This publication is an output from a two-part process with South African authors and their organisations over the course of three years. The first part of the process (October 2008 - February 2010) included an eighteen-month organisational Gender Action Learning (GAL) Process supported by Gender at Work facilitators. The second part involved an eighteen-month writing process with three peer learning writing workshops with Gender at Work writing mentors.
The authors are from five organisations: Justice and Women, Sikhula Sonke, Remmoho Women’s Forum, Vukani Tsohang Africa, and the Kganya Women’s Consortium. With the assistance of a team of facilitator/mentors, the authors – most of whom were very inexperienced writers - produced these stories over the course of two workshops and ongoing mentoring. The stories share the authors’ insights and perspectives about the changes they noticed in their organisations as well as the constituencies with whom they worked.
Living in under-resourced and often violent and poverty stricken circumstances, the participants in this programme had to take a step back from their everyday struggles in order to reflect and write. They were encouraged to reach beyond the confines of oppression, structural discrimination, marginalisation and exclusion. Their writing reflects their passion, wit, humour, honesty, courage and creativity.
The action learning processes provided a safe space for participants to face themselves and each other. They learned that facing their pain, grief, fear, rage is a necessary step to creating new ways of living. Through deep reflection and exposure to new ways of seeing and being, the experience enabled multiple forms of transformation to take place (mental, emotional and spiritual). Participants found themselves better able to engage in their own and their communities’ lives with new agency, purpose and confidence.
The Vukani participants, for example, learned the art of facilitating large community dialogues. During the process, they learned to transform traditional women’s work into something powerful. Their newfound confidence quickly translated into material benefits as well as an expanded struggle for social justice. They were able to make gains at the state level (regarding identity card procurement, etc.) and at the personal level (such as fair housing and rights to pension for the wives of polygamous husbands).
This book comes after the first publication to result from this process, ‘Writing from the inside: stories of hope and change’ (2011), which contains personal stories of change. It can be accessed at: http://www.genderatwork.org/sites/genderatwork.org/files/resources/Stories_of_Hope.pdf