R350-a-month Covid grant is too low, say speakers at Women on Farms meeting
“If I could, I would rather work”
The R350-a-month Covid grant is not enough to live on, said speakers at an event organised by the Women on Farms Project on Wednesday.
About 100 women living on farms in the Cape Winelands gathered in Stellenbosch to speak about their struggles with accessing the R350 Social Relief of Distress grant and with vaccination in their communities.
Some women said they could not apply for the grant because internet connections were not available, or because they were seasonal workers who were not eligible for the grant while they had work.
Colette Solomon, director of the Women on Farms Project (WFP), said while grants have had a big impact on farm workers’ households, R350 is far too little. The grant should be increased and also be made permanent, she said.
Accessibility to the grant was also an issue. Asked if they had received the grant last year, only one of the 50 women in the room said yes. “But probably all of you qualified for the grant,” said Solomon. New qualifying criteria for the grant include caregivers, meaning many more of the farm women could now apply.
The R350 grant is not even enough to buy groceries, said WFP member Margrieta Prins. “If I could, I would rather work,” she said.
June Davids from the South African Social Security Agency (SASSA) in Paarl said problems arose when people made an application for the grant but did not give the correct phone number or did not answer their phones when SASSA called. She also explained the importance of giving the correct banking details.
Amanda Rinquest of the Black Sash said research had shown that people used their grant to make food to sell, or to get transport to town in search of work. “They use that grant to make more income… those grants are lifesaving.”
Some of the women raised issues of access to Covid-19 vaccines and of misinformation in rural communities, such as the vaccine being the chemical lead injected into their arms, or that it was the “mark of the devil”.
Jenny Haal from a farm in Drakenstein said: “Our people shouldn’t share negative stories in our communities, because this makes people scared and then people don’t want to get vaccinated.”
But many of the farm women who spoke said they had already been vaccinated. One 69-year-old explained that she contracted Covid-19 a few weeks after receiving her vaccine. She had a very bad fever and stayed in bed for a few days, but she believes that the vaccine saved her life.
Lizette Phillips of the provincial Department of Health said that there were currently about 50 vaccine facilities in the Cape Winelands district, and the Department is planning on opening more.
“You can’t open vaccination sites in the cities and expect people to come,” she said.
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