Margin to Centre
the marginalised driving change
Philanthropy has a role to play in tackling inequality and in supporting those most vulnerable to its effects. A philanthropic approach that focuses on those at the margins can assist in bringing these individuals and communities onto the development agenda.
Building the Field: Philanthropy at the Margins
South Africa is a society in transition, characterised by deep inequalities and the enduring legacies of past injustices. Founded on principles of human rights, equality and justice, the South African Constitution charts the path toward a more equitable society. However, frequently those at the margins of social and political life are least likely to benefit from constitutional rights and democratic possibilities.
Philanthropy has a role to play in tackling inequality and in supporting those most vulnerable to its ill effects. A philanthropic approach that focuses on those at the margins can assist in bringing these individuals and communities onto the agenda for development priorities.
By bringing the margin to the centre the attention is drawn to vulnerable communities who face discrimination, and who are often neglected in the implementation of law and policy, and the delivery of services. Philanthropic investments to improve the lives of those who are socially and economically marginalised, can contribute to a fairer society in which both needs and rights can be more equitably met.
Constitutional principles of dignity, equality and freedom are embedded in the country’s legal framework. This provides a powerful platform on which the rights of the vulnerable can be asserted6. Through community mobilisation and advocacy, alongside the use of media, the courts, and law and policy processes, human rights are being advanced in significant ways.
The transition to being a fully-fledged democracy is about recognising the ways in which various struggles for human rights intersect with one another. I think that has been one of the key lessons for civil society: how do we start to take on the struggles of other marginalised groups?*
When you focus on communities of people, actual people in an environment who are marginal, it takes you into a transformative social justice agenda. That is a sphere of work about strengthening the organisation of groups, the voice of those groups in their context, and the relationship between those groups and other actors.*
Atlantic was always looking at the most marginalised groups and placing them at the centre of the funding relationship, as opposed to making the donor the centre of the funding relationship. Atlantic was doing it at a time long before it was sexy or popular to do so.*
Philanthropic endeavours in South Africa are increasingly paying attention to those communities whose livelihoods and rights are compromised in a society with growing inequality. There is growing support for philanthropy that promotes social justice, and that partners with communities to tackle the root causes of inequality and its disproportionate impacts on marginalised groups.
The Atlantic Philanthropies Reconciliation and Human Rights programme focused its support on three marginalised communities in South Africa, namely:
- Farmworkers and the rural poor
- Refugees, asylum-seekers and undocumented migrants
- Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people
As the below In Actions illustrates, Atlantic grantees have been instrumental in bringing these communities, and the violations and marginalisations they face, into the centre of social transformation efforts toward a more just and equal society.