifetime (Jarvis, 2004); with the focus on FFO’s nonformal,
popular education. Freire’s (2005) theory of praxis was used to
assess critically the interaction of female farm activists with FFO’s education
programme. The content and method of the FFO programme were used to
connect what and how the women learnt, with how the acquired education
was used. The study specifically pinpoints the moments when female farm
activists presumed their equality to those who possess power (Rancière,
1999), as their moments of activism.
A key finding of the study was that a four-tiered education process
engendered activism. Farmwomen learnt to be activists, experienced learning
while being activists, were role models and facilitators of activism for other
women and were agents of knowledge, as FFO learnt from their
members. Activism was manifested in the private and the public
spaces. Women used their education to grow their self-confidence; put an
end to abuse in their homes, or directly confront institutions of power. By
placing the actions of these female farm activists at the centre of the research, the study seeks to contribute to the body of literature that shows how ordinary
people use education to contest the conditions of inequality that they