Wendy Pekeur

General secretary: Sikhula Sonke

Thirty-one-year-old Wendy Pekeur knows what it's like to be powerless. Having endured poverty and abuse throughout her childhood, Pekeur later experienced exploitation and human rights abuses as a worker on fruit farms. But instead of breaking her, these experiences only encouraged this single mother to help form Sikhula Sonke � the first women-focused trade union in South Africa. "Women farmers earn the lowest wages in South Africa, and it is grimly ironic that what they produce feeds the nation and brings profits [while] they live in the direst poverty.� By applying the trade union model to a farm worker situation, the 5 000-member Sikhula Sonke has managed to set a minimum wage standard for farm workers, secure childcare services on farms and even ensure better hours and working conditions. With innovative thinking driving her every move, it's no surprise that the Women's World Summit Foundation awarded her a prize for "women's creativity in rural life� last year. � Cat Pritchard

Website: wfp.org.za/sikhula-sonke