Ukuvula Isango: Women Rise Project

In sub-Saharan Africa, South Africa was the country that experienced the highest Covid 19 death rates, reaching over 700 per 100 000 in places. The Eastern Cape Province was at the epi-center of the crisis with very high Covid death rates, social fracture, and the systemic collapse of the public health system. Rural women had a heavy load to bear as custodians of family health, as care workers, mothers, anchors for rural livelihoods, and community organizers.

​In this context, rural women used the idiom: ‘Ukuvalo isango’ (“closing the gate”) to describe their experience of exclusion under Covid-19 regulations.This research will be the first step towards building policy and infrastructure that can “re-open the gate” (ukuvula isango) – that is, to “build back better” for women.

​This project will be carried out by the Human Sciences Research Council in South Africa and McGill University Canada to address key issues related to the precarity of women in rural areas of South Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic as a starting point for post COVID-19 rebuilding. Using the ‘peoples science’ action approach in two phases, the team will document and explore women lives before and during the pandemic to identify trends and triggers that elevate or depreciate their livelihoods and health status. In the second phase, the project will use this analysis to explore strategies to enhance prevention in both the health and livelihood spheres