Urban Forum

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 197–207

Victoria Mxenge: a Story About More Than Women Building Their Community



During the 1990s, a small group of women constructed 148 houses near the townships of Gugulethu and Nyanga in Cape Town. The small neighbourhood became the flagship project of the South African Homeless People's Federation (SAHPF), and the government used the insights of these women to develop their People's Housing Process (PHP) housing framework. In this contribution, their story is told, and in explaining why these women were so successful, we use the theoretical concepts of Pierre Bourdieu and pay specific attention to the changed meaning of power. The paper argues that the coinciding of a “vacuum” in the planning field, the transition in South Africa to a democratic state and the personal motivation of the women of Victoria Mxenge created a momentum that enabled them to influence governmental policies on a national scale.


Power Gender Urban planning Grassroots movements South Africa Bourdieu 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Sint-Lucas School of Architecture, partner in the K.U. Leuven AssociationBrusselsBelgium

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