Gender inequality in South Africa is no news. It is like an epidemic existing in societies with long-standing and deeply-rooted beliefs of gender-roles.
According to World Economic Forum, South Africa is ranked the 17th out of 136 countries in terms of gender equality. When the world celebrates women’s day, this country celebrates national women’s month. Globally this is pretty cool. And changes in constitution make the African image brighter in terms of women’s freedoms and opportunities.
Does this mean that South African women are completely free from all types of violence? Currently “no” is the only answer to this question. Gender inequality in South Africa is a worrying issue. The thing is that the country is in the crisis of values and democratic approaches. The existing patriarchal traditions make men believe that there are entitled to abuse women.
This sounds awful. The facts and research come to prove that South Africa is a country where a number of women face unspeakable bias and discrimination. But there is a sign of hope. Several initiatives make an effort to free South African society from all types of gender oppression and inequality.
Gender Inequality in South Africa and the Struggle behind It
August is considered a “Women’s Month” in South Africa. This month is commemorated by many outstanding women. They strongly believe that women are not prior to men. Wondering what is this month about?
Well, on 9 August 1956, nearly 20 000 South African women of all races marched to Pretoria’s Union Buildings to confront the passed laws. Those laws were kind of boxes limiting women. By behaving so and organizing the march, those women challenged the idea that women belong to the kitchen only. Instead, they stated publicly that women belonged to everywhere.
Since that march, significant steps have been taken in the advancement of modern women worldwide. Nowadays more girls have the chance to attend school. More women have paid jobs and have more or less access to finances.
But the existing facts show that “poverty of feminism” lives on in nearly all parts of Africa. The issue has various causes in South Africa in particular. First and foremost- women still remain economically dependent on men.
Gender inequality in South Africa is a result of customary laws as well. These laws continue to restrict women’s access to their fundamental rights, land, property and other assets.
Gender bias in South Africa goes hand in hand with poverty, violence, little or no access to education. To let the cat out of the bag let’s have a closer look at these “women and gender inequality” pairs.
Gender Inequality in South Africa: South African Women and Education
The South African government has taken measures to provide quality education for women and girls. However, gender inequality in South Africa becomes very obvious when looking at the number of women in education.
A number of statistics and research come to show that South African women and education are incompatible. Looking for specific causes?
There are no specific causes for this. It is the same as in other parts of the world. The duty to run the household keeps many girls away from schools. Street harassment and other types of violence also lead to school dropouts.
Early marriages make the situation more complicated. Besides, there is a huge decline in the number of women in academic staff. The result is poverty which makes women more dependent on men.
Gender Inequality in South Africa: South African Women and Poverty
While determining poverty rates, the 40% of households are considered as poor in South Africa. And this happens not because men earn less. These rates come forth just because women do not take part in earning their living. When a woman suffers in poverty there can be no sustainable society. It is sustainable when men and women are treated equally. So why do South African women live in poverty?
There are a number of factors that contribute to the existing poverty of women in South Africa. The gendered division of labor in the household, the underestimated skills, and low paid jobs for women result in female poverty.
Gender Inequality in South Africa: South African Women and Violence against Them
When women have no access to education and live in poverty, it is already a violation of their rights. And what will happen if we add domestic and other types of violence to it? It turns out that the situation is totally out of control. This means that women’s houses are no longer safe places to live.
But the thing is that victims of violence can rely on very little support. There is a lack of facilities at police stations. Besides, there is always a widespread discontent about the bad treatment women frequently receive from the police and justice system.
Who is to blame?
The unjust treatment results in continuously growing gender inequality in South Africa. Who should take the responsibility for this? Why do these problems continue despite the existence of international and national laws that guarantee the right to gender equality? At large, the answers lie in the way society treats women.
South African society drives women to the outskirts. They do not even understand the vital role women continue to play in the fight for political, economic and social equality. This fight is not just for themselves. It is for the whole community.
Besides women face gender-based bias just because the political-economic sphere remains in the interest of men only. At least, patriarchal society of South Africa thinks this way.
Initiatives Fighting Against Gender Inequality in South Africa
The South African reality is disappointing. It still remains a country where women do not dare to voice their problems. But we live in a world full of changes. South Africa is no exception. There are signs of hope.
The South African government has produced a number of policies to empower women. South Africa shows improvement when it comes to girls’ and women’s access to education. It might sound surprising but in 2014, education systems and trainings received a huge amount of investment.
The money was intended to be used in support of women and girls to take part in studies. This has resulted in an increase in the enrolment of girls and women in learning institutions. And the hope is also about the initiatives that fight for gender equality in South Africa.
Commission for Gender Equality
Commission for Gender Equality was established to promote respect for gender equality and the protection, development, and attainment of gender equality.
Its aim is to protect gender equality in South Africa “through undertaking research, public education, policy development, legislative initiatives, effective monitoring, and litigation.”
Existing Values and Ethics of Commission for Gender Equality
- Equality means commitment to the principles that promote equality for men and women
- Democratic principles are about commitment to justice and fairness
- Integrity means to be loyalty and respect for the dignity of all
- Professionalism enhances the positive image of the Commission
- Empathy is an awareness of power relations and respect for human rights
- Knowledge sharing contributes to the mutual development and growth.
- Identity refers to the acknowledgment of the individual and of cultural diversity of the South African society.
Astonishing Facts about Progress African Continent has made in Reducing Gender Gap
People believe that Africa as a whole is a remote area where people walk barefooted. They also think of Africa as a continent of astonishing landscapes only. There is a grain of truth existing in this. But the world is not about stability. It changes constantly. So does Africa.
Today African girls are better educated than a generation or two ago. Women take more leadership roles and build successful business careers. Social attitudes also change in Africa. More people become aware of gender bias. It becomes less prevailing.
More men agree that work does interfere with home life. They actively seek employment with companies that offer paternity leave and flexible working hours. These changes are of quite big range. Here are some of them:
- According to the Social Institutions and Gender Index 2014, South Africa has low levels of discrimination against women in social institutions. This is nice to know, because, as you can see above, gender inequality in South Africa is still rooted in this society.
- Rwanda acted well in political empowerment. It has 64 women in its 100-seat lower house. It is the only country in the world with more women than men in the local parliament. South Africa and Senegal are also included in the top 10.
- Rwanda, Burundi and South Africa were ranked in the top 20 countries in reducing the gender gap. They are in the 7th, 17thand 18th places respectively.
- Nigeria is the region’s largest economy in the continent. It made the biggest gains in recruiting women to its labor force. However, it is not in the lead in other aspects. The country ranks in the bottom 10 in educational accomplishment, and in the bottom 15 in the number of women in parliament.
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