History Of The Soul City Institute For Social Justice (SCI)

The Soul City Institute for Social Justice (SCI) is a South African NGO. It was established in 1992 as the Soul City Institute for Social and Behaviour Change Communication. It has been internationally and locally recognized for its innovation and expertise in this field of Social and Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC).

SCI is world renowned for its pioneering work in harnessing popular culture to bring about social and behaviour change and is responsible for the longest running prime time television edutainment drama in the world and a number of successful advocacy campaigns related to the drama, including for the “Speedy and Effective Implementation of the Domestic Violence Act” and widening of the net of social security in South Africa, including increasing the age of eligibility for the Child Support Grant to 18 years of age.

Throughout this period, the organisation’s mission was to create a just society where all communities have the health and wellbeing to reach their full potential. It has drawn its Theory of Change from the WHO’s Ottawa Charter on Health Promotion. The Ottawa Charter highlights the importance of healthy public policy and takes into account the social determinants of health, the importance of health equity, and the importance of advocacy and community action to achieve this end. As a key social determinant of health, the issue of gender equity has always been high on the SCI’s agenda and over time, social justice in relation to gender equity became a major focus of its work. A significant focus of its two decades of activism has been on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) and addressing Gender Based Violence (GBV).

In 2020, the Soul City Institute became an intersectional feminist organization. This new strategy is part of a process that started in 2015 as vision 2020 and addressed some of the programmatic changes triggered by the economic downturn of 2010 and subsequent shifts in funding.  This impacted Soul City’s programmes and the organisation was compelled to review not only how to survive, but its relevance and who it should be as an organisation, 20 years on from South Africa’s democracy - in 2016, over two decades since its formation, the intersectionalities of race, class and gender inequalities (the social determinants of health) resulted in black womxn bearing the greatest health burden in South Africa. All these factors catalyzed a strategic review of the SCI’s vision and mission and in 2015, SCI shifted its focus from marginalised communities in general, to one that focussed specifically on Young Women and Girls.

In 2020, the SCI radicalised its vision to one that took into account the growing acknowledgement that a focus on “the empowerment of young women and girls” does not go far enough to achieve gender equity. In its Year of Transformation, the SCI formally adopted “intersectional feminism” as its driving force and defining vision, in order to grow a new generation of young people who can build a non-sexist society that recognises, respects and proactively realises the rights of women in all their diversity. The organisation’s logo reflects these changes – from an organisation focusing on SBCC to an intersectional feminist organisation focusing on and prioritising support for the rights and activism of young womxn who are the most vulnerable in our society; but who also have the energy, motivation and commitment to address inequality.

Throughout this time, the SCI continues to implement its vision and mission through a methodology that combines mass and other media, with advocacy and social mobilization to bring about social change.

Timeline History Of The SCI Programmes

SCI started in a small room in Alexandra Clinic in 1992 with 2 young doctors wanting to address the legacy of apartheid on mother and child health. The country was in transition and the time for a bold new start was ripe. Joined by a small team the first Soul City Series was launched and aired in 1994. A television drama, print materials in newspapers and a radio drama, which took South Africa by storm reaching millions of people. Dealing with key mother and child health (MCH) issues, the series was hailed as a ground-breaking intervention. Building on its success, SCI produced more series dealing with numerous issues such as smoking, hypertension, alcohol, land & housing and importantly HIV/AIDS, as the epidemic began to take hold in South Africa. Hoping to extend the impact of the electronic media SCI developed a set of training materials which were SETA accredited and used by multiple organisations to build skills and knowledge about the various MCH and HIV/AIDS issues. Each series was evaluated, and the SCI developed its theory of change learning from the evaluations.

The 4th series of SCI broke the mould and was a TV series of 1-hour long episodes with a linked national advocacy campaign calling for the implementation of the Domestic Violence Act by December 1999. The campaign was in partnership with National Network on Violence Against Womxn, creating a groundswell of pressure on the government to implement the ACT. The evaluations studies showed overwhelmingly positive results including cost effectiveness. The campaign also led to the establishment of South Africa’s first national toll free helpline to stop womxn abuse, in partnership with Lifeline. Numerous awards have been won by the television series and the organisation as a whole.

At the same time SCI turned to its youngest audience acknowledging that although many of watchers and listeners were children, the material was designed for older youth and adults.

In 2000 the Soul Buddyz series for children 8-12 years old and their parents was born in partnership with SABC education. The series was a 26-part television drama series, a radio drama series, grade 7 booklets and booklets for parents. The focus of this series was children’s rights, child abuse, disability, gun control and road safety, and AIDS. The series was an immediate hit with over 80% of children watching the television and many parents too. The evaluation of the series was very positive.

Subsequent to Soul City Series 4 and Soul Buddyz, the SCI continued to wow audiences with 9 more Soul City series dealing with topics such as disability, rape, AIDS and children, alcohol abuse, cancer of the cervix. In terms of HIV/AIDS SCI dealt with numerous aspects over the years: AIDS and Human Rights, Stigma, PMTCT, Medical Male Circumcision, adherence to treatment, and during the AIDS Denialist Era SCI dealt with information about ART, for adults and children and worked with activists in civil society to counter the myths and misinformation that were being propagated during this difficult period.

Soul Buddyz too continued to be produced and a further four series were broadcast dealing with sexuality, xenophobia, the environment, bullying and substance abuse, as well as parenting issues.

In the meantime SCI was developing the social mobilisation interventions to support the mass media. For adults there were partnerships and advocacy campaigns supporting successful advocacy campaigns such as ACESS which supported the implementation of the Child Support Grant, arguably one of the most important health intervention for children since 1994. Other advocacy campaigns the reflector campaign which was for the use of reflector material in school uniforms to increase visibility of children on roads.

The Soul Buddyz Club was developed and implemented in 2003. A recent study has shown that belonging to a SBC decreases a girl’s chance of being HIV positive 10 years later by 50%.

Between 1999 – 2001, Soul City worked on a successful project in Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Namibia where a youth publication called ‘Choose Life’ was adapted for each country.  Over 1, 331, 000 copies of these Choose Life booklets were successfully distributed in the four countries in seven different languages.

In 2002 the SCI regional programme was launched in response to demand from donors and countries for the SCI materials, and as a result of the success of the Choose Life Programme.. Partner countries were: Lesotho (Phela); Malawi (Pakachere); Mozambique (N’weti);Namibia (Desert Soul);Swaziland (Lusweti), Zambia (ZCCP )Zimbabwe (Action Pals). The programme not only produced multimedia interventions in each country, but the partners in each country were supported and build and continue to produce SBCC programmes to date.

In 2009 SCI introduced Kwanda an innovative community development initiative aimed at mobilising people to uplift the communities where they live. Central to the Kwanda process was a reality TV community makeover show. The show was the first of its kind, with five teams challenged to make their community “look better, feel better and work better” – the catchphrase of the show.  5 communities (Kwakwatsi; Tjakastad, Lephaphane, Pefferville, and Ugu) in SA attended an Organisation Workshop facilitated by a team from Seriti institute and SCI, and was filmed by Ochre Media. Teams have continued to work after the intervention for a number of years and have brought multiple changes to their communities.

Campaigns such as the OneLove campaign, which was a 10 country Southern African campaign against multiple and concurrent sexual partners, in order to decrease HIV infections have been implemented by SCI, with numerous partners and showing great successes. The Phuza Wize campaign is bearing fruits with laws controlling alcohol being suggested which include almost all the Phuza Wize campaign demands.

In 2014 SCI started the Rise Young Womxn’s Clubs to build social cohesion and social support for young womxn who are amongst the most vulnerable to becoming infected with HIV in SA. The clubs (both in and out of school) enable girls and young womxn to build their self-esteem and engage in a meaningful way in their communities as active citizens. This project has grown to a RISE Advocacy Coalition of club members who are trained in leadership, democracy, governance and advocacy to take the voice of the RISE Club movement to decision makers at local, provincial and national level to advance gender equality.

The Good Life Network was a pilot of a Health Channel broadcasting a variety of lifestyle and health shows 24/7 for 3 months in partnership with the National Department of Health. Many innovative programmes were developed and aired. 

All SCI programmes have been based on research and evidence, a central tenet of the programme development process. The project cycle includes evaluations which have enabled the organisation to understand the impact of its programmes and to develop and adjust its theory of change and programmatic design.

In 2016, over two decades since its formation, the intersectionalities of race, class and gender inequalities (the social determinants of health) black womxn continue to bear the greatest health burden in South Africa. This catalyzed a strategic review of the SCI’s vision and mission and led to the transformation of the organisation into the SCI for Social Justice – a feminist organisation for young womxn and girls.


  • Drs Garth Japhet and Shereen Usdin set up office in Alexandra Health Centre
  • Research report MCH
  • Nelson Mandela is released


  • Research report
  • Evaluation launched: “Let the Sky to be the limit”



  • Gd 9 Lifeskills package developed
  • Evaluation SC 2 &3 Baseline


  • Soul Buddyz Series 1 on air: Disability; child abuse; bullying; HIV
  • Evaluation SC 4 – Six studies


  • Soul Buddyz Series 2 on air: Racism and Xenophobia; Substance Abuse; HIV and AIDS; Learning disorders; Environment; Children and justice


  • Soul City Series 7 on air
  • Soul Buddyz Series 3a on air: Financial Literacy; Nutrition; HIV and AIDS; Gender, Sexuality and Masculinity
  • AIDS training Evaluation
  • Soul Buddyz Club Evaluation


  • Soul Buddyz Series 3 b on air
  • Buddyz on the Move on air
  • Research report Mother and Child Health
  • 2716 Soul Buddyz Clubs


  • Soul City Series 8 on air
  • Soul Buddyz Series 4 on air
  • Research report Multiple Concurrent Sexual Partners
  • Regional Programme Eval reports
  • DPSA Evaluation


  • Research report Violence prevention
  • Research report Soul Buddyz – Gender identity
  • Research report 10 country MCP


  • Soul City Series 9 on air
  • Kwanda Reality Development TV on air
  • Hands On Parenting Started
  • NCS 2009 Evaluation Report
  • OneLove campaign




  • Kwanda Talk on air
  • Soul City Series 11 Evaluation Report
  • NCS 2012 Evaluation Report
  • Soul City /NCS Evaluation Report


  • Soul City /NCS Evaluation Report



  • Soul City /NCS Evaluation with safer sex scale Report


  • Soul City / SANAC anti stigma campaign Started


  • Soul Buddyz Club Study 10 years later – Decreased new HIV infections among girls
  • Notyetuhuru feminist radio station
  • Womanity Award
  • Rise Talk 3 on Air

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