News & events


Gender and Poverty Reduction: Voice, Dialogue and Targeting

13 July 2009

Start :

13 July 2009

End :

15 July 2009

Location :

Kopanong Hotel


This symposium brought together 56 delegates, comprising researchers, policy makers, and members of civil society organisations in dialogue with each other. Minister Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya Ministry of Women, Children, Youth and People with Disabilities officially launched the symposium. Advocate Nomazotsho Memani-Belani represented Honourable Minister Edna Molewa, Minister of Social Development at the gala dinner. Partner organisations included the Independent Development Trust (IDT), the Department of Science and Technology (DST), South African Women in Dialogue (SAWID) and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), the Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA).The Keynote speaker was Professor Elaine Unterhalter, Institute of Education, University of London.

The broad scope of this symposium was to provide ‘new models’ and ‘innovative ways of thinking’ in dealing with poverty. The procedure to generate such models is via a comparative review and assessment of the social impact of the National Government’s programmatic work in the broad area of poverty reduction. The symposium aimed to focus on: (a) building new scenarios based on an aggregated understanding of poverty through recourse to the National Standard Indicators of poverty, and (b) mapping new models of an integrated approach to understanding poverty.

South Africa has arguably made a lot of progress in relation to gender-responsive interventions targeting various spheres of life, particularly legislative and policy intervention. While this has allowed increased political participation of women at local and national levels, the qualitative experiences of women and girls remain largely unchanged, with women living in poverty continuing to outnumber men. Several studies internationally have examined reasons for the failure of poverty reduction strategies. Some of these studies have concluded for example that the role of women is often overlooked, absent or erased in interventions targeting poverty reduction. While women (and children), as the groups mostly affected by poverty, should be put at the centre of poverty reduction interventions, the reality is that their voice is conspicuously absent in these projects and development programs frequently fail to recognize their needs, interests and tacit knowledge about the environment in which they live. Considering their stake in these interventions, arguably, projects that take women’s voices seriously in their conceptualisation and implementation stand a better chance of succeeding than those which ignores or glosses over them. Scholars in the filed have even suggested that improving women’s access to decision-making bodies is likely to improve governance in grassroots policy, and, thus, lower levels of female poverty.

Taking all of this into account the symposium, amongst other things, aimed to:

  • Examine the gendered aspects of poverty and their implications for poverty reduction interventions in SA
  • Identify/develop local concepts/discourses for explaining the feminisation of poverty and its context specific impacts, as well as develop new ways of framing the challenge
  • Develop new scenarios based on an aggregated understanding of poverty through recourse to the National Standard Indicators of poverty
  • Map new models for an integrated approach to understanding and addressing poverty