Southern Africa

What inequality looks like

Southern Africa enjoys vast mineral wealth and established democracies. The region has nurtured leaders whose impact on social justice has been felt around the world. But the legacy of apartheid and colonialism continues to sow division when it comes to race, class, and gender—and in relation to the rural and urban poor.

Despite economic growth, women, youth, and the poor continue to have unequal employment opportunities. Women’s lack of access to land also remains a significant barrier to equality, while the poor are deprived of benefits from the region’s abundant natural resources. Corruption and political patronage guide markets and governments, while many people struggle to engage in and influence these arenas. For women, these challenges are compounded by cultural norms, laws, and high rates of violence that inhibit economic opportunity and limit participation.

Confronting inequity to advance change

Across the region, progressive laws and policies have great potential to advance social justice—if they are implemented equitably and effectively. South Africa’s Constitution, in particular, upholds individual and socioeconomic rights and underscores government’s responsibility to ensure the welfare of all its people. Laws and other efforts aimed at empowering women and girls, youth, black people, and the poor have the capacity to deliver greater autonomy and increase people’s ability to participate fully in decisions that affect their social, political, and economic lives. To realize this promise, all people must play a key role in advancing progress, and governments and the private sector must be accountable for their actions.

Thematic Areas in this Region
  • We support civil society’s efforts to monitor commitments made by governments, regional bodies, and the private sector related to the distribution of public resources. This includes litigation, research, advocacy, and budget analysis. Our work is rooted in the belief that coordinated efforts and partnerships are the most effective approach to addressing problems within government and the private sector.

  • We support efforts to advance land and housing rights and to increase public participation and accountability in urban planning processes. Within a context of rapid urbanization, we work to advance economic and employment opportunities, with a focus on informal traders, migrants, women, and youth. We also seek to ensure that rural communities benefit from the governance of natural resources. 

  • We focus on helping civil society organizations disrupt cultural norms and narratives that are harmful to women, black people, and youth. This includes support for litigation, advocacy, capacity building, research, and the creative arts. We seek to strengthen diverse networks that focus their efforts on the intersections of reproductive, economic, and racial justice, especially related to such issues as HIV, violence, access to land, and natural resource use.

  • We support efforts to connect the region’s most marginalized youth to meaningful, sustainable job opportunities and diverse educational opportunities outside traditional schooling. Our work enhances the leadership potential of youth-led social justice movements and builds their capacity to help young people gain access to just, equitable opportunities of all kinds.

map Southern Africa
Ford Foundation
PO Box 521115
Saxonwold 2132
Johannesburg, South Africa

Grant makers in Southern Africa

Johannesburg, South Africa
Program Officer, Civic Engagement and Government
Johannesburg, South Africa
Program Officer
Johannesburg, South Africa

Equals Change Blog

Louis, Bickford, New York 2014-2015. Photo Credit: Simon Luethi ©Ford Foundation.

, Program Officer, Civic Engagement and Government

An emerging architecture for the international human rights movement

Program officer Louis Bickford deliberates the complex nature of the international human rights movement.

More from the Southern Africa