"Better homes, better fields, better hearts" : a contextual interpretation of Bernard Huss' model of social transformation and its implications for the Missionaries of Marianhill today.
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This paper argues that a contextual version of Bernard Huss' model of "Better homes, Better fields, Better hearts" can make a positive contribution to poverty alleviation in rural KwaZulu-Natal. The model addresses both the material and non-material aspects of poverty. It seeks to achieve integral human development by empowering the poor, especially women, to be self-reliant. Poverty eradication remains one of the greatest challenges facing South Africa, and analysts concur that it is largely a rural problem. Women who head the majority of rural households are the most affected by poverty which also exposes them to the risk of HIV infection and sexual violence due to their economic dependence on men. Gender equality is a critical aspect which the model seeks to address in order to counter particular cultural injustices which subject the majority of women to male subordination. The model is therefore interpreted in the context of poverty and underdevelopment in rural KwaZulu-Natal and it endeavours to confront the challenges of poverty and unemployment at the grassroots level. It is argued in this paper that women should become the main beneficiaries of the contextual version of the model and begin to participate fully in decision-making in respect of the strategies to alleviate poverty in rural areas. The model recognizes the agency of the poor as an imperative factor in the development praxis and discourse, for this reason it is a pro-poor approach. It is also argued in this paper that the Missionaries of Mariannhill should revive the model and use it in their mission work in rural communities of KwaZulu-Natal. The model has the capacity to broaden the scope of mission work and address both the material and non-material aspects of poverty. It provides a practical response to the Christian commitment to assist the poor in the endeavour to alleviate poverty and mitigate the impact of the HIV and AIDS epidemic in rural communities.