Women’s Rights and Gender Justice

Women’s Rights and Gender Justice - Oxfam South Africa

South Africa is lauded for having some of the most progressive laws and policies intended to advance women’s rights and gender equality. But women are disproportionately represented amongst the poor, the unemployed, and the hungry. Alarmingly high rates of gender-based violence makes being a woman in South Africa more dangerous than being in some of the world’s war-torn areas. Although gender non-conforming people can marry in South Africa, they still face relentless prejudice and exclusion from mainstream society, some of which manifests in extreme violence. Some of the most pervasive challenges facing women in South Africa can be summarised as follows:

  • black women continue to be the face of poverty and the people who shoulder the social burden emanating from high levels of poverty and inequality in the country
  • The sustained oppression and marginalization of rural women, worsened by a context of resurging retribalization of South Africa, women living under a dual legal system wherein customary practices often take precedence
  • Women are an exploited labour force: marginalized from the formal economy, paid less than males for same work and performing minimally paid or wholly unpaid social reproductive labour
  • Gender-based violence is endemic in domestic environments, society at large and even in schools. This is fueled by among other things, pervasive sexism, patriarchal norms, attitudes and beliefs and a culture of impunity
  • Inadequate access to essential services such as health care, education, water, and electricity means that women spend large amounts of their time filling the gap.
  • Women constitute the highest number of those living with or shouldering the burden of HIV and AIDS
  • The rise of religious and cultural fundamentalisms

Despite these challenges, women and gender non-compliant people are organizing and resisting. They are visible in movements and protest spaces such as those advocating for Access to Health Care and quality AIDS Treatment, the Fees Must Fall movement, movements of communities affected by mining, the Worker Union movement, and many others. Even though this is so gender issues are still predominantly excluded from mainstream society and women’s voices and struggles  .

It is for this reason that Oxfam South Africa is focusing on strengthening the voices of women, connecting women’s struggles for greater impact and ensuring that support and mobilise gender-based social movements as an important step towards tackling poverty’s systemic roots of poverty and creating a just society.


Oxfam South Africa supports women’s and gender non-conforming people’s capacity to liberate themselves through fostering powerful movements that can hold government and social institutions accountable to protect and expand their rights.


Support grassroots organisations and movements of women and gender non-conforming people so that they can more effectively advocate for social, political and economic justice.

Key areas of work:

  • Build and strengthen movements of women and gender non-conforming people for social justice.
  • Support women’s advocacy to attain full and equal access to public and essential services.
  • Promote women’s full participation in political processes.
  • Support and deepen the participation of women in the economy.
  • Deepen the analysis of the structural underpinnings of violence against women, girls, and gender non-conforming people, and intervene through campaigns and advocacy.
  • Embed a critical gendered lens in and through all the work of Oxfam South Africa and its partners.

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