Repository logo

Burial societies and church groups : exploring the relationship between organizations and poverty in KwaZulu-Natal.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



In South Africa, as in many other developing nations, scholars seek to explain the persistence of poverty and inequality, and to find out enduring responses to overcoming poverty. The contemporary interest in the idea of social capital has focused on the role that local level organizations and associational life may play in poverty alleviation. This study examines the extent to which burial societies and church groups in KwaZulu-Natal help households move out of poverty. In the face of widespread poverty and inequality, are organizations a vehicle which disadvantaged households make use of to help them move out of poverty and prevent them from moving into poverty? This study made use of qualitative data from the Socio Economic Study of the Persistence of Poverty and Inequality (SEPPI). One component of this study interviewed 50 households in the province of KwaZulu-Natal (households which had previously been part of the samples of both the SALDRU study and the KIDS study). One of the aims was to investigate the role that non-economic factors play in household poverty movements. The data was analyzed after being entered by SEPPI researchers into Hyper Research (Copyright © 1999 by Research Ware, Inc.). A literature review of the role of organizations, the relationship between organizations and well-being, the gender dynamics within organizations, the barriers to joining organizations, and the motivations for joining organizations led to the identification of four main research questions for investigation. These related to the impact of organizational membership on ability of households to "get ahead", differences between male and female membership in organizations, reasons for joining organizations, and barriers to joining organizations. The findings suggest that burial societies and church groups help households move out of poverty and prevent households from moving into poverty by providing them with skills, resources, and assistance (financial and emotional). Furthermore, these organizations act as a space where women can acquire leadership skills. However, both burial societies and church groups face problems related to poor management, leadership and discrimination, among other matters. These types of problems within organizations can lead to a negative impact on participating households. Moreover, people with few or no financial resources are excluded from joining organizations that can potentially prevent them from moving into poverty and enable them to "get ahead". Thus, the study indicates that participating in local community organizations can have both positive and negative impacts on households' ability to "get ahead". The limitations of the study relate to sampling limitations, interview conditions, second hand information, authenticity of household interviews, over-researched communities, and investigating motivation for joining organizations. This study suggests the relevance for policy involves issues such as: the need for addressing material barriers faced by those wishing to join local burial organizations, the need to enable poorer people to access legitimate financial institutions, and the need to address the role of women within and outside their communities. The study strongly suggests that studies of social capital should investigate both the way that organizational life can promote well-being as well as the way that poverty itself acts as a barrier to an individual's access to organizations. Both the positive and negative impacts should be explored. Moreover, future research would benefit from exploring men's participation in organizations, combining quantitative and qualitative methods, investigating motivations for joining, and exploring the sustainability of burial societies in the face of HIV/AIDS.


Thesis (M.Dev. Studies)-University of Natal, Durban, 2002.


Burial societies--KwaZulu-Natal., Church group work., Church work with the poor--KwaZulu-Natal., Poverty--KwaZulu-Natal., Theses--Development studies.