Dig a little deeper to find out what makes us tick


Our vision is a world where we all have equal opportunity and are empowered, confident and safe to follow our dreams


Our mission is to create peaceful, inclusive and equal communities through female and youth empowerment.

We aim to do this by creating safe and inspiring platforms for youth and young women in particular. Platforms where they can discuss the challenges they face and the ideas that they have, and ultimately bring these ideas to life.

We build their capacity and prepare them to take center stage as global, active citizens working for peace, diversity and change.


We believe that girls and women are critical agents of change and that investing in them is a force multiplier and can be a powerful catalyst for development.
Also, we promote the idea that no society can be successful when approximately half the population is not fully participating with an equal voice.

We celebrate diversity and work to enable young people from different backgrounds to connect and co-create. We engage boys and men in our work. We believe that it is important that they work alongside girls and women to support gender equality and that they take an active role to challenge misconceptions relating to masculinity.

We believe that critical, reflective, civic education is vital as the foundation for peaceful, equal and democratic societies. Educating youth about active, democratic citizenship is therefore an integral part of our work. We continuously work to create a space for youth with diverse backgrounds to get involved in their communities in a meaningful way and gain a strong sense of autonomy and agency.

We believe that “Design Thinking” as a method is a great strategy when we work to educate and empower youth. Design Thinking is an approach used for practical and creative problem-solving. By learning this mindset the youth become aware of the world around them and strive to understand it and the people in it.

It teaches them how to find and design the best solutions for change in collaboration with others. Also, they learn that by working together across communities, across borders, and from all corners of society we begin to understand a problem in a new way and to see new and maybe better solutions. Finally, it empowers them and give them the mindset that they, as global citizens, can take part in designing a better future for themselves and the world they live in.

Also, we promote the use of the arts, such as music, theatre and dance, as a powerful educational tool. Research shows that art and creative activities can help build a strong sense of self, improve communication skills and self-esteem, especially for marginalised groups. Also, art can confront stigmatisation and prejudice in communities by focusing on what we have in common.


"We believe that girls and women are critical agents of change."


Although Grabouw is only an hours drive from Cape Town this agricultural rural basin is faced with a myriad of social economic challenges.

We live in a globalized and mutually interdependent world. Youth in rural areas, such as Grabouw and Elgin Valley, often feel, and are, isolated from global and national social justice movements and the opportunities of change they create. There is a lack of capacity within local government to educate them about the objectives and means of democratic participation combined with government’s inability to provide actual changes for the most vulnerable.


In 2019 the South African government declared gender-based violence a national crisis. The combination of the historical past, patriarchal power structures, inequality, poverty and low levels of education makes South African women particularly vulnerable. Because of their lower socio-economic status, they have fewer options and resources to escape domestic violence and seek justice. As sexism and racism intersect, black women and women of colour bear the brunt of discrimination, poverty and extreme violence. The unemployment rate for young women (15 to 24 years) is 10% higher than that for young men. The gender pay gap is between 15% to 17%.

In our work we continue to be confronted with structural inequities in gender relations. We meet young women in Grabouw and Elgin Valley who are not offered the same opportunities as young men, which ultimately lead to them feeling insecure of their own capacities. As a consequence, many of the young women in Grabouw and Elgin Valley that we meet have lost hope and adopted a passive ‘wait and see’ attitude. They no longer believe that they strive towards a future goal.

We are set out to change that – together with the young women themselves.


Designers without Borders SA was founded in South Africa in 2017. The idea to start up an organisation working for youth and women in South Africa’s rural areas was an initiative taken by South African Alfra Roos Cox and Dane Maria Liv Claudi Pedersen.

Growing up in the Elgin/Grabouw valley as the child of farm workers gave Alfra Roos Cox first-hand experience of the challenges of a girlchild in a rural setting. Navigating your way through limited financial resources, lack of capacity from parents, transport constraints, technological constraints amidst the added pressures every teenager struggle with is quite daunting. This first-hand experience, years of service in both the private and public sector and raising daughters in this very same environment inspired her to assist young rural girls to discover and use their own tools to navigate these difficult waters.

During her social anthropology studies in South Africa, Maria Liv experienced first-hand the poverty and the massive need for better opportunities and development in the country. At the same moment she became inspired by the strong spirit and resilience of the young women that she worked with. After finishing her studies she decided to continue to work to help make a change for women and youth in the country, and has since then travelled back and forth between Denmark and South Africa, working to achieve exactly that.

Today Designers without Borders SA is a youth and women-led organisation working in the rural areas of Grabouw and Elgin Valley – bringing opportunities and hope to its communities.


"The unemployment rate for women is 10% higher than for young men."


We approach the world and build our projects on the d.school at Stanford University’s human-centered approach to innovation: Design thinking.


Design Thinking is an approach used for practical and creative problem-solving. While it has evolved from a range of different fields such as architecture, engineering and business, it can be used in any field, and has become more and more popular as a tool for development in the third sector.


As a process it starts with the people or communities you are designing for and ends with creative and innovative solutions that are developed with their specific needs in mind. It’s human-centered as you first and foremost focus on understanding the people you are finding solutions for. You have to go out into the world and ask what their needs are before you can start solving problems. During this process you come up with as many ideas as possible and continue to improve and develop them based on the feedback from your end-users: which are ultimately the people and communities who you aim to create a positive change for. In the end you present your innovative and creative solution to the world.


Design thinking is in its core creative problem solving. Problems are often complex and messy and the solutions to them are rarely one-ended and to solve them one needs to be creative and have the courage to think out of the box. This is our aim when we work with the youth and when we discuss and develop new ideas and projects


Hasso-Plattner-Institute of Design at Stanford (otherwise known as d.school) breaks the process of design thinking down into five phases or steps. We prefer the term phases, as it is not a given that you work in a linear motion from step 1-5, sometimes the process gets more messy and you might jump back and forth between the different phases.

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