Self-help economic empowerment amongst women in Blaauwbosch, KwaZulu-Natal.
Zondo, Nonkululeko Melody.
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The end of poverty can only be achieved by adopting a holistic approach to poverty reduction that will not only focus on the income or monetary dimensions of poverty, but also address other dimensions of poverty such as inequality, access to basic services and unemployment. South African literature has demonstrated that studies on poverty in post-apartheid South Africa have paid little attention to the gendered dimensions of poverty (Posel & Rogan, 2012). Literature reviewed in this study suggested that the severity of poverty is significantly higher amongst women living in rural areas. Women are still deprived of access to basic resources and opportunities for their well-being, as a result, they have taken it upon themselves to create their own opportunities by participating in self-initiated income-generating projects through the use of indigenous knowledge, skills, social ties and natural resources. The aim of the study was to explore the impact of self-help economic empowerment in poverty alleviation amongst women in Blaauwbosch, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). Case studies which focused on women’s participation in three income-generating projects were carried out. These three projects were: the Vuka Uzenzele Gardening Project, the Asiphelele Stokvel Group and the Blaauwbosch Craftwork Club. The study adopted a qualitative research approach with the use of focus groups, participant observation and in-depth interviews. Findings of the study reveal that despite minimal income gains from the projects, participant’s participation in the income-generating projects has improved their household income and their living standards. Findings also indicated that participation in these projects has improved women’s self-confidence and their ability to engage in decision-making processes that involves economic development within their communities. Projects such as the Vuka Uzenzele Gardening Project and Blaauwbosch Craftwork Club have not only benefited the members but they have contributed positively to the local economy. Women expressed various challenges that they have encountered in their projects including limited access to resources such as water and land, other challenges involved lack of youth participation, poor commitment and lack of recognition from the Government.