The voices of South African feminists and womanists are relatively absent from public debates concerning women’s participation and empowerment in sport. This paper represents a contribution to the gender discourse, drawing on feminist paradigms and reflecting on the marginality of South African women in society and in sport. The findings of two separate studies, undertaken in 1977 and 1999 respectively, are reported. The research focused on the assessment of the impact of the Sports Leaders Programme (as part of the South Africa-United Kingdom Sports Initiative) and the junior component of the sports development programme initiated by the Australian Sports Commission (Super Kidz). Data were collected by means of structured interviews from different stakeholders at macro- (national), meso- (community/institutional) and micro- (individual) levels. A representative sample for the Sports Leaders Programme included 17 co-ordinators and facilitators (at national and provincial levels) and nine sports leaders at community level. To obtain qualitative data concerning the Super Kidz Programme, two provinces were targeted for data collection. A quota sample of seven schools was selected as the experimental group (having introduced the programme) and five schools in close proximity acted as controls. One hundred and forty-four role-players at different levels of participation were interviewed. To obtain some triangulation of data, 110 role-players also participated in focus groups. The data reflecting the position and involvement of women in these programmes were analysed. Against the reality of the majority of women living in conditions of chronic poverty, exposed to patriarchy, being ideologically stereotyped and structurally marginalized, they were, to a large extent absent, and their efforts unrecognised in the institutionalised domain of sport. It was concluded that sport is a severely gendered domain in which male hegemony is acted out and perpetuated whereas women in impoverished communities view access to sport as peripheral in their everyday struggle for material survival. National agencies should therefore not rely on female volunteers to facilitate sports development in impoverished communities but to strategize differently while also redressing ideological and structural gender inequalities in the wider social context.