Challenges women face in modern South Africa
It has been 64 years since women from all streams of life marched towards the Union Buildings in Pretoria to protest against the Apartheid pass laws. Sixty-four years since women demanded that all laws, regulations, conventions, and customs that discriminate against them, and that deprive them of the right to advantages, responsibilities, and opportunities be removed.
In modern-day South Africa, women do not only face ‘bread and butter’ issues but are challenged with gender discrimination, unemployment, poverty, and Gender-Based Violence.
It is no surprise that the government has joined the Generation Equality campaign to achieve gender equality by 2030 because the National Development Plan identifies women as the most affected by inequality, poverty, and unemployment.
In her study: ‘Gender, Social Cohesion and Everday Struggles in South Africa,’ Puleng Segalo states that “most women occupy lower positions within workplaces while men mainly occupy senior and decision-making positions.” Where women are represented in corporate, leadership, and executive positions, they are faced with the gender pay gap issue.
South Africa does not legally require the disclosure of gender pay gaps, therefore, few companies make such disclosures. The 2018/19 ILO Global Wage Report states, “women on average continue to be paid 28% less than men.” Despite promises made in the Constitution, the country’s gender equality is ranked 19th out of 149 countries by the 2018 World Economic Forum Global Gender Report.
It is evident that the labour market has not changed much for women and is more favourable to men as they are “more likely to be paid in employment and women are more likely to be involved in unpaid work and non-market activities,” (StatsSA, How do women fare in the South African labour market. 2018). Women account for 51.2% of South Africa’s population, however, according to the Commission for Employment Equity they only compromise 45.3% of the economically active population.
Consequently, nearly two million women have lost their jobs since the coronavirus pandemic resulting in increased dependence on the government’s COVID-19 Social Relief Grant. As a result, women have been struck down into poverty and are now victims of violence.
The safety of women in this country is generally a concern. South Africa is ranked as the top least favourable country for a woman to travel alone. A woman is murdered every three hours making the femicide rate five times the global average. According to the Western Cape Government, rape of a woman is believed to occur every four minutes, and every three minutes a child is sexually assaulted.
South African women are particularly not safe in public and private spaces. In the 2018/19 period, approximately 1 825 women were reported missing. Many of the missing people turn up dead, of which many were violated before the murder.
In 2018, gender activists staged the #NationalShutDown march to the Union Buildings, President Cyril Ramaphosa was handed a memorandum with demands outlining actions needed to end Gender-Based Violence (GBV).
In September 2019 Ramaphosa declared Gender-Based Violence and femicide a national crisis.
However, in 2020, women are still marching and demanding the government to be more active in combatting GBV. Cases of Tshegofatso Pule, Naledi Phangindawo and many others sparked media attention in only the past year. And still most of these cases have not even scratched the surface in bringing about change women’s’ rights.
The South African Constitution needs to be amended in order for any visible change to be made and more robust action ought to be taken in ensuring the safety of women.
There is a need for increased attention on this social issue as it not only impacts the livelihoods of women but society. Patriarchy being prevalent today is a slap in the face for our fore-mothers.