n Africa Insight - Sweat equity' women's participation in subsidised housing in South Africa

Volume 34, Issue 2_3
  • ISSN : 0256-2804


The notion of 'sweat equity' in state-assisted self-help has become conventional wisdom and has been promoted as an integral part of subsidised housing in South African housing policy. The promotion of sweat equity presupposes benefits to households through the reduction of construction costs. The findings of case studies carried out in KwaZulu-Natal suggest that household contributions to sweat equity resulted in larger subsidised housing in general. However, the findings also suggest that contributions to sweat equity are affected by differential household access to income. While sweat equity may work for male-headed households in general and female-headed households where there are grown-up children, sweat equity becomes complex when applied to female-headed households where the woman is the sole breadwinner. Other factors that influence contributions to sweat equity include women's notion of legitimation. This paper concludes that the success of sweat equity is gendered and often works where households have various sources of income and where the capacity of members to earn income is not compromised.

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