Economic Democracy in South Africa: Women at the Grassroots

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 4:30 PM
Room: 413
Distributed Paper
Michelle WILLIAMS , University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Berit AASEN , Norwegian Inst Urban & Regional Res, Norway
In this paper we explore the ways in which women are creating spaces for economic and political participation in South Africa.  The post-apartheid South African Constitution has been hailed as one of the most progressive constitutions in the world with its entrenchment of socio-economic rights and recognition of equality along various cleavages such as gender, race, and sexual orientation.  There are myriad policies and legislation entrenching women’s rights.  Despite the conducive policy environment, the state has not created spaces for women’s participation at local levels.  Nevertheless, women are creating their own spaces of political and economic participation, linking up with the state when and where it is possible, and forging ahead when it is not possible to link with the state.  In this paper, we look at a township north of Johannesburg and a rural area in the Eastern Cape to see the ways in which are creating and engaging economic production within their communities.  Are these simply survivalist strategies or do they represent an emergent alternative that is rooted in economic equality and social justice?  Are they practicing economic democracy? What role has the state played in this process?