Women's participation in housing delivery in South Africa : the extent of empowerment in post-1994 era, with specific reference to case studies in KwaZulu-Natal.
This study, Women's participation in housing delivery in South Africa: the extent of empowerment in post 1994 era, with specific reference to case studies in KwciZulu-Natal, begins with the premise that post-apartheid housing policies, compared to those of the apartheid era, have provided women with greater access to housing. In 1994 the housing backlog was estimated to be about 3.5 million units, with the majority of those in need of shelter being African women. This backlog was due to past policies that largely excluded women from ownership and access to capital or resources to build formal housing. The changes wrought by the democratic dispensation, such as constitutional provision for gender equality, promised women greater participation in the social , political and economic spheres of the country. The recognition of gender equality and housing as rights protected within the constitution was reinforced by pronouncements in various policy documents, such as the housing White Paper that underlined the need for women's involvement in shelter development. The aims of this study are to examine women's participation in housing delivery and to assess the extent of empowerment arising from their involvement in post-1994 housing development. The emphasis in this study on empowerment arises from the fact that housing development.is set within a participatory and empowerment paradigm in the current housing policy. The study discusses participation in "shelter" as embodied in notions of self-help and as appl ied by implementing agencies such as the World Bank, local government municipals and non-governmental organisations. The analysis indicates that to understand women's role in the housing process, there is a need to move beyond the project approach used by implementing agencies, to a multi-relational approach that focuses on the relationships, processes, and levels of involvement at the implementation and post-implementation stages. The scope of empirical material is confined to KwaZuluNatal , although South African national past and present policy is analysed in the earl y chapters. The question this study raises is whether women will be able to make substantial improvements to the core structure provided through the subsidy, due to their weak economic position. Through a gender analysis of the participation process, the study sheds light on women's roles and examines the extent to which women, in particular, have been empowered. Both qualitative and quantitative research instruments were employed to gather data on women's involvement in housing development in the KwaZulu-Natal region chosen for the case studies. The specific areas studied were Nthutukoville, Glenwood II and Thembalihle in Pietermaritzburg and Luganda and Ezilweleni in Durban. The findings of this study show that women were involved at various levels in the housing delivery process and at varying degrees. The findings of this study yielded different levels of participation which were taken to be indicators of the level of empowerment. These were for instance, decision-making, implementation, post-implementation activities and small business development. In all the areas studied, all the top leadership positions were held by men; in the lower levels the gender representation was equal. In two areas, women played a central role in decision-making and this appears to have been influenced by the high level of consultation with the community. In three areas, women played a marginal role in decision-making, an issue that appears to have been influenced by their roles in the household as well as the influence of the local authorities in the projects. In all the areas except one, women held their stereotypical position of secretary. Where they held the position of treasurer, it was based on the stereotypical notion that they were more trustworthy in money matters than men. The representation of women in decision-making did not challenge the gender ideology that entrenches their subordination, an area that has to be addressed in housing projects if women are to take control of their lives. Few women compared to men were trained in construction. The reasons for this point to both a strong male bias as well as societal attitudes about gender roles in society. Both men and women learnt skills such as plumbing, plastering, and painting, on the job through their involvement in providing labour. The role of women in housing delivery extended to the post-implementation level where they were involved in urban greening and microenterprises. Women were also involved in the production and distribution of bricks in three communities but they did not benefit from selling to the subsidy beneficiaries, a situation that calls for government support of their activities through the awarding of supply contracts. The elements of these indicators point to the level of women's empowerment as shown in the areas studied. These indicators combined to form what this study refers to as the multi-relational linkages approach to women's participation in shelter delivery. Although various factors are shown to constrain women's involvement at the different levels, the model highlights the role of women and the sustainability of their empowerment as well as the gaps, and points to ways in which these can be addressed. This study therefore recommends the adoption of the multi-relational linkages approach in understanding women's empowerment in shelter delivery and future policy framing . The conclusion argues that women's participation in shelter development cannot be understood by examining their role in one aspect of delivery; the role of women in various aspects is what constitutes their empowerment.