The Journey of Building Positive Networks, a Profile of Herschelle Milford, CEO of Surplus People’s Project

Herschelle Milford

When Surplus People’s Project’s CEO, Herschelle Milford, was invited to participate in the African Women’s Development Fund’s CEO Forum on Leadership and Governance in 2015, it would be the start of a journey of growth that would build networks with feminist leaders across the African continent. At the time, Milford said her “biggest drawback has always been my struggle with self-confidence and public speaking”. Milford represents an organisation that envisages a transformed and just society and stands in “solidarity with radical social movements in struggles for pro-poor agrarian transformation for food sovereignty”.

SPP research conducted in 2009 indicated that land reform and food security strategies were not well integrated in South Africa and these policies have not paid sufficient attention to the patriarchal structures which limits women’s access to productive land. South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world with a Gini coefficient of about 0.65 and there are constant struggles to ensure that the poor have access to land and resources. SPP’s discussions with women across the Western and Northern Cape – where the organisation operates — have identified inequality in food, violence against women, women’s access to land, unemployment, alcohol and drug abuse as critical issues. SPP recognises that while there is a general challenge to have more South Africans gain access to the land, that challenge is greater for women.

To this end, the SPP works with social movements and communities helping them to amplify their agrarian struggles. “Generally, I am a selfdriven person and set high expectations for myself,” noted Milford. “A positive attribute has always been my leadership style that emphasised inclusivity, transparency and shared accountability.” The Nairobi intervention, however, focused on individual skills — starting early with yoga before moving on to three full day sessions that included board governance, media training, personal care, resource mobilisation and feminist engagement.


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