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Providing a Vital Social-Security Safety Net

Resource type: Grantee Story

Greater access to services and protection of socio-economic rights are at the heart of a successful Atlantic-funded programme in South Africa. And individual women are leading the effort to provide a vital social-security safety net in poor rural communities.

Based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, the Centre for Criminal Justice (CCJ) serves 4.5 million people living in the Midlands region of KwaZulu-Natal. CCJ has 14 centres, most with two field co-ordinators who in addition to doing casework, assist clients to access social security and avoid illegal evictions from farms. CCJ also runs workshops to make people aware of rights and services due to them under the Constitution and in law. Additionally, staff members present workshops on women’s rights, healthcare, child care and children’s rights.

More than 80,000 people have benefited from the assistance of the CCJ since 1997. Income generated from successful claims for social security amounted to almost ZAR 4 million, a significant injection of capital into an impoverished area.

Winnie Kubayi, who directs the CCJ work, points to three factors of the programme’s success:

First, the community outreach centres and their operations are selected by a panel of stakeholders in the community, which ensures ownership and local support.

Second is an understanding of the role that traditional community systems play in a modernising civil society. “We have to balance and harmonise the traditional way of doing things and the ‘governmental’ way of doing things, because they are sometimes in conflict,” she said.

The third piece is CCJ’s insistence on a holistic approach to problems. “We try to get to the underlying problem,” Ms. Kubayi said. “When you are dealing with domestic violence, for instance, the cause of the problem may be alcohol or poverty.”

While domestic violence cases are prevalent, Zandile Khanyile, a field co-ordinator, says the cases that she finds most satisfying involve orphans, who are often living with “child-headed” families. Her assistance includes securing donations – food, clothing and toys – that immediately improve their lives.

The success of the CCJ programme is spreading. Ms. Kubayi will travel to Senegal this summer. “They called us and said: Please tell us how to go about it!”

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Human Rights & Reconciliation

Global Impact:

South Africa


CCJ, Centre for Criminal Justice