This article explores the ways in which the contemporary women's movement in South Africa has been shaped by its own recent history as well as by the changes in the political landscape since 1994. The article argues that the striking feature of the past decade is the manner in which the strategy of inclusion of women in formal political institutions of state and party has tended to displace the transformatory goals of structural and social change. Both goals, of inclusion and transformation, were held to be mutually dependent by women's movement activists throughout the 1980s and 1990s. However, the article shows that maintaining the strategic balance between these goals has been difficult to achieve, in large part because the women's movement has been relatively weak, apart from a brief moment in the early 1990s. The argument outlines the theoretical and strategic debates relating to definitions of the term ‘women's movement’ in South Africa, and then identifies and classifies different forms of organizations and strategies. Finally, the article argues that the realization of gender equality rests on the extent to which a strong women's movement will develop, with a clear agenda for transformation and relative autonomy from both state and other social movements.