Happiness scholarship has gained prominence in a number of disciplines over the last few decades, including economics and psychology. In South Africa, we have observed an uptick in happiness studies, but also that these studies are mostly using quantitative methodologies. What is missing in nearly all these studies are conceptualizations of happiness from African-centered decolonial psychological perspectives. The main objective in this article is to approach happiness from an African-centered decolonial psychological perspective. The article draws on data from a qualitative study which investigated happiness and gender equality amongst South African women. Convenience sampling was employed to recruit participants. Eleven qualitative individual interviews were conducted with key informants and three focus groups with women who shared their everyday lived experiences of happiness. We draw only from the individual interviews. The interviews were subjected to an adapted, theoretically driven thematic analysis informed by African-centered decolonial psychological interpretations. Whilst we identified four key themes, we report and discuss only two of these, namely: happiness as inter-connectedness and happiness as maintaining a balanced life. The perspective we adopt in this article offers an opportunity to unpack how happiness is inter-connectedness and how happiness is a balanced life. In enmeshing decolonial African-centered perspectives and African feminist psychology, it was possible to not only produce a more situated analysis of women’s happiness but also to center issues of gender and gender inequality within African-centered psychological thought. Potential directions for further contextual and transnational qualitative studies on happiness that incorporate African-centered decolonial perspectives are offered.


African psychology, happiness, inter-connectedness, South Africa, women, well-being

Author Bio(s)

Kopano Ratele is professor of psychology at the University of Stellenbosch and head of the Stellenbosch Centre for Critical and Creative Thought. He has published extensively and his books include There Was This Goat: Investigating the Truth Commission Testimony of Notrose Nobomvu Konile (2009, with Antjie Krog and Nosisi Mpolweni), Liberating Masculinities (2016), Engaging Youth in Activism, Research and Pedagogical Praxis: Transnational and Intersectional Perspectives on Gender, Sex, and Race (2018, co-edited with Jeff Hearn, Tammy Shefer, and Floretta Boonzaier) and The World Looks Like This From Here: Thoughts on African Psychology (2019). His latest book is Why Men Hurt Women and Other Reflections on Love, Violence and Masculinity (2022). Please direct correspondence to kratele@sun.ac.za.

Carmine Rustin is a feminist scholar and holds a PhD in Women’s and Gender Studies from the University of the Western Cape (UWC). She is currently a lecturer in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies at UWC. Carmine has served as co-coordinator and researcher attached to the Andrew W Mellon funded Project on Sexual and Gender Justice in the Women’s and Gender Studies Department. She is the former Chief Researcher of the Research Unit in the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa. Her publications include Rustin, C., & Shefer, T. (2022). Women’s narratives on gender equality and subjective well-being in contemporary South Africa. Gender Questions, 10(1); Rustin, C. & Shefer, T. (2022). Review of the Covid diaries: women’s experiences of the pandemic by A. Gouws and O. Ezeobi (Eds. 2021). International Journal of Care and Caring, 6, (1-2), pp. 303-307(5); Rustin, C. (2021). What gender legislative reforms have meant for women in South Africa. Law, Democracy and Development, 25, 47–70; Rustin, C. & Florence, M. (2021). Gender equality and women’s happiness in post-apartheid South Africa, Agenda, DOI: 10.1080/10130950.2021.1917298

Publication Date


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.