South Africa: Philanthropy and Civil Society in SA - Confronting the 'Patriarchy Machine' (I)


While transformation along racial lines has been accelerated in many NGOs, transformation along gender and sexual orientation lines has - not unexpectedly - come up against the 'patriarchy machine'.

Part 1: Patriarchy

A few years ago, after spending considerable time working in the social justice and public interest litigation field, and some time in government as a ministerial special adviser, I decided to pursue a journey in philanthropy. I was given the privilege of heading an important, rights-based, global philanthropic foundation in South Africa. I did so for six years. Having spent most of my social justice life rooted in activism, this presented an opportunity to weave activism deliberatively into philanthropy and try to address long-standing issues of transformation in civil society.

When I first took over at the foundation, edging towards 20 years of democracy in post-apartheid South Africa, the general racial and gender landscape of civil society organisations including those supported by donor foundations in both urban and rural settings looked and felt very different to the demographic realities of the country: it was largely white male and white female-dominated, and mostly men occupied critical leadership and decision making positions. This is and was true even among key...

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