If you are a fan of our Facebook Page, you will have noticed an ongoing celebration of women from South Africa and across the globe. Working with women and assisting women to grow personally and professionally is a long time passion of mine. 98% of the people we assist to find jobs are women, 90% of the clients we work with are also women, mothers, business executives, students, scientists, the self employed, impressive entrepreneurs, sisters, aunts, teachers, all of us, we are raising a nation together.
One cannot talk about celebrating women however, their strength, and the inspiring resilience of women in South Africa without first mentioning the challenges they face.
Women in South Africa were until recently, viewed as second class citizens. We were ‘owned’, seen as property, oppressed, we didn’t have the freedom to vote; until the 1980’s even in the United States, abuse by a man towards his female spouse was not viewed as criminal, while South Africa only followed suit in this department in 1998. According to stats, no women alive today will live to see gender equality reached, let alone see the pay gap disappear. In 1st world countries, for example, should we not find legislation throwing us back into the dark ages, gender equality will only happen in approximately 170 years, lets not mention what that means for developing countries and the women in them. For even this to happen the pace of pro female legislation and awareness needs to keep going at its current levels, so I plan and try to contribute to that momentum of upliftment and empowerment as far as I am able.
It irks me that for some reason women are no longer classified as previously disadvantaged, when in fact we are still, to this very day, disadvantaged. The literature the world over supporting this fact and that society is structured in such a way that women are more often than not, even those where women supposedly have freedom of choice in partners, are forced into co dependence and ‘settling’ for men that are not only physically abusive (as the stats clearly show) but emotionally, socially, verbally or financially. Societal expectations of how a women should maintain herself, and the sheer vastness of the roles she is supposed to fulfill grows daily, the cost of living continues to rise, relationships are pressured and there is a never before seen hike in divorce rates. These factors often contribute to abandoned mothers or those forced to leave their partnerships due to abuse, or immoral behaviour by their partners, ending up the sole breadwinners for their families, supporting their children entirely alone with men taking little to no responsibility. Sadly this is currently viewed as socially acceptable, even the courts granting child support do not take into account that firstly ‘life’ and ‘maintenance’ is more expensive for a women, walk into any hair salon or department store for a perfect example of this. Secondly the fact that women earn 30 to 50% less than men when performing or even out performing an equally qualified or less qualified male counterpart is shocking. Are these factors taken into account by divorce courts? Not that I am aware of.
These are massive challenges for women internationally but what are those facing women in South Africa?
For starters 1 in 2 women in South Africa will be raped. Some, more than once. Violence and sexual violence against women is at an all time high. More than 60% of women are exposed to domestic violence and a women in South Africa is killed by an intimate partner every 6 hours. Women make up only 8% of entrepreneurs in South Africa. Female millionaires make up less than 1% of the population in this country. Women have a tougher time accessing funds to start a business. We have few role models. We are expected to excel in multiple areas of life, our careers, raising of our families, and don’t forget looking magazine cover perfect, while men need only think of their careers in terms of general societal expectation. In rural or township areas, girls drop from school to care for younger siblings so that their older siblings can work or to work themselves, HIV and AIDS epidemic continues to run rampant. The list goes on and on. These are the sad and stark realities and yet, even with all these challenges, as coined in 1956, ‘you strike a woman, you strike a rock’, we build, we thrive and we grow.
They say that challenge creates opportunity. I tend to agree with this viewpoint. Whilst we are faced with many hard realities and circumstances, still as women, we are the mothers of this great nation. While the history books of the past may be hiding many great unrecognised South African women whose legacies are forever lost to the past in our previously patriarchal society, there are some whose impact could not be swept under the rug, whose bravery and willpower, led to the opening of doors for thousands of women for generations to come. While I have searched for books to pass onto my daughter of strong female figures in South Africa, women she could read about, role models she could aspire to, I have, until recently, found the lack of such literature deeply frustrating. Enter; ‘The A to Z of Amazing Women in South Africa’.
Inspired by worldwide bestseller ‘An A to Z of Rad American Women’, author Ambre Nicolson and illustrator Jaxon Hsu, have brought life to the South African version creating the most incredible book. Personally I think every woman, girl, boy and man needs to own a copy. Think about it, changing boys perceptions of girls is just as important as inspiring girls to achievement while reinforcing their humanity and right to be treated equally, in a society which currently does not encourage them otherwise. The book relates the stories of 26 incredible courageous local women in South African history, women who asked the questions others wouldn’t dare to, those who defied injustice, those who never gave up, freedom fighters, warriors, brilliant scientists, artists, all depicted in colours as fluorescent and vibrant as their stories. Women shaping our future, women who have molded our present.
I couldn’t be more excited to attend the book’s launch tomorrow evening in Cape Town. So excited in fact, to celebrate Women’s month, and this incredible books launch that Sitters4U and Moms Link Directory is giving away a copy of the ‘A to Z of Amazing Women in South Africa’. To enter, like Sitters4U’s page, and the MLD Page. Then share this link, tagging Sitters4U or MLD. Tag a women in your life who thinks she is ordinary but whom you think is extraordinary, your unsung hero, the woman who quietly goes about uplifting others, the woman who just does, who never asks for anything in return, tell us (and them) why they are Amazing, why, if you could rewrite the book they would make the A-Z list of Amazing Women in South Africa. We will announce the winner on 31 August via our Facebook Page.
Written By: Bianca Steyn
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