Wittenborg Graduate Ayabulela Noxonywa Says Sector Needs More Inclusion
“The winemaking industry has an immense impact on the local economy of Franschhoek Valley, and Franschhoek – known as the food and wine capital of South Africa – relies heavily on the hospitality sector, boasting award-winning restaurants, hotels and vineyards. Yet, the industry is not really inclusive for the women of colour who work in it,” stresses Ayabulela Noxonywa, who recently completed a BBA degree in Hotel & Hospitality Services Management at Witenborg’s Bad Voslau study location.
Having met a significant number of South African women of colour who work in vineyards, Noxonywa decided to write her graduation assignment on the roles of these women within the industry, as well as the barriers faced by them. According to the student, what sparked her interest was the perception that, every time she visits Franschhoek Valley’s vineyards, women of colour are responsible for wine tasting duties, while the winemaking tasks are predominantly performed by white men.
During her investigation, Noxonywa adopted a qualitative approach, having conducted in-depth interviews with two women of colour – one a soon-to-be qualified sommelier and another who recently graduated as an oenologist and viticulturist – as well as a white woman who works as a wine lecturer. The study finds that women in general are marginalised in the South African wine industry, a situation that is even more pronounced when it comes to women of colour.
“Unfortunately, Franschhoek up until today does not have any women of colour working as winemakers. However, a major turn of events occurred nationwide when Carmen Stevens was the first woman of colour to be appointed as a qualified winemaker. Eventually, this sparked the formation of the first female-owned winery in South Africa.”
Noxonywa highlights that, although the South African government does offer training programmes intended to provide minorities with equal opportunities, women of colour who want to go into winemaking are faced with hindrances that include the lack of access to land. “A possible long-term way to address these inequalities could be to actively encourage women of colour to take the winemaking courses by offering incentives, such as making it easier for them to attain government land for winemaking purposes.”
Regarding her career goals, Noxonywa plans to get more experience in the tourism and hospitality sector, and eventually start her own business in the future. “I would love to gain more experience in Europe before going back home or starting my own entrepreneurial venture, especially because Europeans count for more than half of the international tourists that visit South Africa. I have considered working as a winemaker because my passion for hospitality began when I was doing the wine training and I was lucky to have my practical experience at an agricultural company in South Africa,” the graduate says.
by Ulisses Sawczuk