Development Works Changemakers: Women’s Month Collage Challenge

By Gender

In the last week of Women’s Month, make your own collage and share on your social media platforms. Scroll down to the end of this blog for our Women’s Month collage. We challenge you to make your own collage and share it on social media platforms.

In honour of women

This month we would like to honour women for who they are. Just as they are. Women should be able to be themselves, whoever they are, where they are. Women are not a homogeneous group, and we should celebrate women and the diversity of women across society, irrespective of class, age, race, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, career choice, personality type, body shape, and whatever aspect of their lives you can think of.

There is a huge misconception that because women’s rights are entrenched in our Constitution, women are equal now. Women are far from equal in our society, and the vulnerability of women has been under the spotlight in recent years and more so recent months given the ongoing issues of vulnerability. Various surveys and reports have highlighted women’s vulnerability in terms of employment and income, physical safety and emotional wellbeing. It is clear that while there is equality between the sexes on paper, real-life experiences of women prove to be less rosy.

The reality of being a woman

The reality is that women’s unequal status in society goes much deeper than constitutional rights. Inequality is systemically entrenched in culture, societal norms and religion. We still live in a society where a significant portion of society has very fixed ideas of what women should think, do and how they should behave. Many still raise their children with gender-stereotypical expectations. In some cultures, women are valued less than men, and often discussions on gender equality and women’s rights are dismissed or regarded as unnecessary.  The term “feminism” continues to make people uneasy and is widely misunderstood. (feminist evaluation Archives)

Some still confuse Womens’ Day with Mothers’ Day. In some countries the tradition is to give women flowers – a nice but misplaced gesture. Women’s Day and Women’s Month is not about being pink, cuddly and motherly. It is about women’s rights and the opportunity to fully exercise those rights. When gender equality eludes us, families are weakened, societies are fragmented, and the world as a whole loses out on the full potential of all human beings.

Our Women’s’ Month Collage Challenge

This is our Women’s Month collage. In the last week of Women’s Month, make your own collage and share on your social media platforms.


5 Reasons why women’s equality is good for all

Knowledge is power.

Number 1

In developed countries, women receive more college degrees. This helps to bridge the gap between male and female CEOs and political leaders. This may mean having more educated people in power. Although there are still vast gaps between the number of men and women in top business positions, women in business have demonstrated that they are an asset as managers, investors, and leaders.

Number 2

Countries that actively include women in the workforce have more economic growth than countries that don’t. The World Bank found that for every 1% increase in the population of girls educated, a country’s GDP increases by 3%. When economies grow, there are more employment opportunities, social services, and development for everyone to enjoy.

Number 3

Companies managed by women report more motivated workers and higher productivity than those managed by men. Though the reasons why are still contested, a Gallup poll found that individuals with female managers were 6% more engaged than those with male leaders. Similar studies have found that women may be more affirming. And check-in with their employees more often than male managers do, which results in motivation, interest, and higher productivity.

Number 4

Women are smart investors, and studies show that they make better financial decisions than men. A seven-year study found that single female investors and female-led investment groups outperformed their male counterparts when it came to stock picking.

Number 5

Countries that educate women have better economies, healthier citizens, and less violence than those that don’t. Evidence shows that when girls are educated, economies improve, both because of their new ability to enter the skilled workforce and because educated women raise educated children. Investing in women is investing in the future economy and workforce. Beyond the financial motivations, each additional year of girls’ education lowers infant mortality by 5-10%. The amount of families in poverty also decreases, as educated women wait longer to get married and have fewer children.

5 Reasons Why Women’s Equality Benefits Everyone – Futures Without Violence

By Fia van Rensburg

female diversity

Women’s Day: Celebrating ever-growing strength in solidarity

By Current Affairs, Gender

On Sunday we celebrated Women’s Day, 64 years on since the historic march to South Africa’s Union Buildings in protest against the then Pass Laws. It’s hoped that our observance of Women’s Day brings to the fore the continued challenges faced by women in South Africa and to that end, globally. 

female diversity

Women’s Day 2020

For many women, South Africa’s lockdown has underscored the disposition of women in society, from increased vulnerability to domestic violence, to the “second shift”. On Sunday and during the month of August, we take stock of the gains women have made in securing a socially just world. While much has been achieved, the Development Works team is reminded that many challenges lie ahead. 

My Choice, Our Choice Campaign

This is highlighted in our team’s involvement, in an M&E capacity, in supporting the My Choice, Our Choice Campaign. The campaign focuses on addressing unsafe abortion practices in Southern Africa. Policies towards abortion continue to remain restrictive in many countries globally and where freedom of choice is withheld. 

The My Choice, Our Choice Campaign is focusing strategically on persuading policymakers to remove restrictions surrounding access to safe abortion, persuading men and boys to actively support women’s desire for autonomy over their bodies, and engaging adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) to become aware of their rights regarding pregnancy and abortion. While South Africa remains progressive in our policies towards abortion practices, many neighbouring countries continue to maintain restrictive policies. 

Let’s support the My Choice, Our Choice Campaign in advocating for freedom of choice and bodily autonomy.

Written by Susannah Clarke-von Witt

young women

wall of feminist icons

How the COVID-19 Crisis Shows We Need More Feminist Evaluation

By Evaluation, Gender

Myths about Feminist Evaluation and how the COVID-19 crisis shows we need more feminist evaluations 

There is broad agreement in the evaluation community that evaluators often have to be eclectic. Evaluators need to know the evaluation theory landscape and be aware that some approaches are appropriate in certain contexts and not in others. Evaluators also have to be able to implement a range of evaluation approaches and know that a single approach may not offer everything needed for a specific evaluation.

cartoon about theories

Chris Lysey – Fresh Spectrum

Feminist Evaluation is one such an approach. It is not relevant in all situations and has limitations. However, the potential of feminist evaluation may be much larger than its current use, particularly given that the vast majority of development projects focus on social issues related to vulnerability and marginalisation. For some, the name may be a hurdle. Because of this, Feminist Evaluation is not fully recognised for its flexibility, utility and relevance, and therefore likely to be under-utilised.

Myths about Feminist Evaluation

It seems that Feminist Evaluation may be misunderstood, considering some myths about the approach.

  • Myth: Only women can be feminist evaluators
  • Myth: Feminist Evaluation is only about women’s rights
  • Myth: Feminist Evaluation and gender evaluation is the same

A myth is “a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events”. Or “A widely held but false belief or idea.”[1]

Feminist evaluations are scarce

Feminist evaluations are not encountered often, and with the exception of some donors, it is extremely rare to find a Terms of Reference that explicitly asks for a Feminist Evaluation.  Considering the strong reactions elicited by the word “feminism”[2], it is no surprise that feminist evaluation is not common. And even when this approach is used, it may be presented under a different name, such as gender evaluation.

In addition to the reluctance of evaluators to Feminist Evaluation studies as such, the dearth of Feminist Evaluation studies may stem from the approach to be regarded as relatively new – although it has in fact existed for a significant period of time. Another factor that could contribute to the low profile of Feminist evaluation, is that discussions on evaluation methods often do not include Feminist Evaluation.[3]

people protesting

Core beliefs

When an evaluator who is committed to the protection of human rights, wants to ensure that the voices of marginalized people are heard, and wants to use Feminist Evaluation, they often need to master the art of diplomacy first. Some propose that evaluators should not introduce Feminist Evaluation by its name, but rather by the core beliefs that underpin the approach, as potential useful lenses to use in an evaluation. The core beliefs of underpinning Feminist Evaluation are often more palatable.

These beliefs are:

1. There should be equity amongst human beings. Equity should not be confused with equality.  Equity is giving everyone what they need to be successful. Equality is treating everyone the same.

“Equality aims to promote fairness, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same help. Equity appears unfair, but it actively moves everyone closer to success by ‘levelling the playing field.’ But not everyone starts at the same place, and not everyone has the same needs.” – Everyday Feminism [4]

2. Inequality (including gender inequality) leads to social injustice.

“Social inequality refers to relational processes in society that have the effect of limiting or harming a group’s social status, social class, and social circle” It can stem from society’s understanding of gender roles, or from social stereotyping. “Social inequalities exist between ethnic or religious groups, classes and countries making the concept of social inequality a global phenomenon”.

Social inequality is linked to economic equality, although the two are not the same. “Social inequality is linked to racial inequality, gender inequality, and wealth inequality.” Social behaviour, including sexist or racist practices, and other forms of discrimination tends to filter down and have an impact on the opportunities that people have access to, and this in turn impacts on the wealth they can generate for themselves. – ScienceDaily[5]

3. Inequalities (including gender-based inequalities) are systematic and structural

“Conceptions of masculinity and femininity, ideas concerning expectations of women and men, internalised judgements of women’s and men’s actions, prescribed rules about proper behaviour of women and men – all of these, and more, encompass the organisation and persistence of gender inequality in social structures. The social and cultural environments, as well as the institutions that structure them and the individuals that operate within and outside these institutions, are engaged in the production and reproduction of gender norms, attitudes and stereotypes. Beliefs that symbolise, legitimate, invoke, guide, induce or help sustain gender inequality are themselves a product of gender inequality.” – European Institute for Gender Equality[6]

power to the people protest

Checking the myths against the core beliefs

: Only women can be feminist evaluators

Feminist Evaluation can be used by evaluators who do not identify as feminists

If the evaluator identifies with one or more of the core beliefs associated with feminist evaluation, the approach can be used, if the evaluator identifies as a feminist, or the evaluation is labelled as Feminist Evaluation, or if the evaluator does not identify as a feminist and the evaluation is not labelled as a Feminist Evaluation.[7] When undertaking a Feminist Evaluation, the evaluator can use one or more of the core beliefs to shape the evaluation. What data is collected, what data sources will be used, and what critical insights and perspectives are required to address the evaluation questions at hand adequately.

Myth: Feminist evaluation is only about women’s rights

Feminist evaluation is about human rights, not only women’s rights

While the essence of Feminist Evaluation theory is to reveal and provide insight in those individual and institutional practices that have devalued, ignored or denied access to women, it also relates to other oppressed and marginalised groups[8], and other forms of inequality. What distinguishes Feminist Evaluation is its focus on the impact of culture, power, privilege, and social justice.[9]

Feminist theories and feminist research

There are a whole range of variations of feminist theories, including “liberal, cultural, radical, Marxist and/or socialist, postmodern (or poststructuralist), and multiracial feminism” (Hopkins and Koss, 2005 in Mertens & Wilson, 2012:179). Each of these focuses on different forms of inequality.

Feminist research is part of the genre of critical theory, and Feminist Evaluation has developed alongside feminist research, which followed a path from “feminist empiricism, to standpoint theory, and finally to postmodern feminism” (Seigart, 2005 in Podems, 2010: 3)[10].

Myth: Feminist evaluation and gender evaluation are the same 

Feminist and gender evaluation are not the same

The gender and development (GAD) approach evolved from Women in Development (WID) and Women and Development (WAD) approaches[11]. Gender approaches started with Women in Development (WID), which emphasises women’s economic contribution but neglects to understand how this approach put additional strain on women. Women and Development (WAD), made connections between women’s position in society and structural changes but failed to challenge male-dominated power structures.

The GAD approach:

  • Focuses on how gender, race, and class and the social construction of their defining characteristics are interconnected.
  • Recognises the differential impact of projects, programmes and interventions on men and women (necessitating the collection of gender-disaggregated data).
  • Encourages data collection that examines inequalities between men, and uses gender as an analytical category.

Feminist Evaluation views women in a way that recognises that different people (including women) experience oppressive conditions differently, as a result of their varied positions in society, resulting from factors such as race, culture, class, and (colonial) history.

The difference in Gender Evaluation and Feminist Evaluation

Maps/records women’s position. Attempts to strategically affect women’s lives as well as the lives of other marginalised persons.
Sees the world in terms of “men” and “women”, and does not recognise differences between women, based on class, culture, ethnicity, language, age, marital status, sexual preference, and other differenced. Acknowledges and values these differences, realising that “women” are a heterogeneous category.
Appears to assume that all women want “what men already have, technically should have, or will access through development interventions”, i.e. that equality with men is the ultimate goal. Allows for the possibility that women may not want what men possess. This will require different criteria, which will generate different questions and will lead to vastly different judgements and recommendations.
Provides written frameworks that guide the evaluator to collect data, but does not include critical feminist ideals in frameworks. Does not provide frameworks that guide the evaluator. Instead, Evaluators are motivated to be reflexive and are not regarded as value-free or neutral. It explores different ways of knowing and listens to multiple voices. The need to give voice to women within different social political and cultural contexts is emphasised, and it advocates for (all) marginalised groups.
Gender approaches are not challenged because of being Western concepts. Responses elicited by the word “feminist” elicits a range of responses, and it may appear that feminist evaluation proposes a biased approach. Others see feminism as a Western concept, and questions if it is appropriate in a non-Western context.

Source: Podems, 2010: 9

Feminist evaluators are advocates for human rights

A core element of feminist evaluation is that it challenges power relations and the systemic embeddedness of discrimination, as well as the recognised and preferred role of the evaluator as an activist, distinguishes feminist evaluation from principles focused evaluation.

The primary role of the evaluator is to include the marginalised, absent, misrepresented and unheard voices. The philosophical assumptions of the transformative evaluation branch, where feminist evaluation is located, form the foundation for inclusive evaluation. The evaluator does not exclude the traditional stakeholders who are usually included in evaluations (e.g. intended users, decision-makers, programme staff, implementation partners, funders and donors), but ensures that data is gathered from an inclusive group of stakeholders and that those who have traditionally been under-represented, or not represented at all, are included.[12] Feminist evaluation, like other approaches that fall under the transformative branch, is a bottom-up approach that makes change part of the evaluation process.[13]

Making Feminist Evaluation practical

All of this may sound rather theoretical, but there are ways to make Feminist Evaluation practical. Feminist evaluation does not provide set frameworks and does not identify specific processes. It does, however, have eight tenets, which provide a useful “thinking framework” for evaluators.


  1. Evaluation is a political activity, in the sense that the evaluator’s personal experiences, perspectives and characteristics come from, and lead to a particular political standpoint.
  2. Knowledge is culturally and socially influenced.
  3. Knowledge is powerful, and serves direct and articulated purposes, as well as indirect and unarticulated purposes.
  4. There are multiple ways of knowing.
  5. Research methods, institutions and practices have been socially constructed.
  6. Gender inequality is just one way in which social injustice manifests, alongside other forms of social injustice, such as discrimination based on race, class and culture, and gender inequality links up with all three other forms of social injustice.
  7. Gender discrimination is both systematic and structural.
  8. Action and advocacy are regarded as appropriate ethical and moral responses from an engaged feminist evaluator.

Feminist Evaluation can be made practical by using Michael Patton’s principles focused evaluation to re-label the tenets by mapping it to Patton’s GUIDE Framework.


The GUIDE Framework [15] is a set of criteria which can be used to clarify effectiveness principles for evaluation. It is used in Principles-Focused Evaluation (PFE). GUIDE is an acronym and mnemonic specifying the criteria for high-quality principle statements. A high-quality principle:

  • Provides Guidance
  • Is Useful
  • Inspires
  • Supports ongoing Development and adaptation
  • Is Evaluable

Principles Focused Evaluation (PFE) is based on complexity theory and systems thinking. This approach operates from the perspective that principles inform and guide decisions and choices, and maintains that the deeply held values of principles-driven people are expressed through principles that translate values into behaviours. In this approach principles becomes the evaluand, and the evaluation considers whether principles are clear, meaningful, and actionable; if such principles are actually being followed; and whether they are leading to desired results.[16]

black lives matter protestCrystallising FE Tenets into PFE Principles

It is clear from the table below how mapping the Feminist Evaluation tenets to PFE and translating it to PFE principles makes it practical, actionable and usable.

1.     Evaluation is a political activity, in the sense that the evaluator’s personal experiences, perspectives and characteristics come from, and lead to a particular political standpoint.


1. Acknowledge and take into account that evaluation is a political activity; evaluator’s personal experiences, perspectives, and characteristics come from and lead to a particular political stance.
2.     Knowledge is culturally and socially influenced.


2. Contextualize evaluation because knowledge is culturally, socially and temporally contingent.
3.     Knowledge is powerful, and serves direct and articulated purposes, as well as indirect and unarticulated purposes. 3. Generate and use knowledge as a powerful resource that serves an explicit or implicit purpose.
4.     There are multiple ways of knowing. 4. Respect multiple ways of knowing.
5.     Research methods, institutions and practices have been socially constructed.


5. Be cognizant that research methods, institutions and practices are social constructs.
6.     Gender inequality is just one way in which social injustice manifests, alongside other forms of social injustice, such as discrimination based on race, class and culture, and gender inequality links up with all three other forms of social injustice. 6. Frame gender inequities as one manifestation of social injustice. Discrimination cuts across race, class, and culture and is inextricably linked to all three.


7.     Gender discrimination is both systematic and structural. 7. Examine how discrimination based on gender is systematic and structural.
8.     Action and advocacy are regarded as appropriate ethical and moral responses from an engaged feminist evaluator.


8. Act on opportunities to create, advocate and support change, which are considered to be morally and ethically appropriate responses of an engaged feminist evaluator.

(Source: Podems, 2018)

Strengths and constraints

The potential scope for using feminist evaluation is broader than expected. Its strengths include that it is flexible, fluid, dynamic and evolving because it provides a way of thinking about evaluation, rather than a specific or prescriptive framework. Because of this flexibility, it can also be used in combination with other approaches and methods.

A distinguishing feature and a strength of Feminist Evaluation is that it is transparent and explicit about its views on knowledge. It actively seeks to recognise, and give voice to different social, political and cultural contexts, and shows how these give privilege to some ways of knowing over others, by specifically focusing on women and disempowered groups.

Evaluators who use feminist evaluation follows an inclusive approach, which ensures that inputs are obtained from a wide range of stakeholders. This enhances the reliability, validity and trustworthiness of the evaluation and makes it possible to draw accurate conclusions and make relevant recommendations.

In addition to the misconceptions mentioned in the introduction to this article, it should be noted that apart from the PFE-FE model, limited guidance is available to operationalise the approach.

By Fia van Rensburg

[1] | Meanings and Definitions of Words at

[2] Read more on myths about Feminism here: Resources and Opportunities

[3] Feminist Evaluation and Gender Approaches: There’s a Difference? | Journal of MultiDisciplinary Evaluation

[4] Equality Is Not Enough: What the Classroom Has Taught Me About Justice

[5] Social inequality

[6] Structural inequality

[7] Making Feminist Evaluation Practical

[8] Mertens, D.M. and Wilson, A.T. 2012. Program Evaluation Theory and Practice. A Comprehensive Guide. The Guilford Press. New York.

[9].Donna M. Mertens. (2009). Transformative Research and Evaluation. New York: Guilford Press. 402 pages. Reviewed by Jill Anne Cho

[10] Feminist Evaluation and Gender Approaches: There’s a Difference?

[11] Ibid

[12] Inclusive Evaluation: Implications of Transformative Theory for Evaluation

[13] Patton, M.Q. 2011. Developmental Evaluation. Applying Complexity concepts to Enhance Innovation and Use. The Guilford Press. New York.

[14] Podems, 2018

[15] PFE Week: Principles-Focused Evaluation by Michael Quinn Patton

[16] Ibid

women's rights

How do we create a healthy society that respects women?

By Gender2,352 Comments

Early behaviours need to be challenged  – amongst our peers, in our social groups, in our communities, our churches and in our cultural groups. How do we turn it around? See our tips for being the change we want to see. Turn this triangle around by SPEAKING UP on the small things that happen around us every day. We are the people that must lead personal and community responses.   

We asked our team what they would do to stop GBV. The issue of fear came up prominently. Other themes are calling out unacceptable behaviour, and the importance of role modelling and parenting to change our world. 

Here is what our colleagues will do to create a society where the values of the Freedom Charter and our Constitution can be upheld and be made real, also for women in our country. 

About fear

“There have often been situations when you feel very vulnerable and fearful of a potential situation. For example, getting an Uber early in the morning on your own to the airport when the driver is male. I often feel fear associated with this as there is the ‘what if’ question. I know a lot of my friends feel similar and share similar fears, some shaped by their lived experience and others by living through others experiences. For me the fear is a barrier to claiming life fully; it’s inhibiting and dilutes the true realisation of self-dignity.  But how can we deny this fear with such violence towards women perpetrated in various forms every minute of the day. It’s real. For me, it would be what can I do to alleviate this fear. Today I don’t have this answer but I have self-awareness of this fear and am working on it.”

“I have become completely untrusting of men and even if I get in a lift I size up the man in the lift if I am on my own. I hate walking in garages. I watch behind me all the time. I hardly trust any strange man. I miss the freedom of walking unafraid and not having to look behind me. I miss the freedom to trust another just for being human.  I miss the ability to befriend a stranger and share a laugh and a space of ubuntu – now I don’t want to give the wrong impression or draw attention. This freedom is possible and I have experienced it before in other countries. This freedom is completely shut down for women in South Africa. We need to be free to walk.”

About activism and speaking up

“I have decided I will do much more challenging than I am already doing. I need to find more courage and I will.”

“I try to call out small behaviour that I see in the lives of the men around me. For example, if there is a ‘boys’ WhatsApp group where they share pornographic content which is seen as ‘innocent’, I verbalise how it frames women as sex objects and warps the expectations of sex.”

About supporting good men

“I actually feel really sorry for good men as it must be so hard to navigate this space. Many many many good men exist out there across all ages and races and economic divides. They also need our allegiance and support.”

About role modelling and parenting

“As a man, I am aware of how much pain and suffering toxic masculinity (and other deep male psychological wounds) has caused and is causing. I feel very sad that men continue to treat women in these ways. I am aware I need to do my best to embody and promote healthy masculinity that is nurturing, emotionally intelligent, open and gentle. I have two young sons, and it is of massive importance to me that they learn a positive and nurturing form of masculinity which respects women entirely. I actually strongly believe that women are superior to men in many ways and that often, men who are violent or disrespectful towards women are acting out of a sense of inferiority.

So in my boys, I want to nurture a sense of respect for themselves as human beings, so that they also may treat all humans with dignity and respect no matter their gender, sex, socio-economic status, race, sexual orientation etc. I am aware of how important my views and behaviour toward women is as a model for them. I try to be the best role model for them, and to ensure they are around other good role models.“

“What can I do? Speak to each and every man I know and trust and be a trusted ally. Bring my son up to protect women and understand these bigger issues.  Find ways to support young men and boys who have no father figures and whose deep woundedness needs healing. I honestly feel boys and young men need so much support, love and effort as this is where the root cause of the problem stems from. I want to also find ways to support programmes and nonprofits working in this space with young men.”

Practical tips to change our world

tips to protect women

Gender Rights and Our Democracy

By Gender6,237 Comments

In the past few weeks South Africa was shocked by the ugly face of violence boiling over in a spate of GBV and Xenophobia – a volcano spewing out deep-rooted hatred and violence. Hard-won freedom and ideals of equality, for which many people lost their lives, with a rainbow nation a distant memory.

In this collage, we look at root causes of GBV juxtaposed with the DWC team’s reactions and pledges to be the change we want to see in our country. Here we look at gender rights and our democracy

The Freedom Charter and gender rights

The Ideals of the Freedom Charter have been encapsulated in the Bill of Rights of the South African Constitution (Act 108 of 1996), as “a cornerstone of democracy in South Africa”. It “enshrines the rights of all people in our country and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality, and freedom.” Sadly, more than 20 years later, we are still struggling to make these values real for all who live in South Africa.

“We, the People of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know: that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of all the people…. our country will never be prosperous or free until all our people live in brotherhood, enjoying equal rights and opportunities… we pledge ourselves to strive together sparing neither strength nor courage, until the democratic changes here set out have been won.” – The Freedom Charter, 19551

The roots of gender-based violence

GBV tree

Image credit: UNFPA

definition ofmisogyny

Gender-based violence is rooted in disrespect for human rights, abuse of power and gender inequality. Social and cultural norms, values and beliefs about women’s place in society, and life in general, play a role in how women are perceived and treated.

Considering that “the relationship between a woman and her husband/partner is the closest and most trusted that a woman should have in her life”, market research company, Ipsos polled South Africans on the dynamics between man and wife and if it is necessary for a woman to “obey” her partner or husband. The results are startling: women themselves are upholding paternalistic values that give men the power, which good men don’t abuse, but others do.

(See article on the woundedness of men in a violent society)

pyramid of misogymy


“I don’t know what kind of man commits such crimes against women. What frame of mind is he when he commits those crimes?

— Keitumetsi, Caller

“The answer is men like you and me commit crimes against women, not monsters or aliens.”

— Eusebius McKaiser, Presenter

ipsos quote

The above quote is taken from a press release

Violence pyramid

Most South Africans are deeply troubled by the manifestations of misogyny on the apex of the “violence pyramid”. This includes homicide, sexual assault, and physical assault. This pyramid also resembles what the violence volcano is spewing out in our beautiful land, which should belong to all who live in it.

While the current focus is on the top of the pyramid, solutions to change the situation lies at the base of the pyramid: our values and beliefs. That what is not always visible, but which is clear from the Ipsos poll on power relationships between men and women. Good men will not abuse the power women give to them in a paternalistic society. But we also live in a violent society which unfortunately breeds violent men (who are often themselves victims of violence).

We need to be much more conscious of the base of the violence pyramid. We need to be vigilant of early signs of disrespect for women’s rights and dignity. The joke we often ignore is not innocent, neither is the leering, or sexual harassment. These things make us uncomfortable as women. However, sometimes we ignore it because we do not want to be rude, cause trouble, or be branded as a feminist. But we should stop doing this. If we don’t we are active enablers of the dynamics that feed GBV.


Source for pyramid image here

*Note that the violence pyramid is also relevant to other forms of human rights violations

Sexual violence

Sexual violence starts with established attitudes and beliefs about women, importantly that women are simply not equal to them. This grows into verbal expressions of feelings of superiority. Often the water is tested with jokes, stereotypical statements, sexual harassment and bragging about marginalising women. This sense of entitlement festers and can move up to the stage where women are de-humanised, followed by physical violence. Beliefs that is is within their right and power to use sex as a means to control women come to the fore. Physical abuse follows, and the pain inflicted is justified by thoughts that the woman did something to deserve the assault. There is no sense of responsibility or recognition of wrongdoing.

Fear, our constant companion

Women in South Africa do not feel, and are not safe. They are not only victims of intimate partner violence, but they are not free to walk safely. Women cannot safely be wherever they want to be, when they want to be there. Fear is a constant partner for women. Sometimes hovering under the surface, often tangible, a visceral companion permanently resident in every fibre of our bodies.

This story, as related by radio talk show host, Eusebius McKaiser illustrates how women in South Africa are stripped of their freedom to live freely.

Source for the quote here

By Fia van Rensburg

Resources for gender rights and our democracy

Feature image credit: Aluta Continua exhibition, Slave Lodge

post office protest

Gender-based Violence in South Africa

By Gender6,987 Comments

“If God exists she is weeping” (protest poster)

Today we find ourselves as South Africans deeply wounded and, a nation in mourning, at the events of the past week.  With the rising body count, we face the reality of how endemic and pervasive gender-based violence, femicide and rape actually are in our society.

A Dark Past

Many years of apartheid stripped South Africans of their dignity, equality, human rights and access to equal opportunities.  Young boys and men were amongst those deeply affected as family structures and social cohesion was destroyed. Fathers, husbands, and brothers migrated to cities, looking for work in mines and factories, or joined the liberation struggle. Many young boys grew up without fathers and role-models.

Post-1994 and 25 years into our democracy, millions of South African men find themselves unemployed, with a poor education and limited opportunity to play a meaningful role or earn a living to support themselves and their families.  Endemic poverty, inequality, terrible living conditions, crime, violence, state ineptitude, and other pervasive factors have created a landscape where hope is in limited supply. Many South African men have resorted to violence to express their frustration and deep woundedness. As a result, many become the abusers.   

anti-apartheid protests

Coupled with this woundedness, toxic masculinity has taken focus particularly in the past decade under the Jacob Zuma’s presidency where patriarchy, women shaming, misogyny, lack of accountability and respect became the dominant narrative. 

Gender-based violence

No-one can forget the shaming of Kwezi, how she was treated at Zuma’s rape trial1 and subsequently, by his supporters (many of them women, which also included the ANC Women’s League).  Zuma epitomises the image of the dominant male. The image of a man in a position of significant power, with numerous wives and girlfriends and 20+ children. There are many examples of powerful South African men, either politicians, sportsmen, preachers, gangsters or businessmen, who have subjugated and violated women, often with no consequence or accountability. 

sonke gender justice

Image credit: SaferSpaces

 A number of nonprofits have worked tirelessly for many years to address the challenges of gender-based violence and femicide in our homes, workspaces, and communities. There have also been efforts by organizations like Sonke Gender Justice to address male woundedness. Sonke have done extensive work in this area. The deep structural nature of the problems and the causes are well researched. 

As one example, in November 2017, Sonke released baseline and social audit findings of a study of 2600 men in Diepsloot and the prevalence and patterns of use of intimate partner violence, as well as gender attitudes and associated factors.  

The research was a collaboration with Wits University School of Public Health and the South Africa Medical Research Council and was developed to implement the Sonke Change Trial, a three-year intervention supported by the UK Department for International Development’s (DFID) through What Works to Prevent Violence: A Global Programme to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls.

Valuable Findings

These findings reveal that some of the highest levels of male violence against women ever recorded in South Africa. Multiple causal factors were found with the most important being “inequitable and harmful gender norms that grant men a sense of permission to use violence against women.

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This is compounded by widespread trauma and mental health problems amongst many men, a high concentration of alcohol outlets and pervasive binge drinking by men, inadequate criminal justice system responses that do little to deter men’s violence, little use of violence prevention strategies, and an urban environment that contains many risks for women, including poor lighting, toilets and sanitation services far from homes, and narrow roads that restrict police movements.” (Sonke Gender Justice)2 

The evidence and depth of the woundedness is stark. So what can be done given this mammoth problem we face?

A United Front

There is a clarion call from all sectors of society for the ANC government and President Ramaphosa to take swift and decisive action.  The call for justice and accountability of perpetrators and protection, care and safety for women and children is emphatic and resounding, since 19-year old Uyinene Mrwetyane was so brutally killed in a post office in Cape Town. Disturbingly, Uyinene is just one of many women and children who have lost their lives. 

There have been strong calls in the past week for medical castration and re-introducing the death penalty.  However, these responses won’t necessarily address the structural challenges and causes. Sonke Gender Justice says that these incidents of violence against women and children cannot be looked at in isolation and should be looked at as “systemic manifestations of violent masculinities and harmful gender norms”. 

They, along with a number of other organisations active in the human rights and social justice space are working tirelessly and many are calling on the government for the National Strategic Plan (NSP) on Gender-Based Violence to be adopted, with sufficient budget allocation.  

Sonke and others call for “the implementation of a fully-funded NSP that will ensure that prevention programmes that seek to curb dangerous gender norms are rolled out. But most importantly, the NSP will ensure that survivors of GBV are provided with better services. Bystander programmes, community mobilisation, and early intervention and response, including good quality psycho-social support to survivors have all been shown to prevent violence effectively.” (Sonke Gender Justice)

Additional Solutions

Stakeholder consultants are currently underway on the Draft Gender-Based Violence and Femicide National Strategic Framework3. Most importantly it is essential that sufficient funding be allocated by National and Provincial Governments to address the huge scale of this problem. The funding issue was highlighted by Shukumisa, a coalition of 80+ nonprofits, community-based organisations, research and legal organisations working actively on this campaign.4  

effective programmes

Research studies and evaluations have over the years highlighted the issues.  In 2017/18 Creative Consulting & Development Works, the organisation that I was previously Founder and Director of for 15 years, undertook a process evaluation of nonprofit services provided by Thuthuzela Care Centres.

These one-stop sexual assault centers are based in state hospitals and provide services to survivors of rape. This initiative was part of a Global Funded GBV Programme and the evaluation was commissioned by the Networking HIV and AIDS Community of South Africa (NACOSA) with funding from the Global Fund. 

Process of Evaluation

This process evaluation sought to assess progress and quality of implementation of services provided by various nonprofits at Thuthuzela Care Centres. A number of critical findings emerged and key recommendations were made for the strengthening of services, enhancement of impact and expansion of the knowledge base on GBV and related services.5   

Image credit: SA People News

Thuthuzela Care Centres continue to struggle to provide much-needed services, primarily due to lack of funding and a dearth of government support. This is even though the evidence of their remarkable and necessary work persists. President Cyril Ramaphosa committed to  “expanding and dedicating more funds to places of support, such as the Thuthuzela Care Centres,” at a National Summit on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide in November 2018. As of June 2019 “months after Ramaphosa’s announcement, only about 40% of the country’s 55 centres have had their international funding renewed.”6 

There is no doubt that Thuthuzela Care Centres provide an essential and crucial service to survivors of rape and need the requisite support and funding, yet they are facing an uphill struggle. For our humanity and sustainable future, it is essential that all South Africans mobilise to find ways to collectively deal with this challenge.  Each of us must actively engage and find ways to support nonprofits; join these campaigns, marches, protest action; speak up; mobilise; advocate and call loudly for change. NOW.

Read more on the struggle of Thuthuzela care Centres

Bathabile Dhlamini and the case of South Africa’s disappearing rape crisis centres

Sonke is alarmed by funding crisis faced by TCC’s and the impact on survivors of GBV

By Lindy Briginshaw

1Zuma was charged with rape in the Johannesburg High Court in  December 2005, and charges were dismissed in May 2006.




5The evaluation report can be found here


women's month

Vuka Evaluators, Vuka! It’s Women’s Month!

By Evaluation, Gender2,559 Comments

Women’s Day and Women’s Month reminds us of women’s struggles and strengths. We get excited, celebrate the day, join in women’s month activities and then the energy dissipates, and everything goes back to normal. Not normal. Because gender equality remains an elusive dream.

This is not because of the government’s lack of real political will, not because of patriarchy, not because of lack of funding, not because of whatever excuse we choose. Because we, as evaluators do not do enough. Yes. In South Africa, we do not do enough to make sure gender is integrated into evaluation.

Gender and evaluation in Women’s Month

Guess what popped up in a google search on “gender-sensitive evaluation”?

OECD, UN Women, FAO, Better Evaluation, GIZ…. nothing about South Africa. Another ty – this time the mainstreaming buzzword: “Gender mainstreaming in evaluation”.  Same thing happens: UNDP, EIGE, FAO, UN Evaluation, OSAGI, OECD.

Can’t be true. Let’s try “gender in evaluation South Africa”. Genderlinks, Sonke Gender Justice, HEARD, National Gender Policy Framework Environmental Affairs, and then, eventually “Draft Gender Responsive Planning Framework, DPME 2018” and lo and behold “A gendered review of South Africa’s Implementation of the Millennium Development Goals”. Wonderful. The only problem here is that there is no prominent thought leadership on gendered evaluations.

Granted, a random google search may not be representative of what is being done, but it surely shows that gender in evaluation is not a very prominent theme in South Africa. Some initiatives have been taken, and some of us have integrated gender in our work. But we have to admit that largely, as evaluators, we have not been holding the gender equality torch very high, and we have been running rather slowly in this race.

The role of evaluators

We have to accept that we, as evaluators, are part of the problem. Some of us know that gender-responsive evaluation can make a huge difference in integrating gender in the development agenda. Some of us don’t realise how important it is. Either way, there is no concerted effort to ensure that gender considerations are integrated into evaluations.

Yes, very few of our clients request gender analysis. And yes, our clients do not systematically collect gender-disaggregated data, or consider issues of gender in their planning.  But we cannot blame project planners and funders for not including gender in projects. We also have a role to play.

It is us, the evaluators, who do too little to promote the gender agenda. It is us who do not insist on applying a gender lens in our evaluations. There are excellent entry points: we are familiar with theory-based evaluation, and a Theory of Change or a Clarificatory/Design Evaluation is an excellent opportunity to integrate issues of gender in our work and in the client system.

As evaluators, we can lead the way, initiate the discussion, stimulate thought… Does this programme work the same for men and for women? What are the assumptions related to men and women, respectively? Are the change mechanisms the same for men and for women?

Evidence-based policy-making

Another entry point is the commitment to evidence-based policy-making. It provides an opportunity for the development of gender-sensitive indicators – quantitative indicators based on sex-disaggregated statistical data, and qualitative indicators:

  • Increases in women’s’ levels of empowerment,
  • Changes in attitudes about gender equality;
  • Changes in the relations between men and women;
  • Diverse outcomes of a particular policy,
  • Programme or activity for women and men;
  • How the status of men and women have changed in terms of poverty,
  • Education etc.

There is no need to push it down the client’s throat – just do it, routinely, systematically, firmly, and most importantly, persistently. By doing this, opportunities will be created for clients to reflect on issues of gender, and its significance for their work, for policy-making and ultimately changing our country into a better place for both men and women.

Changing the meaning of Women’s Month

There are two simple things we can do to make a difference: Firstly, make sure that gender disaggregated data is collected and analysed. We need to “let the data speak” about the realities of boys and girls, men and women.

Secondly, we need to realise that it is not only about women – it is about gender. Both genders. It is about the different needs and experiences of girls and boys, men and women. And we also need to know that “both genders” is still a gross simplification, because the gender identity spectrum is much more intricate and nuanced than that. But considering “both genders” is a starting point.

With all of this in mind, the message this women’s month is: Vuka evaluators, vuka! It’s Women’s Month. Let’s make a conscious decision to take a lead to make gender equality a reality. Let’s run a little faster in this race, and hold the torch of gender equality high.

Written by Fia van Rensburg