Sonke has established about 50 Community Action Teams (CATs), which respond to urgent gender justice issues in all nine provinces. The CAT model is growing, and every year more South Africans are being trained through Sonke to become “gender activists” and CAT members.

CATs promote gender equality and human rights in their communities. These organised groups of citizens are task-oriented teams committed to raising awareness and taking action on issues that affect them and their fellow community members, particularly in relation to challenging gender inequalities and promoting gender justice. As such, CATs bring people together regularly to learn about HIV, GBV and other gender-related issues, and to resolve community problems linked to them.

CATs choose different actions depending on their interests, purpose, resources, and community. For example, one CAT might form a hip-hop group to educate youth in schools about HIV and AIDS or GBV, while another might organise an HIV testing day, and another a campaign to pressurise a local ward councillor to improve street lighting.

CATs function on a voluntary basis and Sonke provides ongoing support and facilitation to ensure that CAT projects are sustainable and effective, including through paid Community Mobilisers (CMs) who provide training and logistical support to some CATs.

Working with CATs to promote community awareness on issues such as GBV and HIV prevention is a critical step for gender justice. The first level of impact is on the CAT members themselves and how they shift to positive behaviours and norms around gender in their homes and in their communities. As they transform, they bring their families and community members with them.

By working at local levels, CATs are informing people in all parts of South Africa about the rights and the services available to them, and are breaking down barriers to justice.