2019 MacPhail et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. Community mobilization has been recognized as a critical enabler for HIV prevention and is employed for challenging gender inequalities. We worked together with community partners to implement the 'One Man Can' intervention in rural Mpumalanga, South Africa to promote gender equality and HIV risk reduction. During the intervention, we conducted longitudinal qualitative interviews and focus group discussions with community mobilizers (n = 26), volunteer community action team members (n = 22) and community members (n = 52) to explore their experience of being part of the intervention and their experiences of change associated with the intervention. The objective of the study was to examine processes of change in community mobilization for gender equity and HIV prevention. Our analysis showed that over time, participants referred to three key elements of their engagement with the intervention: developing respect for others; inter-personal communication; and empathy. These elements were viewed as assisting them in adopting a 'better life' and associated with behaviour change in the intervention's main focus areas of promoting gender equality and HIV risk reduction behaviours. We discuss how these concepts relate to the essential domains contained within our theoretical framework of community mobilization-specifically critical consciousness, shared concerns and social cohesion -, as demonstrated in this community. We interpret the focus on these key elements as significant indicators of communities engaging with the community mobilization process and initiating movement towards structural changes for HIV prevention.