A Powerful Force for Gender Equity in South Africa

Lindelwe (far left) and Rise Up staff with South Africa Leaders

By Lindelwe Mapurisa, Rise Up Project Coordinator, South Africa

Rise Up Project Coordinator Lindelwe Mapurisa reflects on the Advocacy and Accelerator workshop for the first cohort of Rise Up Leaders from South Africa.

In February, Rise Up launched our first Gender Equity Initiative in South Africa with a week-long Advocacy and Leadership Accelerator workshop in Pretoria. We selected twenty-two local leaders from Gauteng and KwaZulu Natal Provinces through a very competitive process to take part in this training and become Rise Up Leaders. These new Rise Up Leaders work on a wide range of issues including preventing gender-based violence, protecting prisoners’ rights, advancing women in STEM, addressing climate change, promoting civic education, and reducing discrimination against LGBTQI populations.

The Accelerator strengthened the leaders’ capacity to address one of the biggest barriers to development: gender inequality. They took part in intensive and participatory sessions including self-care for advocates, designing an advocacy strategy, media advocacy, monitoring and evaluation, and building alliances and networks. They also heard from representatives from the Joint Gender Fund, Cummins Inc, and the National Development Agency who shared opportunities and advice. The diverse backgrounds, experiences, and skills of these leaders fueled networking and the sharing of best practices.

During the Accelerator, the leaders also discussed that while South Africa has made great strides developing legislation around gender equity, the implementation has been sporadic and not well coordinated, due to systemic issues within state institutions that uphold patriarchal cultural norms and discriminatory practices against women and girls. In the face of these challenges, the leaders resolved to use the skills they learned in the workshop to advocate and work together to better implement current legislation and create new policies to advance the rights of girls and women. 

Overall, the Accelerator helped the leaders shape their work and understand the need to address the root causes of the challenges they face in their communities. One leader shared that she thought she was doing advocacy work before, but the workshop helped her realize that she was not achieving the impact she was hoping for because she was actually delivering services rather than advocating. The lessons she learned in the Accelerator will help her build strategic alliances and refine her organizational strategy to embrace advocacy to achieve a greater impact and enable more girls and women to drive change.

This first cohort of Rise Up Leaders in South Africa came together as strangers and left as a powerful collective force for gender equity who will amplify the voices of women and girls in their communities. 

Lindelwe (second from left) with Rise Up staff and trainers at the Advocacy and Accelerator workshop in South Africa