Reclaiming Indigenous Women’s Power in Southern Africa: the Khoisan
In Southern Africa the Khoisan (or Bushman) face similar challenges to other First Nations people elsewhere: excessively high rates of gender violence, substance abuse (especially alcoholism), poverty, unemployment, high rates of HIV&AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and other health and social issues. In Southern Africa specifically, there are high rates of infant and child rape specifically, as well as other forms of gender violence, such as rape and domestic violence.
Today decision making and leadership structures in the Khoisan communities are dominated by men and reflect the internalised values of over 300 years of patriarchy and economic inequality. The existing male dominated decision making and leadership structures often lack management and financial skills. Funds being given specifically to support these communities are frequently misappropriated and fail to contribute to development in general, and to improve the structural conditions of children and women specifically.
Women do not have the necessary access to claim their basic human rights. Increasing the capacity of Khoisan women’s participation in decision making and in leadership would be a significant first step towards broader community development, as well as to transform leadership structures to be gender representative, as well as more accountable and transparent.
This project proposes, in close consultation with local Khoisan communities, to embark on strategic interventions that are two-fold:
(1) To develop female participation and leadership through capacity building and empowerment which is built on indigenous knowledge systems reflecting values of participation, gender equity, respect, non-violence and consensus building.
(2) To provide groundbreaking documentation of the contribution of women to the collective narrative history of the Khoisan and to produce an accessible publication. This can be used by especially community members and policy makers to effect meaningful policy and structural changes.
Phase 1: Research and Capacity Building
Timeline: February 2007 – December 2007
This phase will focus on strategic interventions in the following areas:
Gender and the development of women’s leadership, addressing Gender Violence, Human Rights, HIV&AIDS and other identified community issues. This will take the form of focus groups and workshops, developed in close consultation with local communities.
Phase 2: Documentation and Advocacy
Timeline: January 2008 - December 2008
This phase will entail recording women’s narratives of their own participation, contribution and strengths. This will serve as a positive model to empower women and girls specifically, and communities in general, to reclaim their own power and rights, and significantly develop women’s leadership and position as powerful role-models. These narratives will be recorded in the focus groups and workshops held, as well as through individual interviews with especially senior or elder Khoisan women.
Advocacy is a critical part of the entire project. Planned exchanges of information, following the initial project, will benefit many different communities through cross-cultural and other forms of communication. Indigenous communities in the three separate nation-states will be encouraged and supported to hold large gatherings together and engage in various exchanges, and be supported to improve dialogues with their respective governments.