‘I encourage all women to invest in rural women’

Posted on October 18, 2018

Prof Mmantsae Moche Diale spoke to Tukkievaria about her route from a rural village to UP. 

You’re a professor of Physics, but you also have a great passion for rural women’s issues. Can you tell us why this topic is so important to you?

My roots are that of a rural woman, having been raised in the rural village of Mmakau, outside Pretoria. The role played by rural women in every country is so important that I consider supporting them vital to the development of any country.

Tell us about your childhood?

The land where I grew up was just over 1 hectare, and all the neighbours had similar land. It was at the foot of a mountain, with lots of indigenous trees. There were also other foreign trees that were planted: A jacaranda tree, a pawpaw, figs, oranges, lemons, mangoes, grapes, pomegranates and mulberries. There was no hunger at all. Our toilets were pits, which were well built and very clean. Our animals, particularly goats and chickens, were kept a distance from the house. The cows were kept at camps completely away from the village.

Please share with us your journey from your village to UP? 

I attended rural schools in Mmakau. There was no high school in my village, so I went to a boarding school called Sekitla High School. I matriculated in 1976, and I missed so much because of the political turmoil in our country that year. I did a B.Sc (Education) in Physics and Mathematics at North West University in Mafikeng, BSc Honours in Physics at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, and my MSc dissertation was supervised by professors from the University of Cape Town and Arizona State University. The degree was awarded with distinctions, after which I completed my PhD at the University of Pretoria under the supervision of Prof Danie Auret.

What are some of the challenges facing rural women in SA today? 

Rural women of my time were extremely oppressed by tribal systems, and some of this ‘tradition’ still exists in some parts. In the past, women were expected to do duties like cooking at funerals and weddings. They were expected to raise children with the help of family, if they were available. Women were expected to cover their heads when going to a graveyard. These types of oppression still continue today. When a husband dies, the woman must not enter certain places; they are even stopped from tilling the land or looking for work. Women are not heard when speaking, which leads to women staying in abusive relationships in order to be recognised as a representative of a family unit when her husband is not available. Married women are respected more than single women. Daughters are expected to feed and clean sons. This systematic oppression still continues, in that rural women’s lives are dictated by rules that are contrary to our country’s Constitution.

What types of help should be extended to rural women?

They should receive greater support from funding agencies, and be trained in skills that will assist them to generate an income. Issues related to land could be better addressed if rural women have been supported to create sustainable life on the land they have, and land they will receive from land redistribution. I encourage all women to invest in rural women, to contribute to upliftment of our own. The best investment in this millennium is to support rural women in all their initiatives, guiding them to work for better lives, thereby producing sustainability.

- Author Myan Subrayan

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