Gender Links is 15 years old this year! To commemorate the anniversary we are taking a trip down memory lane and looking at key achievements we have had over the years. At 15 Gender Links has grown into a internationally recognised player in gender rights  and the advancement of women.  Gender Links has spearheaded the development and adoption of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Gender Protocol on Gender and Development. It has developed multiple programmes and trained thousands of gender activists. Over the years Gender Links has served as a beacon and an instrument of instruction and change. Though physically headquartered in Johannesburg, Gender Links work and impact spans the globe.  It was no coincidence that at the five year mark of growth Gender Links was described as a small organization with giant footprints!

2001 – Gender Links is founded 

Formed in March 2001, Gender Links (GL) is a Southern African NGO, headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa that promotes gender equality and justice across the fifteen countries of the region. Here is our story as told by CEO Colleen Lowe Morna: It all started soon after I unceremoniously lost my job as CEO of the South African Commission on Gender Equality… One Saturday morning a group of my former staff sat with me around coffee in my office at home and convinced me to start something new. No matter what happened in court, they said, South Africa and the region needed strong gender NGOs. A founding board member of GL gave this new venture a name that we all drank to with our coffee and croissants: Gender Links!! ….To read more about the beginnings of Gender Links follow the link!

2002 – Ringing up the changes is published

 The first study of its kind to explore the impact of women in politics in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) 00028_resized_ringing_up_the_changes_cover_mym_0709  The study, based on interviews with 172 politicians in six Southern African countries concludes that women’s equal participation in decision-making is  not just a democratic right, but is critical to more accountable and responsive governance.

Read the study here

 2003 – Gender and Media Baseline Study Published

Within the first two years of its life GL ran 39 workshops with over 600 participants in 12 countries

Gender Links in collaboration with MISA, conducted the Gender and Media Baseline Study (GMBS) in 12 SADC countries during September 2002 and published the results in March 2003, creating the most comprehensive such study ever undertaken in the whole world.  03544_resized_gmbs National studies were later launched in all SADC countries, except Angola and national chapters have since held workshops during which national action plans were made and activities to address the findings identified.  Click here to read this ground breaking Gender Links Study


2004 – 1st Gender & Media (GEM) Summit

Patrience Magagula recieving award from Skhonzile Ndlovu_Swaziland_td_16042014_Gender Links leads the first Southern African Gender and Media summit  in Johannesburg, bringing together over 180 media practitioners,  trainers, researchers, media regulatory authorities, NGOs and activists from sub-Saharan Africa and as far afield as India, the Netherlands and New Zealand.

Missing the Mark?


Audit of the SADC Declaration on Gender and Development – Women in Decision-Making.  This report formed part of an audit of the SADC Declaration on Gender and Development ahead of the Heads of State Summit in 2005.
GL’s work on gender and the media led us into the broader area of gender and governance.

participants doing media exercise at the media workshop held in june 2014

File name :DSC_0021.JPG File size :2.6MB (2703809 bytes) Date taken :Fri, Feb 8, 2002 9:02:27 Image size :3008 x 1960 Resolution :300 x 300 dpi Number of bits :8 bits/channel Protection :Off Camera ID :N/A Camera :NIKON D1X Quality mode :FINE Metering mode :Matrix Exposure mode :Programmed auto Speed light :Off Focal length :92.0 mm Shutter speed :1/100 seconds Aperture :F5.0 Exposure compensation :0.0 EV White Balance :Auto Lens :80-200 mm F2.8 Flash sync mode :N/A Exposure difference :0.0 EV Flexible program :No Sensitivity :ISO125 Sharpening :Normal Image Type :Color Color Mode :Mode 1 (sRGB) Hue adjustment :3 Saturation Control :N/A Tone compensation :Normal Latitude(GPS) :N/A Longitude(GPS) :N/A Altitude(GPS) :N/A

GL was selected by the UN Secretary-General to form part of an expert group that

advises the UN Commission on the Status of Women on gender and the media.

LGAZ annual conference_003

 In 2004 Gender Links is operating more than twenty projects in the broad areas of gender policy and research, training, advocacy, communication and governance

2005 – My Views on the News! 

This book is a must read for those involved in the production of news; for those who are tired of being passive media consumers; and those committed to strengthening democracy by making every voice count.  The “I” Stories: Speaking out on gender violence in Southern Africa – This booklet is a unique compilation of the authentic voices of those who have spoken out and in so doing, opened the way for others to.

2006 – At the Coalface Published

As a sequel to Ringing up the changes, GL conducted a groundbreaking new study on gender and local government in Southern Africa called At the Coalface Gender and Local Government in Southern Africa.  Over a year in the making, the study included interviews with over  478 councilors in four Southern African countries GL @ 5 evaluation results are released – GL has succeeded in establishing a gender and media movement in Southern Africa 

2007 – Gender & Media (GEM) Summit

Southern Africa Media Diversity Journal: Issue 1 is released –  It operates from the premise that the absence of a diverse media that is representative of the interests and concerns of all citizens is a threat to the region’s democracy and citizen’s ability to participate in democratic processes.  

16Days_Carers in cyber chts_JHB_SA_112010_jpg


 Breaking new ground in the work with media consumers that takes its inspiration from the Gender and Media Audience Study (GMAS) GL this year tested its media literacy “Watching the watchdogs” kit with members of the public

2008 – Global Footprints

Gender and Tabloids in Southern Africa – Gender Links and partner organisations is the first comprehensive study not just of gender and tabloids in Southern Africa, but also of this phenomenon in the region more broadly.  The ‘Glass Ceilings: Women and Men in Southern African Media‘ study is the most comprehensive audit ever undertaken of women and men in Southern African media houses. Spanning 14 countries over a year starting in July 2008 GL establishes a Francophone office in Mauritius, and regional advocacy office in Botswana

2009 – Progress! 

Roadmap to equality: This handbook is the collaborative reflection of members of the NGO Alliance that campaigned for the historic adoption of the Southern African Protocol on Gender and Development in August 2008.  SADC Gender Protocol Barometer Baseline Study is done in 15 countries:  analyses a matrix of indicators, and maps out the current state regarding various  indicators. The Barometer will help civil society to track the progress made by SADC Member States towards achieving the set targets in the protocol

2010 – Documenting change

The “I” stories brand that GL originated continued both to be a way of getting first hand accounts into the mainstream media as well as a form of therapy for those who have experienced gender based violence. The stories are powerful narratives of the pain of abuse, and very often the triumph of surviving and moving on.  This study is a sequel to the 2009 Gender Protocol Baseline Barometer and has become the Southern Africa Gender Protocol Alliance’s benchmarking tool towards the realisation of the 28 targets set for 2015  which incorporate and enhance the existing African and global commitments.

2011 – Learning and Growing 


Gender links invests in GL Cottages

In ten years Gender Links has grown into an internationally recognised player in gender rights and the advancement of women.

The growth alone is a big story and a lesson in how to develop an organisation.



2012 – Barometer SADC Protocol and GBV and Beyond

The survey in South Africa’s most densely populated and cosmopolitan province shows that while political conflict in the country has subsided, homes are and communities are still far from safe, especially for women. The 2012 SADC Gender Protocol Barometer is the fourth annual tracking report of regional performance. The Barometer is an independent civil society initiative that draws on country reports by researchers and experts from each SADC country.
Modeste Shabani, a community radio journalist from DRC drove 250 km on a scooter through the night from his home to the nearest airport to fly to Kinshasa for the Summit.Chairperson's report He paid for his own travel to get to Kinshasa – in excess of $1000. There were 17 radio entries and 29 print entries in the DRC. Shabani’s joy on being announced runner up defies description. These are the Drivers of Change who become gender linked through our work. 16 Days of Activism Campaign promoted local actions to end gender based violence (GBV). GL worked with local councils and communities that are part of the GL Centres of Excellence for Gender Mainstreaming in Local Government. GL is working with 100 councils in 10 countries
During this year GL saw a 75% increase in media and local government COE’s resulting in taking forward MDG 3 and SADC Gender Protocol targets in 260 institutions; 151 of these local councils covering a population of 21, 414, 538 or about one fifth the women and men in the SADC region.

2013 – 2015 Governance and Media Programmes 

As the media and governance programmes work more closely together, GL in 2013 combined the summits into 12 national and one regional SADC Gender Protocol@Work Summit bringing to together over 1400 participants and gathering 742 best practices of the SADC Gender Protocol @ Work. 81 participants travelled and 29 got passports for the first time. Saeanna Chingamuka_ Tibuyile Dlamini and Sgcibelo Magagula during the Training of Trainers workshop_Swaziland GL is currently working with 108 Centres of Excellence for Gender in the Media – Media training institutions and NGOs.


Melania Mandeya; Gokwe Town Council Secretary; Owen Gwasira; Chiredzi GFP and Athanas Chidzurira; GFP for Kwekwe City Council at the TOT workshop; Harare; Zimbabwe. GL is now working with over 425 Centres of Excellence for Gender and Local Government Young mothers feeding their children after the training


Emerging Entrepreneurs:  GL began pioneering work on entrepreneurship training with 1500 of survivors of gender violence supported by 100 COE’s