One vision, one purpose
A story of kindness and empowerment from local community of South African province Free State.
When women combine efforts to combat the specific problem, they are likely to make a significant change. When it comes to social and economic issues, active engagement of individuals in local community decision-making process is frequently more effective than heavy-footed international programs. Empowering women on regional level is a key not only to the well-being of individuals, families, and close-knit communities, but also to overall productivity and inclusive economic growth.

We have met Vanda Gagiano, the Honorary President of Free State Women Agricultural Union, who has made a lot to bolster the progress of her local community. For lack of a better description, Vanda Gagiano is a real role model for those who want to help and improve: with support of her husband Jan Gagiano, Vanda is successfully running the numerous programs helping physically disadvantaged, elderly people, women and children. As a result of FSWAU actions many schoolchildren were provided with meals, many special houses for children of unemployed parents were created and many low-income families were provided with clothes.

Vanda Gagiano
Honorary president of Free State Women Agricultural Union
— What activity does Free State Women's Agricultural Union (FSWAU) perform? How are you empowering women?
— The FSWAU is an educational organisation in which opportunities for development are offered to women with the same values and where they are prepared as homemakers to render a positive contribution to the development of the community and country.
The FSWAU is not a charity organisation, however our hands and hearts are always open to the less fortunate and the under privileged. Workshops are held frequently to uplift and teach women different skills. Computer skills, cooking, baking, needlework, arts & crafts and photography are only a few to mention. By teaching women these crafts they can go out in the labour force/market, making these items and then becoming entrepreneurs – selling them and thereby generating an income for their families.
FSWAU does not only support women, but many charity projects initiated by the FSWAU supporting children, the aged, the blind and the disabled have made a wonderful difference in the lives of the above mentioned.
— When did you join the organization? Was it a long way to the position of the president?
— My will to serve others and to make a difference in the lives of people, inspired me to join the Free State Women's Agricultural Union, where I gained a platform to extend my vision, passion and inspiration. I joined the organisation in 1989. In 2005 I was elected to serve on the Executive Committee. In 2010 I became the 1st Vice-President and in 2011 was elected as President of the FSWAU, a position I held with much passion, enthusiasm and dedication. In September 2017 my term of office ended and I now serve the organisation as Honorary President.
— Why it is important to empower women to actively involve in economy?
— Women are as equally talented as men in all fields of life – men and women are identical in terms of generating creative ideas for improved livelihoods. Women must unite and take a leading role in pushing radical economic transformation, thereby ensuring growth and maintaining competence globally. Women's participation in economic development is vital to South Africa's economic growth and the fight against the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

— How do women perform in agriculture? What barriers do exist?
— In the career of agriculture and farming, women are not only farmers working the lands, planting and reaping. There are many careers in agriculture. There are opportunities for: Accountants, Business analysts, Bio-technologists, Patologists, Veterinarian's, Communicator's, Journalists, Marketers and Researchers are only a few in the big field.
Finances and the access to credit and financial institutions are one of the great barriers for women and upcoming farmers in agriculture. Access to land, funding, limited access to new practices, limited access to technological advancements, less market opportunities and the lack of infrastructure are also obstacles women are faced with. Women need more access to knowledge and skills through mentoring. Most farmers lack information on the particular fields they are farming in.

— How could BRICS WBA be beneficial for your local community?
— BRICS WBA could be most beneficial to our local community as it can be a platform for women to get together to share experiences, exchange ideas and information in all spheres of business activities. By exchanging business principals a real difference can be made in communities. BRICS WBA can motivate women to believe in themselves, not to be afraid to dream big and to take calculated risks.

Mr. & Mrs. Gagiano