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Curationis

On-line version ISSN 0379-8577

Abstract

BHENGU, BR. An investigation into the level of empowerment of rural women in the Zululand district of KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. Curationis [online]. 2010, vol.33, n.2, pp. 4-12. ISSN 0379-8577.

The aim of the study was to evaluate the outcome of the empowerment of rural women in relation to gender issues, power, and communication within the Zululand District of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa after implementation of a four-year Primary Health Care project in partnership with the Provincial Department of Health, and two Schools of Nursing at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and McMaster University in Canada. This project is based on substantial evidence which reveals that rural women are being neglected to the extent that these women have missed out on opportunities for development. The reasons for this disempowerment of women, particularly rural women, are thought to be due to the feminisation of p'overty, as well as femalesubmission, educational deprivation, privacy of domestic violence, exploitation, domination by men and cultural oppression (patriarchy). A qualitative research approach was used. Focus group discussion was utilised as the data collection technique, and this was also applied during the collection of baseline data. An interview guide covered issues of concern in the communities and households, including what the women would, or had done about these, how they engaged in decision-making in their families, how they handled situations when there was a difference of opinion, and their awareness of, and ability to claim their rights, including control of their lives. The data was collected from six clinics, from groups of six to ten women in the predominantly rural Zululand District of KwaZulu-Natal. The project has revealed improvement in the women’s realisation of their rights, albeit limited, in communication, self-confidence, and reliance, including partnerships between Primary Health Care Nurses and women’s groups. The formation of women’s groups facilitated community development and participation in their own health, socio-economic and emotional development. The project suggests that such groups be encouraged and allowed to network for support as they understand their own problems better, they merely require facilitation.

Keywords : primary health care; rural women; economic development; empowerment; entrepreneurship; community development.

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