Research and capacity building for communities of people on genders and sexualities, human rights, justice & peace.
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Women’s Community and Backyard Gardens around Cape Town


Given over 300 years of patriarchy and economic inequality in South Africa, our people have largely internalised these (negative) values. This is reflected in leadership structures, which are all male dominated. Women appear to hold less value in communities, are subjected to excessive levels of gender violence, and do not have access to claim their basic human rights. Developing women’s leadership could be a 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 embarks on strategic interventions in the Cape Town area that are four-fold:

  1. To build capacity of women in communities generally. Further to develop female leadership in communities. The areas of capacitation include sexual and reproductive health and rights and HIV/AIDS, as well as combating gender-based violence;
  2. To support sustainable economic development, specifically food security, through the establishment of community and backyard gardens, and hence the direct provision of vegetables, fruit, herbs and plants for sharing and perhaps even resale to markets;
  3. To produce an accessible booklet that will help other communities, organizations and individuals to establish community and backyard gardens anywhere;
  4. To document stories of women’s strength and power, and women’s contribution, to our nation’s and continent’s narrative history.


This project will use the following approach to reach its goals:

Food Security
We know the communities we target suffer high rates of unemployment and poverty, and hence we cannot expect participants to work on empty stomachs. So we will have the community prepare simple lunches each day, which can be enjoyed communally, further increasing community and project bonding, and offering further spaces for capacity building and other forms of empowerment (such as ongoing mentoring of community leaders and others, as well as conflict resolution, for example).

Environment Sustainability
This project works towards rebuilding community bonds severed through three centuries of brutal colonisation. Young indigenous trees, for example, will be sourced from indigenous communities, such as that in Kluitjieskraal near Ceres, where they maintain a native nursery. The gardens will contain a seedling section, where the community can observe a tree emerging from a seed. This is particularly important for young children (and adults who are young at heart!), who can then witness the creation of life, and so restore respect for the value and creation of life. The critical issue of water conservation, and recycling of water (e.g. ‘grey water’ used for irrigation), will be addressed with communities. Especially children will learn to take joy in using their used bath water to water their garden. So too particularly community children will be taught to create compost heaps and other indigenous composting systems for natural fertiliser for the gardens. The projects will sustain life, be transformative and growthful, and be fun.

Ownership and Responsibility
Each family unit, with many headed by women only, will be encouraged to take ownership of aspects of the project. For example, simple tools such as spades and a wheelbarrow, will be shared among the women gardeners, and they will be required to take responsibility for the tools, while sharing these tools equitably. This encourages people to return to their indigenous roots of collective ownership and responsibility, and to move beyond the harsh neo-liberal economic climate in which unemployment, high crime and gender violence rates, and a lack of social welfare, persists.

Collaboration and Partnership
Engender now works with women in Village Heights, an informal settlement near Muizenberg, as well as the townships of Atlantis and the Farm in Mitchells Plain. From these initial areas, we can expand and replicate in any area across the province, the country, and the region, as requested by community women leaders, and given available resources.



We anticipate directly reaching at least 180 women in 3 communities (around Cape Town, South Africa). These direct participants in our project will in turn impact on their immediate families and friends, and their communities more generally. The documentation we produce during the project, as well as the “Women doing it for Ourselves: How To Food Garden” booklet, will in turn impact on an even greater number of people with an even greater geographic reach than the actual communities we work with. Hence the impacts of this project will reach thousands of people ultimately. This expectation has been evident in our previous projects.




In life, each person can take one of two attitudes: to build or to plant.

The builders might take years over their tasks, but one day, they finish what they’re doing.

Then they find they’re hemmed in by their own walls. Life loses its meaning when the building stops.

Then there are those who plant. They endure storms and all the many vicissitudes of the seasons, and they rarely rest.

But, unlike a building, a garden never stops growing.

And while it requires the gardener’s constant attention, it also allows life for the gardener to be a great adventure.

Gardeners always recognise each other, because they know that in the history of each plant lies the growth of the whole World.

Brida, Paolo Coelho




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