South Africa: Women’s Experience Of Post-Apartheid Development

Text from the Freedom Charter, adopted at the multi-racial Congress of the People in Kliptown, South Africa in June 1955.

This is part of a series that looks at housing and homelessness in South Africa and Canada. It might be a source of inspiration/direction for housing efforts in either or both countries. Both countries have made formal commitments to achieve the right to adequate housing. Readers elsewhere who are calling for a right to adequate housing may also find these posts useful.

Inolofatseng Lekaba is based in Soweto, South Africa and is the author of Women’s Participation in Development Projects of Kliptown: Effective or Not? In it, Lekaba gives voice to women who have been largely excluded from public decision making about re/development in their community.

Within Soweto, Kliptown has special significance in South Africa’s history. It was the site of the Congress of the People in June 1955, an early action in the long struggle to end Apartheid1.

Post Apartheid, parts of Kliptown have been redeveloped. The redevelopments included processes for community participation. None of the community participants were women, even though they also live in Kliptown. Unless women are interviewed, it is possible that any evaluation of the community development processes could completely overlook important strengths and weaknesses. Lekaba’s research helps to fill this gap.

Lekaba gathered data through interviews and focus groups with women living in Kliptown. Their experiences and observations speak to changes in living conditions and the community participation processes.

Lekaba’s thesis highlights limitations of the community participation process adopted in Kliptown. The interviews and focus groups highlight issues that had hitherto received little or no attention. For example, post Apartheid developments had done little to improve basic services like clean water and sanitation in Kliptown, something the women who spoke to Lekaba believed should have been a priority.

Lekaba’s research deserves attention outside of South Africa. The thesis sets out a theoretical framework and assesses how well existing theory fits with lived experience. Lekaba is particularly concerned about equitable access and power relations. The thesis will be of particular interest to people who are engaged in a community participation process and those who are creating community participation processes . A subscription is required to read the full thesis, but the first 24 pages of the thesis are available for preview at Proquest: Women’s Participation in Development Projects of Kliptown : Effective or Not?

You can reach out to Inolofatseng Lekaba directly at

Lekaba’s recommendations resonate with a survey of women’s experiences of housing and homelessness in Canada. Although the methods are different from Lekaba’s research, the Canadian study highlighted that women experience homelessness and housing differently from men. You can read more about the Canadian survey at the Women’s National Housing And Homelessness Network: The Pan-Canadian Women’s Housing & Homelessness Survey

Here are titles of the posts in this series, which are being published this week:

    • South Africa: Lessons For The World From A Deadly Fire
    • South Africa: Women’s Experience Of Post-Apartheid Development
    • Emergency Responses Miss Opportunities To Build Up Communities
    • Housing, Land And Property Rights In South Africa And Canada
    • Potable Water: A Pillar In The Right To Adequate Housing And Essential To Life


  1. For those of us who are unfamiliar with the Congress of the People, here is an account in South African History Online: The Congress of the People