This baseline research study, conducted as part of preparatory work for the four-year CAD 4 million Women, Voice and Leadership (WVL) Fund in South Africa, concerns the status of the women’s movement in South Africa. Click on the + sign next to each section to see the details, or download the full report.

Women rights and gender[1]
Women as primary focus 42
Gender mainstreamed 31
Engaging men 47
Types of organisations[2]
Non-governmental organisation 64
Community based organisation 8
Movement 1
Where organisations work
National 13
Multiple provinces 27
Single province 33
Annual operating budget in ZAR[3]                                  
Less than R 250,000 33
R 250,001 – R 500,000 4
R 500,000 – R 750,000 1
R 750,001 – R 1 000,000 4
More than R 1 000,000 1
More than R 2 000,000 13
How organisations are funded[4]  
Foreign donors 54
Government 20
Private sector 10
National Lotteries Commission 9
Self-funded 2
Membership fees 1
Organisational governance[5]                                      
Board 54
Other e.g. Volunteer Steering Committee 7
Institutional effectiveness – policies in place[6]   
Finance 36
Human resources 27
Sexual harassment 25
Anti-corruption policy 31
Monitoring and evaluation (MandE) system 36

[1] Based on the 50 organizations that responded to the survey. Some indicated more than one focus.

[2] Based on the 50 organizations that responded to the survey and 20 in the desk top research.

[3] Based on 50 organizations in the survey and 6 in the desk top research for which financial information could be obtained

[4] Based on the 73 organizations that responded to the survey and those in the desk top research

[5] Ibid

[6] Based on the 50 organizations that responded to the survey

At a time when activism is most needed, the women’s movement in South Africa is struggling financially and institutionally. According to Professor Amanda Gouws, “We no longer have a collective, national women’s movement, which leads to a fragmented fight for the same rights.”[1]

This baseline research study, conducted as part of preparatory work for the four year, CAD 4 million Women, Voice and Leadership (WVL) Fund in South Africa, concerns the status of the women’s movement in South Africa. It comprised desktop research (see parameters at Annex A) and a self-administered questionnaire (Annex B) administered online as well as at several interactive meetings.  Annex C provides a summary of the 76 organisations included in the research.

Key findings include:

  • Of the 55 respondents for whom financial information could be obtained, 33 had budgets of less than R250,000. Of the 33 organisations with a budget of less than R250 000, almost two thirds (22 organisations) do not have any donor funding. Of the 73 organisations, 17 did not provide financial information.
  • 54 out of 73 organisations are funded by foreign donors. It is important to note that none of the organisations with budgets of less than R250,000 have any foreign donors. Seven of the organisations with budgets of less than R250,000 have local donors (South African Foundations).
  • A high proportion of organisations, 54, have boards in place as part of their governance structures.
  • Of the organisations surveyed 36 have finance and 31 have anti-corruption policies in place. In the category of the organisations with a budget of less than R250 000, out the total 36 respondents, 21 have a finance policy.
  • The largest number of organisations, 26 reported working on GBV and 23 on leadership and mentorship. 16 organisations work on economic empowerment. Fewer organisations are working SRHR; gender and climate change.

The findings affirm the decision by WVL to focus the bulk of its funding on multi- year core grants for organisations with budgets of less than R1 million a year, as well as support one or two networking grants to strengthen the women’s movement. Small rapid response grants will provide flexibility to address emergencies. The report recommends more in-depth research into new forms or organising; reaching diverse organisations; and understanding the women’s movement as the fund progresses.


While South Africa has one of the most progressive Constitutions in the world with regard to gender equality, women lag behind on every indicator – political, social, legal and economic.

Gender equality has been described as South Africa’s most important “unfinished business” post-apartheid. Hovering in the background of the struggle against race and class, gender equality came to the fore in the final negotiations for the transition to democracy with a country-wide civil society initiative that culminated in the February 1994 Women’s Charter for Effective Equality at the National Convention convened by the Women’s National Coalition (WNC). In its preamble, the Women’s Charter read: “We, the women of South Africa, claim our rights. We claim full and equal participation in the creation of a non-sexist, non-racist, democratic society… Democracy and human rights, if they are to be meaningful to women, must address our historic subordination and oppression.” 

At the opening of the first democratic parliament in 1994, President Nelson Mandela declared: “Freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression… Our endeavours must be about the liberation of the woman, the emancipation of the man and the liberty of the child.”

Nearly 25 years later, South Africa has made tremendous strides at the legal and policy level. Gender equality is enshrined in the Constitution – also one of the only constitutions in the world that out-laws discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.  Discriminatory laws have been removed and a host of laws that protect the rights of women have been promulgated. These include progressive laws on ending gender violence and recognising customary marriages.

South Africa is the only country in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region that has legalised abortion (Choice of Termination of Pregnancy Act 1996). With the support of the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Co-operation, and the benefit of comparative experience, South Africa set up elaborate structures to promote gender equality. These include a women’s ministry; gender focal persons in all ministries and provincial governments; the Commission on Gender Equality (provided for in Chapter Nine of the Constitution) and the Equality Court. In 1999, the government adopted a Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Framework. The proportion of women in public life has increased to almost half in parliament, cabinet and local government.

But there is a huge gap between these visible changes and the daily reality of the majority of women, especially in the rural areas.  There the stark contradictions between a progressive Constitution and customary laws and practices result in the majority of women remaining minors all their lives: under their fathers, husbands, and as widows even under their sons and brothers-in-law.

As the key indicators show, women in South Africa remain the majority of the poor, the dispossessed, the landless and the homeless; as well as those affected by high levels of GBV, HIV and AIDS. The Gender Links VAW Baseline studies in four provinces (Limpopo, Western Cape, KwaZulu Natal, and Gauteng) show that half to two thirds of women in these provinces experience some form of violence (emotional, economic, physical or sexual) at least once in their lifetime. South Africa has one of the highest rates of femicide (the murder of a woman by her intimate partner) in the world.

In 2017, South African women took to social media with the hashtag “men are trash” that sparked a backlash but also a progressive response from men who replied under the hashtag “not in my name.”

On August 1, 2018, thousands of women and gender non-conforming people (GNC) took to the streets of South Africa under the banner of the Total Shutdown (TTS). They were raising their voices about the high rates of gender-based violence (GBV) women and GNC people were facing in South Africa. In Pretoria, TTS marched to the Union Buildings handing over a list of 24 demands to the President.

Some of these demands included a strong message from the president about the crisis that South Africa is facing due to gender-based violence, the development of a National Action Plan on GBV, and a media campaign for 365 days. The movement also called on the president to convene a national summit on GBV.

According to the TTS, of the 24 demands, about four demands have been met by the government. One of the first demands that the president met was convening the National Summit on Gender-Based Violence. This exchange highlighted the longer journey that South Africa needs to walk: from good laws and policies, to changing attitudes and mind-sets; from equality of opportunity to equality of outcomes.

At the heart of gender inequality in South Africa is patriarchy – once described by former Constitutional Court Judge Albie Sachs as “the only truly non-racial institution in South Africa.”  The simple message is that while South Africans (women and men) are talking the talk of gender equality they are not yet walking the talk.

The Women’s Movement

After the first democratic elections in 1994, the Women’s Coalition pulled together for the historic Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. It held together until Beijing Plus Five in 2000, but wilted thereafter. Reasons cited in a research report include the “brain drain” from the NGO sector with astute leaders going into parliament; challenges of organising at provincial level; insufficient institutional capacity (especially financial) and waning donor support (both a cause and consequence of the institutional constraints)[1].

Post 1994, “a large portion of aid was shifted from civil society to the government in recognition of the fact that the latter was now the principle development engine in the country.”[2] Donors also seemed to favour issue-specific networks, such as the Network on Violence Against Women and Reproductive Rights Alliance. Yet even these networks have disappeared, with only the Kwa Zulu Natal Network on Violence Against Women still in existence.[3]

A number of strong WRO from the 1990s have closed. Examples include the Gender Advocacy Programme (GAP) and SAMGI (gender and media organisation). The past few years have seen the rise of new movements such as the CSO collective, #TheTotalShutdown and the National Shelter Movement who all advocate and lobby government to take accountability of the scourge of Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG), however funding challenges remain.

In an article entitled, Little is left of the feminist agenda that swept South Africa 25 years ago published on the 7 August 2019 in News24, Amanda Gouws says on the eve of democratic transition, South African women were optimistic. They were confident of being included in democratic processes that would ensure greater representation for women and more spaces in the state to promote gender equality.

The coalition – together with feminist activists and feminist academics – designed the architecture of structures in the state which they called the National Gender Machinery. It consisted of the Office of the Status of Women, the Women’s Empowerment Unit, the Joint Monitoring Committee on the Quality of Life and the Status of Women, a multi-party gender caucus, gender desks in all state departments, and Commission for Gender Equality.

President Jacob Zuma’s term of office initiated the dismantling of the National Gender Machinery. Some of its structures were already dysfunctional due to a lack of resources, infighting and overlapping mandates. And ignoring any resistance, Zuma’s government institutionalised a Ministry for Women, Youth and People with Disabilities. It has yet to deliver for women on pressing issues such as high levels of gender based violence.

Corruption – and the hollowing out of the state – has also played a part in dismantling what had been built in the early years by weakening institutions. To be effective feminist institutionalism depends on a constitutional state operating according to formal rules. In addition, patronage networks exclude women from the informal spaces of the shadow state where most important decisions are taken. [4]

Lisa Vetten, gender researcher and Mellon Doctoral Fellow at Wits University, says the government is failing to link women’s legal rights with socioeconomic rights. “So, the Domestic Violence Act remains a very good piece of legislation, but you can’t see corresponding legislation that deals with housing for example, which would give women the ability to leave abusive relationships because they have alternative housing.” She states further that the country does not have supporting policies on how we help women reduce their economic dependence to leave abusive partners and what kind of programmes you would need to put in place.[5]

WROs operate within a context where the state’s commitment to women’s rights and gender equality were severely compromised during Jacob Zuma’s tenure as president. The space for robust engagement between government and CSOs shut down. Under Cyril Ramphosa’s presidency the terrain is open and dialogue is encouraged. However, macro-economic policy is a priority and results in a narrow interpretation of gender equality and women’s right. The government gender strategy is heavily focused on GBV with insufficient attention to the links between GBV and gender inequality.Women’s economic power is a key driver for gender equality and ending all forms of discrimination and violence against women and other key populations such as LGBTI persons.

Funding challenges

The government set up the National Development Agency (NDA) in 1998 to fund civil society, boost their capacity and improve government-civil society consultation and partnership. The government channelled foreign funding traditionally given to civil society directly, but now being given to government, into the NDA. South Africa launched a national lottery on 11 March 2000. As part of its licensing obligations, a portion of the lottery income is distributed to charities, NGOs, and civil society groups.

A 2017 report, Meeting their Mandates: The Research Report on the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund (NLDTF) and the National Development Agency (NDA) by the Funding Practice Alliance shows the NDA “failing” in its mandate of distributing funds to deserving civil society groups. The report found that funding from the lottery has not been effectively distributed to charities either, often going to government agencies, well-connected ‘civil society’ organisations, and sports bodies which could generate their own income in many cases.[6]

Funds from international donors are increasingly being diverted to trade and other countries in the region because South Africa is seen as a middle-income country. There is pressure on local NGOs to become less reliant on foreign donors. In light of the previous discussion on the NDA and NLDTF it is critical that WROs ensure that gender and women’s rights feature high on the agenda of these and other institutions.

In addition, William Gumede, Associate Professor, School of Governance at the University of the Witwatersrand, suggests that South Africa being assigned junk status by two global credit rating agencies, traditional sources of funding are likely to decline. This follows the aftermath of already declined foreign funding, as a result of the 2007/8 global and Eurozone financial crises.

More recently, the rise of populist and conservative governments in many industrial countries has also negatively impacted previous levels of funding to developing countries. Donald Trump’s presidency further raises the spectre that official development assistance to Africa may be dramatically slashed.[7]Trump’s expansion of the Global Gag Rule is likely to significantly impact on WROs providing sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and their support to local organisations. Table six provides a breakdown of the original limitations in the Gag Rule and the current situation.

Table two: Global gag rule parameters: Previous versus current policies

Criteria Previous policy Current policy
Areas of health affected


Family planning Family planning, HIV and AIDS, maternal and child health, malaria, tuberculosis, nutrition, non-communicable diseases, water sanitation and hygiene at the household and community levels, and the zika virus. Humanitarian assistance is exempt from the policy.
Sources of U.S. Funding affected USAID, U.S. Dept. of State (after 2003) All U.S. governmental departments and agencies – USAID, U.S. Dept. of State (including the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, which oversees funding under PEPFAR), and the Dept. of Defence
Types of funding agreements Grants, cooperative agreements Grants, cooperative agreements, and contracts (pending rule-making)
Amount of funding affected $600 million $8.8 billion

The Assessing the impact of the expanded Global Gag Rule in South Africa[8] report found among others that:

  • Some respondents were directly affected by the shutdown of clinics, the retrenchment of staff and recent funding cuts. This, as the respondents noted, has a far broader effect than merely the reduction of available abortion service providers which would have a knock-on effect on the women who are dependent on these services.
  • This clearly has an effect on relationships between NPOs. If you have a workshop, participants who receive funding from USAID ask what the topics are going to be because it affects their funding.
  • The South African government has the power to negotiate with the US government and that they should either do so, or take over the responsibility of providing all abortion-related services by funding them fully using the governmental budget – thereby making abortion services independent of any foreign interference.
  • Information on the effects of the policy on the health of women is not yet attainable, but most interviewees agree that the Gag Rule is likely to negatively affect maternal mortality and morbidity rates since unsafe abortions already contribute significantly to these rates. Gagging local SRHR NPOs will increase backstreet abortion services and unwanted pregnancies.

Other challenges

The Crisis in The NGO Sector: Critical Reflections on Civil Society held by the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection and the Wits School of Governance posited that beyond the urgent funding crisis, challenges in the CSO sector include:

  • No definitive understanding of the sector as a whole, largely as a result of a deficit of measurement i.e. benefit and impact on society.
  • A lack of cohesion inside the public sector leading to duplication and wasted effort for civil society organisations.
  • A lack of formal recognition at the level of the state’s development planning.
  • A lack of cohesion and transparency within the sector itself with mistrust and suspicion dominating.[9]

While these challenges apply to the sector as a whole it is equally relevant to WROs. Gathering data for this research, GL found that there is no comprehensive listing of WROs in South Africa. This impacts on collective action.

Lucinda Evans, founder member of the Philisa Abafazi Bethu Women Centre in the Western Cape describes some of challenges the organisation faces. The majority of civil society organisations in Cape Town are run by black and coloured women who are fighting against increasing crime rates, especially relating to the abuse of women and children.

Besides the fight against violence, women also face the daily struggle of saving their organisations and ensuring enough financial support to continue the work they are doing. There is a fine line between being radical enough and being too radical, especially when it comes to open protest in the streets.

Organisations that are aligned with government, political parties or international charity organisations not only receive financial support, but are obliged to make certain compromises. Part of this is the agreement to maintain a professional public image, which would inhibit the fight against violence on the Cape Flats, as Evans explains. Women activists are torn between publicly demanding their rights and jeopardising the organisations they are running.[10]

  • Perception that men’s organisations get more funds than WRO: Very few South African[11] gender equality organisations have annual reports and audited financial statements on their websites. Among those that do, Sonke Gender Justice (with a budget of about R70 million per annum), ranks highest. Sonke Gender Justice focuses on men and boys. The next largest organisation on which we could find funding information is People Organising Against Women Abuse (POWA) with a budget of about R7 million per annum (one tenth of Sonke Gender Justice budget). This underscores the prevailing tension between WRO and the men-for-change organisations. The figures and Sonke’s long list of donors (including several large bilateral donors and UN agencies) lend credence to the prevailing view that men’s organisations have become flavour-of-the-month with funders. This has led to unfortunate tension and competition between WRO and men-for-change organisations.
  • There is competition with INGOs: Another source of tension is with international organisations that – sensing the shift towards building the capacity of local NGOs – are registering in the global south. For political and economic reasons, South Africa is an attractive base for such organisations. This happens at a time when funding for local civil society organisations is shrinking due to SA’s middle income status. Oxfam has reigistered a wholly South African subsidiary, Oxfam SA, and Action Aid has registered its head office to SA (although it maintains a large presence in the UK for fund raising purposes). While these organisations sometimes partner with or fund local NGOs, they are also players in the same space, competing for scarce resoures. Northern foundations such as the Open Society Initiative, Hivos and the Ford Foundation, which all have offices in South Africa, vacillate between being funders and implementers; this too has contributed to the funding squeeze for local NGOs.
  • Academic organisations are more consistent and stable: The Centre for the Study of Conflict Resolution (CSVR) and women’s programme of the Medical Research Council (both linked to the University of Witwatersrand), and Women’s Legal Centre (University of Cape Town) are examples of projects linked to universities that have been sustained over the years. These generate valuable research and media commentary, but are not strong on grassroots movement building so essential to advancing women’s rights.

The Women, Voice and Leadership (WVL) Fund is part of Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP). The goal of the WVL South Africa is to support the capacity and activities of local women’s organisations and movements; seek to empower women and girls; advance the protection of women’s and girls’ rights and to achieve gender equality.  This includes increasing funding to local women’s rights organisations and movements, recognising the global funding gap that they face.

In so doing, Women’s Voice and Leadership Programme aims to assist these organisations and movements in their efforts to eliminate discrimination and rights violations in policy and legislation (including implementation) and the provision of services, as well as harmful social beliefs and practices.

This initiative arises from Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy (FIAP) which has six main elements: promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls; human dignity; growth that works for everyone; environment and climate action; inclusive governance; peace and security. Specifically, this CAD 4 million fund for South Africa is  part of the Women’s Voice and Leadership  (WVL) Fund that will allocate CAD 150 million over five years to respond to needs of local women’s organizations in developing countries that are working to advance the rights of women and girls and promote gender equality. GAC has also announced a global fund of CAD 650 million to support Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) as a means of advancing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

On 28 September 2017 the High Commission and UN Women convened a consultation with local Women’s Rights and gender equality organisations that provided valuable insights into the challenges facing the sector.  Gender Links (GL), a Southern African NGO headquartered in Johannesburg, will be managing the WVL SA Fund. Initially, the multi-year core funding will focus on four provinces i.e. Gauteng, Limpopo, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.  The rationale for the strategy is summarised in table two.

Table three: Rationale for the selected Provinces

Province Rationale Sub-granting agency comparative advantage
Gauteng Melting pot with high proportion of immigrants; densely populated; in easy proximity to GAC and GL; politically diverse; good testing ground for pilot projects; accessible for visits by high profile dignitaries. These are the four provinces that GL has worked in over the last decade and have strong links and networks that can be leveraged. Over the last five years GL has conducted VAW Baseline studies in all four provinces that provide rich baseline data on the extent, effect, drivers, response, support and prevention of GBV. These studies can be used to support advocacy.
Limpopo Rural; high levels of poverty; strong influences of tradition and culture.
Western Cape Only opposition province in SA; important for political inclusiveness. This province is also the home base of parliament – important for policy and advocacy work.
KwaZulu Natal Rural; high levels of poverty; strong influences of tradition and culture; traditionally strong WROs base, weakened due to funding challenges.


[1] Gershater, D: “Sisterhood of as sort: The Women’s National Coalition and the role of gender identity in South African civil society.” Centre for Policy Studies, Johannesburg, June 2001.

[2] Gershater, D: “Sisterhood of as sort: The Women’s National Coalition and the role of gender identity in South African civil society.” Centre for Policy Studies, Johannesburg, June 2001.

[3] GL’s desk top research, Annex A, shows that this is the only chapter of the Network with a presence on the website.








[11] Although Gender Links is registered in South Africa, it is a Southern African organisation, and only a small fraction of its budget is spent in South Africa. We argue (see Annex C and risks) that this is an advantage, as it removes potential conflict of interest.

In order to position WVL effectively at the policy and leveraging level GL conducted desktop research on women’s rights organisations in South Africa at the proposal stage. To bolster the initial desktop research GL followed up with a self-administered questionnaire to community-based and non-governmental organisations working on women’s rights across South Africa, but with a special focus on the four provinces that will initially be targeted. GL distributed the self-administered questionnaire online as well as in hard copy at national and provincial events these are included in table three.

Table three: Events where hard copy questionnaires were distributed

Date WVL event/meetings No. of participants
Tuesday, 28 May 2019 Launch of WVL 32
27-28 June 2019 Voice and Choice Summit 65
Tuesday, 30 July 2019 Cape Town Information session and mapping 35
Tuesday, 30 July 2019 Simons Town Information session and mapping 11
Wednesday, 31 July 2019 Mosselbay Information session and mapping 22
Thursday, 01 August 2019 George Information session and mapping 14
Friday, 02 August 2019 Bitou Information session and mapping 55
Wednesday, 07 August 2019 Vhembe Information session and mapping 26
Thursday, 08 August 2019 Polokwane Information session and mapping 64
Tuesday, 15 October 2019 Durban Information session and mapping 20
Thursday, 24 October 2019 Gauteng Information session and mapping 24
Total delegates reached 368

In order to present a substantive baseline study GL combined the datasets that form the basis of the analysis that follows. The research gathered information on the following parameters:

  • Administrative information
  • Focus: Women’s rights and gender in organisations
  • Organisational budgets and funding sources
  • Governance
  • Institutional effectiveness
  • Thematic areas of work and organisational strategies

The desktop research and self-administered questionnaire provided quantitative data on women rights organisations (WROs) in South Africa. To triangulate the information emerging from the mapping report, GL conducted a literature review on the state of the women’s movement and WROs in South Africa. The review is included in a contextual analysis that prefaces the findings of the quantitative analysis.

Table four: Breakdown of sample

Questionnaires distributed
E Mail 297
Hard copy 224
Total 521
Questionnaires received
Filled online 87
Final sample
Online entries after data cleaning 50
Desk top research 23
Total 73

A total of 521 self-administered questionnaires were distributed, 297 via email to be filled in online and 224 in hard copy at provincial meetings in Limpopo and the Western Cape. After removing incomplete and duplicate entries there were a total of 50 respondents to the online survey. After cleaning the data 37 organisations were removed. These were businesses, politically aligned entities, individuals, organisations that do not on work women’s rights and government departments. The desktop research included 23 non-governmental organisations. The final sample comprised 73 organisations

Table five: Breakdown of organisations’ headquarters

Province Number of respondents’ headquarters
Gauteng 29
Limpopo 18
Western Cape 16
Kwa Zulu Natal 5
Free State 2
Mpumalanga 1
Norther Cape 1
Northwest 1
Total 73

Of the 73 organisations, 29 have their headquarters in Gauteng, 18 in Limpopo, 16 in the Western Cape and five in KwaZulu Natal. Between one and two organisations have headquarters in the Free State, Mpumalanga and North West. There were no entries from the Eastern Cape. The sample, and on-the-ground distribution, reflect the emphasis on the four priority provinces, while remaining open to nation-wide submissions.

Women’s rights and gender focus
Respondents provided answers to three women’s rights and gender queries. These included: does the organisation have women’s rights as a primary focus; is gender mainstreamed in the organisation’s work and do organisations work with men to effect change.

84% of organisations state that they have a specific women’s focus. 61% say they mainstream gender in the organisation. A very high proportion (94%) state they work with men to effect change.

Tshwarang Legal Advocacy Centre (TLAC) is an example of an organisation that has women as a primary focus but also integrates gender into all of its Programmes.

TLAC says: “Our projects are premised on the understanding that gender inequalities are both the cause and enabling context of violence against women. It is therefore crucial that efforts towards eliminating GBV must integrate broader efforts towards addressing the unequal social, political and economic power held by women and men.”

TLAC in all of its programmes works in partnership with locally based community organisations as well as the traditional and religious leaders. Community structures are trained to contribute towards prevention of VAW/G by mainstreaming gender issues in their work.

Western Cape based Emthonjeni Counselling and Training is a women’s rights organisation. The organisation that:

  • Facilitates community dialogue on GBV, SRHR and HIV Prevention.
  • Does advocacy work and influence policy implementation in the areas of women’s health and gender and justice work.
  • Conducts intergenerational talks amongst adolescents, young women and girls and policy makers as well as adult women.
  • Creates platforms of engagement for women to influence the implementation of services geared towards improving livelihood.
  • Addresses sexuality, identity and HIV prevention in languages best understood by the communities.
  • Partner with organisations offering economic programmes for women and girls.
  • Engage men on social and cultural norms that perpetuates violence against women and girls and come with programmes to address these.

Of the 73 organisations surveyed, 12 organisations work at a national level and 27 in multiple provinces. The largest number of respondents (34) work in a single province.

Masimanyane Women’s Support Centre in the Eastern Cape, which describes itself as “locally rooted, globally connected” has managed to thrive in its provincial base through excellent global networking, driven by a strong and well-known leader, Lesley Ann Foster. This shows what is possible with a strong local institutional base of the kind the WVL seeks to build.Following the demise of the Women’s National Coalition (WNC) and related sector coalitions (violence, SRHR) there are very few formal WRO networks or coalitions. The Progressive Women’s Movement (PWM) is national, but is linked to the ruling ANC; has no provincial branches, no named governance structure or staff (a former deputy minister is named as the convenor on the website).

One of the few functioning national women’s networks at this time is the South African Women in Dialogue (SAWID). Founded by well-known women’s rights veterans including former first lady Zanele Mbeki and former Chair of the Independent Electoral Commission Brigalia Bam, SAWID is a non-partisan membership organisation that relies largely on volunteers; focuses on poverty eradication; is closely linked to local government, and has strong mobilising power, though a weak funding base and institutional structures.

Of the 73 organisations sampled, 64 are non-governmental organisations, eight community-based organisations and one movement. The movement refers to #TheTotal Shutdown.


New forms of organising in the WROs are emerging. #TheTotalShutdown (TTS) movement started as a social media movement on Facebook and has subsequently evolved into a network of women holding government accountable for addressing GBV. TTS co-chairs the Interim GBV Steering Committee that was put in place after the 1 November 2018 GBV and Femicide Summit.TTS has organised several public protests to demand action from the government to address the escalating levels of GBV across the country. The latest TTS march to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange on the 13 September 2019 resulted in a R1.1 billion commitments from business to address GBV. TTS is gaining momentum and growing. Currently the TTS Facebook page has 72 761 members, 10 948 likes and 11 245 followers.

The movement is not formally constituted, does not have any governance structure and is not registered. The emerging challenge is the administration of the funding that is raised. There is concern about channelling the funds through government and the difficulties civil society organisations experience when accessing funds through government.

TTS is in a conundrum about whether or not the movement can evolve into a formally constituted structure while retaining its essential form as a movement. These debates and decisions will have to be addressed in the short-term together with options to manage the resources raised through TTS activism.

The desktop research and self-administered questionnaire included three finance and donor related queries. These include organisational budgets, a breakdown of donors and finance policies.

Of the total of 56 respondents for whom budget information could be obtained, 34 (61%) had budgets of less than R250,000. Of the 34 organisations with a budget of less than R250 000, almost two thirds (22 organisations) do not have any donor funding. Twenty organisations did not disclose information about their funding.

Organisations were asked to name their top three donors. 54 out of 73 are funded by foreign donors. It is important to note that none of the organisations with budgets of less than R250,000 have any foreign donors. Seven of the organisations with budgets of less than R250,000 have local donors (South African Foundations). 20 organisations said they get funding from government. These are mostly organisations that provide direct services. Nine get funding from the State Lottery. Two organisations described themselves as self-funded (in other words the founders provide the funds). One organisation gets membership fees. Most organisations combine a few sources of funding. Twenty-two of the organisations said they had no funding at all, running on the steam of volunteers.

Black Womxn Caucus is one of the organisations that do not receive donor support. The organisation is divided into three organising spaces. Black Girls Caucus: the high school division works with girls and boys on the safety of schools looking at bullying and GBV. This division also provides teaches the youth about feminism, gender equality and identities.  #BerekaMosadi: is targeted at the community focusing on working class and poor Womxn. This organising space hosts workshops to educate Womxn about GBV and links it to other struggles such as unemployment, health and service delivery. The Caucus works with Womxn in informal settlements, mining affected communities, domestic workers and informal traders.  Black Womxn Caucus: the student division plays a significant role in contributing to feminist popular education and documenting of feminist struggles.
Another organisation that said it has no donor funding but raises funds through service provision is Gauteng based Afrika Ikalafe which focuses on introducing an African Indigenous Healing Justice Framework in responding to GBV. This includes healing multigenerational wounds of sexual violence including working with ex-offenders.

Through facilitating healing work for Soul City, WoMin, People Opposed to Women Abuse (POWA), Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund and ActionAid the organisation has raised R750 000 to R1 000 000 to implement the organisation’s programmes.

Good governance is key indicator for accessing funding from donors, business and government.

A high proportion of organisations, 57 (or 75%), have boards in place as part of their governance structures. A low proportion, 6 out 76 had no structure or another type of structure, such as “an interim steering committee.” There was no data for 12 organisations. It is encouraging to note that of the 34 organisation that have budgets of less than R250 000, 30 have boards in place. This puts organisations in a stronger position to access funding opportunities.

The Joint Gender Fund (JGF) is a funding mechanism consisting of Irish Embassy, Ford Foundation and RAITH Foundation (as primary contributors). The Fund provides funding to civil society organisations undertaking gender-based violence (GBV) programming. The key criteria for funding include: Be a registered South African non-profit organisation, working in South Africa; and have a governance structure that is active and involved. [1]

The questions relating to institutional effectiveness were included in the self-administered questionnaire and could not be derived from desk top research. The four institutional effectiveness queries were in regard to finance, human resource, sexual harassment and anti-corruption policies.

Table six: Institutional effectiveness

Policies Yes
Finance 36
Anti-corruption policy 31
Human resources 27
Sexual harassment 25

Table six shows that 36 of the organisations surveyed have finance policies in place and 31 have anti-corruption policies in place. In the category of the organisations with a budget of less than R250 000, out the total 34 respondents and 21 have a finance policy. Of the total, 27 of the organisations have human resources (HR) and 25 sexual harassment policies. The focus on finance related policies is important, however, HR and sexual harassment are key women rights and gender concerns.

FaceUp Manenberg based in the western Cape, is an example of an organisation that does not have finance, HR, sexual harassment or anti-corruption policies in place. Founded in 2016 by three young adults struggling to find mainstream employment, the project runs life skills play groups for youth educating them on the history of the community and social skills. The organisation hosts dialogues, creates safe spaces for play and positive art spaces for youth. It works with young people from ages three to 25. Facing Up is taking back the blood ridden streets creating a sustainable future for all.

In this section the mapping explores the different areas of work that organisations are implementing and the strategies to deliver their work. Some organisations work in more than one area, and use multiple strategies to achieve their objectives.

The largest number (26) reported working on GBV and 23 on leadership and mentorship and 16 organisations work on economic empowerment. Fewer organisations are working SRHR and gender and climate change. Of concern is that the only three organisations in the sample are working on HIV and AIDS and one on issues concerning LGBTI communities. It is possible that these issues are mainstreamed in the work of the organisations. However, given their importance to women’s rights, WVL needs to reach out specifically to these groups during calls for proposals.

The name Access Chapter 2(AC2) is based on the South African Constitution of – the Bill of Rights: Chapter 2. Based in Gauteng, was initiated to promote the human rights and empowerment of women and girls, and LGBTI+ people (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex) in all their diversity, facilitate participation of civil society organisations at local, national, regional and international level by creating space and coordinating platforms for engagement on governance, policy and accountability processes and by developing innovative and active empowerment for transformation knowledge for community systems strengthening and build solidarity within civil society and other various sectors.AC2 makes the links between human rights, women’s rights and diversity, this holistic view locates the rights of LGBTI persons within a broader human and women rights framework. This is an important strategy to leverage the work and increase partnerships to lobby and advocate for LGBTI rights.

Similar numbers (45 and 43) of organisations utilise advocacy and training as delivery vehicles for their work. Lobbying (26 organisations) is used to a lesser degree. Fewer organisations (21) are engaged in direct service delivery. The low number, 12 out of the total sample of organisations, engaged in research is a concern.

Research should underpin work and delivery strategies to ensure that thematic areas of work and delivery strategies are applicable as a response to the problem. This is an important consideration for WVL as it disburses grants. Some form of baseline research should guide organisations’ work and strategies.

All the organisations in the survey are working towards changing lives for the better. Monitoring and evaluation are critical to demonstrate the efficacy of the organisations’ programmes and strategies. The fact that 36 of the respondents have MandE systems in place is an encouraging base to build from.  Clearly there is an awareness about the need to have such systems in place. It is important to examine the data and results emerging from the MandE systems to ascertain how the results can be used to raise additional resources for the organisations. This could be an important area for capacity building.[1]

[1] Based on data for 50 organisations that participated in the online survey.

  1. Funding for WRO: WRO are in dire financial stress with many closing, running on volunteers, or having no institutional structure. The majority of those that are in operation have a budget of less than R250,000 per annum. These findings validate the three windows of WVL- SA:
    • Multi Year Core Grants (renewable annually subject to Grantee’s performance) in Gauteng, KwaZulu Natal, Limpopo and Western Cape, targeting organisations with budgets of less than R1 million per annum.
    • Networking & Alliance Building Grants: Multiyear grants (renewable subject to Grantee’s performance) open to all provinces and national, with a view to strengthening the women’s movement.
    • Rapid Response Grants designed to fund strategic, catalytic interventions, as well as emergencies and crises that help to strengthen WRO.
  2. Governance: While it is heartening that most WRO have governance structures in place, the absence of these in some instances is cause for concern and an area in which WRO need support. Good governance is critical for strengthening oversight, enhancing strategy, broadening ownership, branding and accountability. Movements that spring up in response to crises need to channel their energies into longer term programmatic interventions. It is recommended that WVL- SA require grantees to either have governance structures or be willing to develop these, with appropriate support.
  3. Institutional strengthening: Strong policies are at the core of strong institutions. WROs need to focus on strengthening their policies and systems. These include HR, sexual harassment and M&E. These systems need to be used to generate data, analysis and reports that enhance fund raising, and in turn sustainability. In particular, the challenges experienced by organisations in filling in the self-administered questionnaires online due to limited Internet access and low IT literacy points to the importance of IT capacity building.
  4. Enhancing diversity: WVL-SA Programme is designed to reach a diverse group of organisations that will broadly include WROs that promote gender equality and the rights of women and girls covering: Civil Society Organisations (CSOs); Community Based Organisations (CBOs); Faith Based Organisations (FBOs); Lobby / Activists Groups promoting the rights women and girls; LGBTI Organisations and Foundations. The fact that most of the organisations reached described themselves as NGOs shows that there is more work to be done in reaching diverse organisations.
  5. Expanding research and data bases on the women’s movement: The mapping report is a cursory snapshot of the state of the women’s movement in SA. It is important to do further research to ascertain which organisations are still inexistence and to understand why many have shut down. The research should focus on the financial and contextual issues that organisations face. This will assist WROs to mitigate risks in their own spaces.