Local economic development and rural women: a case study of the Vulindlela Region, KwaZulu-Natal.
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In South Africa, almost half of rural households are headed by females even though they are the most disadvantaged and poorest sector of the population. In light of this, it is critical for rural women to be empowered economically in order to sustain their households. This study focused on local economic development opportunities for rural women as a strategic intervention for creating income generating activities in order to help them sustain their livelihoods, as well as to support their households. Local economic development is essentially about building up the economic capacity of a local area and can only thrive in a climate that is conducive for growth and development. Local government plays a pivotal role in fostering a climate that is conducive for local economic development to thrive. The study was conducted in Vulindlela, a rural district within the Msunduzi Municipality, in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Vulindlela, like any other rural area in South Africa, is characterized by extreme poverty, lack of basic infrastructure and a significantly high level of unemployment. The objective of the study was to establish the perceptions that the women of Vulindlela have, with regard to accessing local economic development opportunities. The research was quantitative in nature. Quantitative data was collected using a structured questionnaire with open ended-questions such as, “other” or “comments” at the end of each question, in order to solicit in-depth information. The research sample was drawn using non-probable, convenience sampling. The female respondents in this study indicated that they encounter numerous challenges in their endeavor to access local economic opportunities. Furthermore, the study results reveal that women do not have the same opportunities as men. Finally, driven by a wide scope of stakeholder interest, this dissertation recommends the implementation of a gender responsive budget and investment in infrastructure, meaningful execution of gender sensitive programmes such as affording women an equal opportunity to participate in local economic development initiatives.