Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women


Pictures Courtesy of The African Cultural Heritage Trust (ACHT) / Zindala Zombili

Program Summary:

Men and women have deeply unequal roles in Sub-Saharan Africa, deeply entrenched in language and in the way men and women are moulded within our society. Our African culture has to be preserved but cannot be left unquestioned especially in areas where it threatens life. We have to continue to be Africans but our children must be born to live, they cannot be born to die.” Graça Machel

The Ubuntu Institute gender equality and women empowerment programme seeks to address the vulnerability of young girls and women to HIV/AIDS, poverty, gender based violence, etc. The focus of the programme is on the intersection of culture and the empowerment of women.


Using a cultural and values based approach to address the vulnerability of young girls and women to HIV/AIDS, poverty, gender based violence, etc in Southern Africa. Working with a broad range of cultural and traditional leadership structures, we seek to drive behavior change at three different levels: (a) community- social norms and contexts (b) individual- knowledge, behaviors and attitudes (c) structural factors- leadership, policy, infrastructure.


Driven by our strategy, Ubuntu will carry out the following specific activities:

Strategy 2.1: Coordinating female traditional leaders. Female traditional leaders include those in formal traditional leadership structures (ruling over a community) and the wives of current traditional leaders, queens and princesses. A regional network of women in traditional leadership structures will be created to advocate for the rights of women (structural issues), promoting education and sharing indigenous best practices on how to fight HIV/AIDS, poverty, lack of access to education and environmental degradation (individual targets) and community dialogues (to deal with social norms and contexts).

Strategy 2.2: Capacity Building of women in traditional leadership structures. Female traditional leaders need to be properly capacitated to better respond to issues of HIV/AIDS, poverty, environmental sustainability, educational access and access to economic opportunities. The Ubuntu HIV/AIDS programme will ensure that the female traditional leaders are provided with toolkits and materials (dealing with HIV/AIDS, poverty, gender based violence, STH, etc) and also trained in management systems, operations, communications, advocacy skills, financial management, etc.

Strategy 2.3: Education and Awareness - Female traditional leaders will promote Intergenerational dialogues with young girls dealing with topics such as transactional sex, teaching sexual reproductive health (SRH) issues, life skills education, economic empowerment, education access, prevention of pregnancy, MCP, self-efficacy and negotiation skills to name a few. Education targeted at young boys      (elder traditional male leaders) to compliment the female education will be conducted so that the men are also aware of issues impacting women and clearly see the role they can play in addressing these issues.

Strategy 2.4: Advocacy -supporting the role of women and their rights in addressing HIV/AIDS and vulnerabilities of women in the SADC region.

Strategy 2.5: Research - Ongoing research needs to be done on the role of culture and how it impacts women in traditional societies. Issues around customary law and the role of women in African culture need to be further explored. The Ubuntu programme will also use the research for developing evidence-based solutions and for measuring and evaluation of our programming on an ongoing basis.

In many rural societies of developing countries, women carry the burden of farm labor and on-farm transport; they arrange for household energy (mostly firewood) and water… Furthermore, women, as mothers, grandmothers, wives, sisters, or daughters, often represent the first line of health care, prepare meals for the family, convey values, and provide the first role models for behavior.” Dr Mamphele Ramphele (World Bank IKS Book, Local Pathways to Global Development/Women’s indigenous knowledge, 2004)