Lydia Ngwenya

Ashoka Fellow
South Africa,
Fellow Since 1992
The Rural Women`s Movement

Citation

This profile was prepared when Lydia Ngwenya was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1992.
The New Idea
Lydia conceived the idea to organize a national rural women's structure while a field worker at the Transvaal Rural Action Committee, a rural development service organization that provides legal, organizational, and publicity assistance to communities facing forced removal from their land. Lydia gradually developed an approach that organizes rural women around both practical and strategic gender issues.
Lydia begins by creating a separate context for rural women to discuss, question and tackle deeply sensitive issues of gender and power in rural African communities. Through consciousness raising and early collective work and successes, Lydia builds a liberating sense of empowerment among rural women. As they begin to assert themselves, she helps them succeed in community struggles, each success enhancing the women's capacity to assert their own identities, needs and potentials. Lydia works to strengthen women both individually and in their alliances, both with one another and with young people and other possible allies.
Lydia's most critical impact has been to win a seat at the decision-making table for rural women -- in the family and in the previously all male village kgotlas (councils). Having a voice at these levels fosters skill-building, self-confidence, and expectations that makes the next step, winning a national voice, almost inevitable. It also leads directly to greater access to resources and economic opportunity - and therefore to securely based independence.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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