Gender Democracy


Claiming back the F Word: Feminism and Women’s Glossy Magazines

Women’s magazines have long faced critique for their often narrow and conceptualized portrayal of women and the impact that this has on the consumer. A study conducted in America for example found that reading a women’s magazine for merely three minutes negatively affected the self-worth and self-esteem of 70% of women who participated in the study. In this paper, feminist researcher Joy Watson and Heinrich Böll Foundation Programme Manager, Claudia Lopes explore some of the ways in which women’s glossy magazines depict harmful messages and images that detract from eradicating gender inequity while also bringing to the fore some of the ways in which magazines have empowered and helped women re-define themselves over different periods in time.

By Joy Watson, Claudia Lopes

Sexual Violence: Voices From the Ground

Since June 2015, activists from community based organisation the Unemployed People's Movement (UPM) have began a capacity building programme that includes research into and writing about the most pressing problems facing impoverished communities in Grahamstown and surrounds.  'But Still We Rise'  is their first report from this process, and exposes the daily realities of violence faced by women across South Africa. The report is the creation of Siyasanga Bentele, Linda Gagayi, Siyamthanda Dyanti, Unathi Class and Ayanda Kota.

The Cost of Not Responding to Community Concerns

Following the death of Anene Booysen in February 2013, the Heinrich Boll Foundation undertook a study to examine the response from government, the media and society to the death of Anene. This study entailed conversations with community activists. A key finding of the study was that the statistics on rape and violence against women and girls do not paint a complete picture of the extent of gender-based violence in the area.

By Joy Watson

Sexualised Violence in the National Debate: Cross Border Observations on India and South Africa

This publication documents an exchange project undertaken by the India and South Africa offices of the Heinrich Böll Foundation on sexual violence between 2013 and 2015. The project sought to analyse and raise debates on what drives and sustains sexual violence against women in these two countries and to determine whether strategies to prevent and redress this are working. A documentary based on the project is also available for viewing.

Do Elections in Zimbabwe Favour the Rural Woman?


This report is a follow-up to the preliminary report produced by the Women’s Trust (TWT) and the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) in early 2014 on the effectiveness of the SiMuka! Zimbabwe, Woman, Get Counted! Register to Vote! in getting women to register to vote and to vote. This report goes further to note that whilst it is encouraging to see women turn out to vote in elections, and even more gratifying to see that the turn out can be strongly increased by woman to woman advocacy, there is always need to conduct a reality check on the actual process of the election and its outcome. This report investigates whether what happened before, during and after the elections affects women’s views of the elections and whether this differs for women in urban areas as for women in rural areas.

Hard Questions as Another '16 days' Comes Around

Claudia Lopes, Programme Manager at the Heinrich Böll Foundation reports on the recent rape, torture and death of 3-year old Jamie Naidoo and questions state funding to social welfare organisations and the long-term impact of the 16 Days of Activism on No Violence against Women and Children.

By Claudia Lopes

Cross-Border Observations on Rape in India and South Africa

Sexualised Violence in the National Debate: Cross-border observations from India and South Africa is a joint project between the South Africa and the India offices of the Heinrich Böll Foundation. The learning exchange project produced two comparative studies which analysed the political, media and community responses to the rape and murder’s of Anene Booysen in South Africa and Jyoti Singh Pandey in India. Considering that levels of violence against women are high in both countries, but either widely ignored or taken as normalcy, what were the dynamics and specific factors and circumstances that propelled them into national and international prominence and can unpacking this influence the development of enhanced strategies to tackling endemic violence against women?

By Claudia Lopes

Analysis: What Can South Africa Learn from India’s Response to Sexual Violence?

South Africa and its fellow-BRICS member India may share many positive traits, including economic growth potential and regional leadership status, but also some more negative characteristics: high levels of inequality and high levels of violence against women, to name two (not unconnected). Within months of each other, over late 2012/early 2013, India and South Africa both experienced the nation-rocking rape and murder of a young woman: the Indian medical student Jyoti Singh Pandey, and the Bredasdorp teenager Anene Booysen. But social and political responses differed greatly in the two countries, as a discussion last week in Cape Town revealed.

By Rebecca Davies