The Philani Experience: Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women in South Africa



The rapid sociocultural, political and economic change following the fall of apartheid in South Africa presents a unique opportunity to study gender equality and empowerment through the availability of nonformal education (NFE) and employment programs in the disadvantaged Khayelitsha area on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa, where half of the population is jobless. Philani, a community-based nonprofit NGO, offers women immediate assistance in three main ways: skills development, training, and employment; nutrition rehabilitation and health; and an on-site preschool program. The efficacy of the program, definitions of empowerment, gender relations, and future employment opportunities were examined through the use of individually structured interviews with Philani participants. Community participation is very high, and in many cases, has led to women experiencing a measure of independence for the first time. Insights from these interviews contribute to a larger discussion of changing cultural constructs, gender relations, and effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In the concluding section, we look at the implications of women's empowerment in terms of the effects on men, and identify parities in current research and study.