Access to Productive Resources: The Catalyst to Rural Women's Poverty Alleviation. A Case of South Africa

Article excerpt

Access to productive resources is a critical medium to development. However, rural women in post-apartheid South Africa are experiencing hardships in laying hold of such resources. The pertinent questions the article seeks to interrogate are: who should determine the resource needs of rural women? Are the one size fit all programmes ideal for alleviating rural women's poverty. This article critically evaluates data collected from secondary sources namely policy documents, journal articles, international reports and declarations. Firstly, the article outlines the meaning of poverty. This is followed by an overview of rural poverty in South Africa. Further, the article makes an assessment of some of the programmes that have been put in place by the post-apartheid South African government to alleviate rural poverty. The article concludes by recommending that there is need for policy makers to have closer collaboration and linkages with their communities in order to get direct information on what poverty means to them and what they need to get out of the catastrophic situation.

Key words: access, poverty alleviation, productive resources, rural women, South Africa

Alleviation of rural poverty has been one of the priority areas of the successive post-apartheid South African governments. Several poverty alleviation programmes have been put in place to try and ease the plight of rural women. However, studies conducted in the countiy show that rural women continue to experience a myriad of challenges in a bid to be emancipated from the shackles of poverty (Dlodlo, 2009; Dyubhele, le Roux and Mears, 2009; Moyo, 2011; Oberhauser and Pratt, 2004). Access to resources is among the numerous hindrances that rural women are grappling with. The questions that the article seeks to quiz are: Who should determine the resource needs of rural women? Are the one size fit all programmes ideal for alleviating rural women's poverty?

Debating on the land reform issue in South Africa, Walker (2009: 477) argues that "it is neither theoretically useful nor empirically appropriate to regard women as a single, singular and stable category when it comes to designing policyequally oppressed, equally deserving 'beneficiaries' with broadly uniform and primarily, if not exclusively, gendered needs and demands that set them apart from men." Taking the discussion further, Meliko and Oni (2011) argue that since poverty is multi-dimensional, it is imperative that any effective plan to reduce poverty understands the poverty dynamics of the population whose livelihoods one wishes to improve. Women's circumstances are different and so are their needs. It is therefore crucial that strategies designed to improve the livelihoods of women take cognisance of these diverse factors so as to ensure that women's problems receive the attention they so urgently deserve. Further, it is critical that women are at the forefront of all developmental processes, directing where and how far the wheel of change ought to turn in order to bring meaningful change to their livelihoods (Moyo, 2011). By so doing, women become equal and effective partners in the fight against poverty. The World Development Report (2001) reiterates a similar viewpoint and states that the poor should be regarded as the main actors in the fight against poverty and as such should be incorporated in the designing, implementation and monitoring of antipoverty strategies.

The current article briefly looks at the meaning of poverty. This is followed by an overview of poverty in South Africa. An assessment of some of the poverty alleviation programmes put in place by the democratic South African government is conducted so as to ascertain their pros and cons in as far as alleviation of rural women' poverty is concerned . Lastly, the article offers some recommendations that are likely to help rural women in their fight for economic emancipation. The following sections are an attempt to unpack some of the issues raised in previous sections. …