Hear Our Voices: Participatory Video Project and ICT Training for Rural Women's Empowerment and Capacity-Building

Hear Our Voices: Participatory Video Project and ICT Training for Rural Women's Empowerment and Capacity-Building

South Africa
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

This bilateral project will begin with a community participatory video. The PV will create space and dialogue for the community to flag and take responsibility for issues affecting them, creating transformative change. Within the PV project, 10 women will be elected from 5 communities in KZN to undergo ICT training. The women will learn to be ICT trainers and implement a PV for their communities

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Our communities are undermined and overwhelmed by a confluence of factors: unemployment, poverty, skewed and unequal education, and disenfranchisement. The national government is largely absent from the rural areas, with the exception of election season. And outside of the traditional leaders, the average citizen does not feel advocated for. While the South African constitution is one of the most progressive in the world, rural communities are largely unaware of its existence. This vacuum affects rural women particularly hard. In many communities, there is not safety net, particularly for women. Existing cultural systems and legacies of the apartheid have created a reality where a woman is left bereft. Women are barred from owning, inheriting, and accessing land and property so they are often lacking any access to capital. Women are excluded from decision-making and governing bodies within the communities. This oppression has artificially limited both women's and communities' development and capacity and solidified inter-generational poverty.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

This project will be a bilateral endeavor between the Rural Women's Movement and Insight Share. The project will take place in rural KwaZulu Natal, where 50% of the population lives below the poverty line, while suffering from some of the highest gender-based violence and HIV/AIDS infections rates in South Africa. Women, particularly rural women are actively discriminated against on a local level, denied access to land, property, and social capital. Their voices and opinions go unheard. What makes this project unique is its intersection between women's rights, community empowerment and capacity building, within the framework of participatory video and ICT training. For this, ten women will be elected from five communities working with RWM to take part in the PV project, while learning valuable ICT skills and gaining the ability to become trainers and project leaders for their own communities. To be selected for this project, the women must agree to share this knowledge with their communities and implement PV projects upon graduating. From the beginning, the women will be given complete autonomy, deciding which issues they want to cover and whether they want to show the film publicly. The women will be the drivers of the project, and together with the other participants, will be trained on the use of camera and film, editing, proper documentation, interviewing, and knowledge and use of core computer programs. When the preliminary PV project is completed, the women will be left with a set of empowering, income-generating skills to improve their own lives and communities.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

KwaZulu Natal, the home of RWM, is one of the poorest provinces in South Africa. About 50% of the rural population lives below the poverty, with some rural areas estimated to have an unemployment rate as high as 85%. This, in conjecture with one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS infection and gender-based violence rates has crippled communities, particularly women. Research has shown that every six days, a woman is murdered by her lover or spouse (Vetten 1996) (Wilson & 1993) (Campbell et el 2003) (South African Demographic and Health Survey 1998). By all accounts, gender-based violence is increasing around the country, but especially in KwaZulu Natal. The communities RWM works with are faced with a complex reality. Traditional cultural institutions and poverty, in conjecture with flagrant gender-discrimination, has made it impossible for women to access any form of social capital and civil rights. It is estimated that across South Africa, female-headed households number around 30%, however, in many communities, rural women are prevented from owning and inheriting land and property, and excluded from local governing bodies and decision-making. Within this context, exists the epidemic of HIV/AIDS, which has crippled many communities and households capacity for improving their livelihoods and exiting the cycle of poverty. This participatory video project is a community endeavor led by local women. Women are at the forefront, with all decision-making lying in their hands. They have the power to choose the subjects of the project and who will be allowed to see any footage they produce. The project will culminate in a sense of empowerment, a safe space for dialogue and critical thinking, an improved capacity to develop themselves and their livelihoods, and a valuable set of income-generating skills that can be shared with others. Any film they produce will also serve to provide tangible evidence to lobby government and help create positive change.
About You
Rural Women's Movement
Visit website
Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name


Section 2: About Your Organization
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Organization Name

Rural Women's Movement

Organization Phone

+27 36 579 4559

Organization Address

PO Box 1326, Hilton

Organization Country

, KN

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, KN

Do you have a patent for this idea?


In conjecture with this project, RWM is working on a series of issues involving women's civil rights in the framework of HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence. In order to create sustainable change, this project can not be left on its own, but must be implemented in partnership with other projects. Currently, RWM is enabling and encouraging women to participate in local governance and decision making, lobbying government and authorities for policies that are informed by poor rural women's experiences, and educating women and communities about their independent rights to land and property.
Within the framework of the project, RWM and InSight Share have begun outlining the project trajectory, have already contacted women from the communities, and begun acquiring necessary materials. Simultaneously, RWM is strengthening relationships with the participating communities through daily communication, and onsite workshops and dialogue to flag and discuss issues with key members of the community, men and women.
The project's success is related an array of factors. Trust, open and effective communication, and complete community design and involvement are at the forefront of this success.


In the short term, this project will provide a safe space for community members, particularly women, to voice their thoughts and opinions.
Within the first year, the ten women will return to their communities to begin implementing their own pv projects. After three months, RWM and InSight Share will visit the participants to look at progress and offer any assistance or guidance. These onsite reviews will be conducted again in six months. At the end of the first year, the ten participants come together to share and critique their finished work. Any resulting films will be sent to local, regional, and national government at the behest of the community participants. The following year, 10 new communities with 20 new participants will join the project.
Long-term change will be seen in the evolution of attitudes and policy. Currently women in KZN own less than 1% of the land. This project will be crucial in lobbying the government and increasing awareness.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$50 - 100

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?


If so, how?

The national government is absent in rural communities, appearing to be unaware and unconcerned with the issues these communities currently face, particularly those of rural women. With traditional leaders and politicians like Mandla Mandela publicly denouncing women’s rights as “westernization”, claiming domestic violence is not an issue, and that girls are born to be married, it is difficult to address these discrepancies. With regards to public policy, this project is beneficial in two ways. It can directly influence policy with any resulting films and media. These films provide tangible evidence, giving a face and voice to the challenges we are discussing. Indirectly, the project serves to empower communities, particularly women, to address and tackle the issues affecting them, becoming active participants and leaders in their community, and giving them a set of valuable skills to improve their lives and those of their communities. These capacity-building and income-generating skills are not limited to only the primary participants, but can be disseminated across family and community boundaries.
Changes in attitudes can be difficult to measure, but one of the best indicators, and one RWM has had a lot of success with, is changes at the local government level. On the national stage, the policies that ensure women’s rights already exist. But as one moves from a national to local level, the vacuum left by the national government is keenly felt. These policies and their influence begin to disappear from the public psyche. It’s not merely a matter of local leaders ignoring policy so much as being unaware of its existence.

What stage is your project in?

Idea phase

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?


Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your innovation.

RWM is a grassroots organization, making our relationships with our sister organizations and partners crucial to the success and sustainability of our projects. The limitations of one are addressed by another organization while our mutual strengths are supplemented. Projects that are integrated and address the complex intersections of issues require time, energy, resources and dedication. This is best served with the participation of several different organizations. For example, RWM is currently in partnership with the Center for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, working on a gender-based violence program, laying the foundation for the proposed PV and ICT project. Within this project, RWM’s partnership with InSight Share will be both mutual and supplementary. RWM’s access to networking and community organization will work in tandem with InSight Share’s technical skills and experience. In conjecture with these professional partnerships, RWM also views our relationships with communities and participants to be partnerships, based on a foundation of equality, trust, and communication.

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

As an organization, the Rural Women's Movement is a recipient of grant and in kind donations. The annual budget for 2009-2010 was R1,778,000 with approximately 70% of the budget being comprised of grant donations and 30% of the budget comprised of in kind donations. The Firelight Foundation, the American Jewish World Service, Mama Cash, and the Huairou Commission are currently RWM's largest grant supporters. RWM's partnerships and in kind contributions are mainly supported by the Legal Resources Center, SA and the Land Access Movement of South Africa.
The international economic crisis hit RWM very hard – RWM has lost more than fifty percent of its original budget. This is not unique to the Rural Women's Movement, but is being felt by gender rights groups all over the world. With regards to RWM and our constrained budget, our organization lost a wonderful leader in our Deputy Director, Ms Thandi Ngcobo, and have since, we have not been able to replace her position because of our financial situation.
As a result, in order to adapt to these changes, RWM has begun strengthening existing partnerships and developing new ones, leading to requesting our sister organizations and universities to offer their services in kind, resulting in a growing international volunteer base. We have built a strong working relationship with the following universities: Michigan State University, University of California, Davis, Harvard Law School.
At the end of 2010, RWM has received 43 international volunteers working with RWM and in 2011 we are expecting 66 international volunteers mainly from UC Davis and Michigan State Universities. At local and community level, RWM works with 450 volunteers and 300 of who are Home Based Caregivers.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

In 1992, while working as director of the KZN province for South African Women’s Association, it became very apparent to RWM’s director, Sizani Ngubane, that there was a large discrepancy between the public visibility of men and women. Policies and public narratives were being informed only by the experiences of men. Women’s experiences, thoughts, beliefs and customs, were not being documented and thus increasingly under or misrepresented and threatened. Unfortunately at the time, Sizani was not able to begin implementing her dream of a women-driven documentary collaboration, and the project had to wait until 2007.
Beginning 2007, RWM began experimenting with documentaries and photo voice collaborations with several allies, most notably University of California Davis. These projects centered around third party documentation of rural women’s experiences. However, these collaborations have empowered our organization to take that final step and begin planning a participatory video project that provides both sustainability and longevity in its product and support.
In May of 2010, Sizani was connected with the organization InSight Share, well known in South Africa for their successful participatory video projects. Over several meetings, the mutual beliefs of respect and community empowerment were realized between RWM and InSight Share, and Sizani’s dream began to take tangible shape.
Like RWM, when InSight Share enters a community, the organization does not come with an agenda. It is up to the community to inform and shape the project. Here is a direct quote from Neville Meyer of InSight Share during one of RWM and InSight Share's meetings: “All we do is to facilitate, we might not even end up with a film. We could just be facilitating dialogue, but this is what builds energy and momentum.”
The first several days of the project are spent experimenting with the camera, which is then followed by an in depth process of deciding what the specific subjects of the film will be. This is followed by a selection and debate process about what subjects will make the biggest impact and shift in our community.
RWM and InSight Share are incredibly excited about this proposed project and we mutually feel that this project will have long-lasting, positive impacts on the communities involved, expanding year after year and helping to empower others.

Tell us about the social innovator—the person—behind this idea.

Sizani Ngubane is the founder and director of the Rural Women's Movement. She has been an activist in women's rights for over forty years, and her passion for social advocacy began as a young woman. As a Zulu speaking woman, she grew up in the rural areas just outside Pietermaritzburg, KZN. Due to her family's financial situation, she was unable to complete High School, but made it a priority to educate herself. She used her self-education and determination to become and advocate for herself and others. Her skills and abilities were recognized when she was appointed as the first organizer in the Northern Natal Region by the African National Congress (ANC). She followed her work with the ANC and the liberation movement, working as a gender specialist for the Association for Rural Advancement in KwaZulu Natal. Serving as the organizational director for KwaZulu Natal, Sizani received exemplary honors for her work on rural women's issues with the National Women's Commission.
Since her days with the ANC, Sizani had dreamt of creating a rural women's advocacy organization, a network where women from all over the country could share experiences, expertise, aid, and support for their sisters. In 1998, she was finally able to accomplish this dream and initiated the Rural Women's Movement with 250 rural women of KwaZulu Natal. For the past ten years, Sizani has dedicated her life to the empowerment improvement of women's rights both in regionally, nationally, and internationally. She has appeared numerous times before South Africa's Parliament to inform and lobby the government on women's rights and issues. Sizani has also been invited to speak at several UN Conferences on the Status of Women and lectured internationally on the apartheid and women's rights in South Africa.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Newsletter from Changemakers

If through another source, please provide the information.

Approximately 50 words left (400 characters).

Which (if any) of the following strategies apply to your organization or company (check as many as apply)

Policy advocacy to strengthen property rights or increase security of tenure, Formalizing and documenting property rights (i.e. titling, leasing or certification), Legal education and awareness, Developing/applying technology for surveying, mapping and documenting property rights.

Please explain how your work furthers one or many of the above strategies (if you selected “other”, please explain your strategy)

RWM's mission is to advocate and improve women's independent land, property, and civil rights while adressing HIV/AIDS and gender-based violence. Within this framework, RWM encourages and enables women to participate in local governance, lobbies the government and authorities for policies that are informed by rural women, and educate women on land, property and civil rights.