Poor Women are Trapped in Poverty and Abusive Relationships because of their Economic Dependence
By Sithenkosi Lungisa
Patriarchy has for years been perceived as a natural and unchangeable phenomenon as opposed to being socially constructed.
The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa exposes this phenomenon as a social construct through its emphasis on gender equality. The fight against patriarchy is visible through policy and legislative levels, but this phenomenon has deep cultural and psychological roots engraved in our societies.
Women get employed in the most exploitative areas of labour because of their low levels of education and skills. Women are still marginalised because they are not competent and are not trained for some of the senior positions they hold. They have more difficulties in accessing land and because of the subservient status one more likely to contract HIV/AIDS or any other Sexual transmitted infections more than men. This is of the result of low productive roles assigned to women, which limit their ability to conduct sustainable economic activity.
I further argue that South African women have rarely had the choice and opportunity for a tolerable life this even visible in 21 years of Democracy. Many women remain in abusive relationships not because they have any choice. This is of the result of NO support systems or safe houses for abused women.
When living in deep rural areas, informal settlements and townships choices are very limited. When one is unemployed, uneducated and living under the command of man and when the customary law and the elements of backward culture bind you to the man. These social constructions still remain as the main challenges for the development of women and ultimately their liberation from the triple oppression they have suffered in the hands of the Colonial and apartheid regime.
With the continuation of limited access to resources such as water, wood, electricity, work, fair wages, education, community centres and health facilities etc. The direct participation of women in people centred and people driven programmes remains pivotal as a solutions to the above challenges which hinder development of women.
This can be attained by redesigning how political parties, government and civil society intervene and interact with deep impoverished communities. In the forefront of interventions made by these bodies are always men. Who are argued to be in control of more resources and have power of influence. I argue that focus should be put on poor women to define and analyse their own challenges and most importantly develop programmes and strategies to be used for the emancipation of their gender struggle.
This allows women to be at the centre of the identification of their needs, planning, formulating strategies and evaluating programmes for the eradication of any form of oppression directed to women.
Can we fully realise a situation where woman will advance their interests? This can be realised through the development of an ideological framework within which women can locate their struggle. This should be in a manner that they do not view Men as an enemy but a reliable ally in the common struggle towards equity. These issues need to be debated in our societies more especially in deep rural areas and townships.
Women in all corners of our Societies must stand up through organised women civil groups for the total emancipation of their own struggles.