South Africa: Equality & Equity for Women

South Africa: Equality & Equity for Women

by Carmel Lawry who is providing organisational and administrative support and mentoring for the Outreach Program at Holy Family Care Centre in Limpopo, South Africa. Carmel is a qualified and experienced nurse and has been connected with HFCC since 2011, previously providing health care mentoring. Below Carmel spotlights single mothers in South Africa.

Embrace Equity

The 8th March 2023 marks International Women’s Day, a chance to celebrate women everywhere and focus on gender equity and equality for women.  The IWD 2023 #EmbraceEquity campaign theme seeks to get the world talking about both equal opportunities and equity for women. Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities. Equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances, and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.

National Women’s Day is also celebrated as a national holiday in South Africa on 9 August each year and it commemorates a Women’s March in 1956 in Pretoria against apartheid laws. The day shares the same goal as International Women’s Day at its heart – that is, to make sure that all women are represented and have access to basic freedoms and rights.

Single mothers in South Africa

Single parenting is a serious issue in South Africa, and women need improved access to education, resources, and work opportunities to address the problem. In South Africa, approximately 40% of children reside in single-mother households that are predominantly dependent on a small child-care support grant from the government. 

This is of particular interest to social workers in the local villages, as single-mother households have a much higher vulnerability to poverty, income insecurity and psychosocial stresses compared to two-parent households. For poor single mothers, poverty-related stress includes very low income, insecurity of shelter and food, exposure to gender-based violence, particularly sexual violence, challenges to their ability to balance home and work requirements, victimisation and illness (including mental illness).

Holy Family Care Centre

We admit many children to Holy Family Care Centre from single mothers who have neglected or abandoned their children. We are never in a position to judge these mothers as the stresses of their home lives can be unimageable to us. The whereabouts of fathers are mostly unknown, and the women often do not receive any support from their own family. They are overwhelmed by their circumstances.

We admitted baby “Mokgadi” whose mother nominated to put the child up for adoption when she was 8 months pregnant. The location of the biological father is unknown as he has moved from the area. The mother is unemployed, has two other children and relies on the child support grant. She and her two children live in a room of a house which belongs to another family member, and she does not have space for another child. No other members of her family were willing to provide care and support for the new born,

“Mokgadi” arrived at Holy Family Care Centre at just 3 days old, a beautiful baby girl whom everyone immediately fell in love with. She spent her first nineteen months at Holy Family both happy and achieving all her “growth milestones”, a perfect child in every way.

Happy outcome for Mokgadi

Intervention by the child’s social worker over a period of time can help improve the home situation or find alternative family to care for a child. In “Mokgadi’s” case, the social worker over time provided both counselling to the mother and family and access to family reunification services. The family therefore had time to discuss caring for “Mokgadi”; the maternal Aunt showed interest in taking parental responsibility of her.

All due diligence occurred and several home visits with the child ended in the child being reunited with her family and the aunt taking full responsibility for her care. In the few cases I have seen concerning an adoption request by the mother, with time alternatives could be arranged to keep the child within the family group.

We are always sad to see our little treasures go but happy she has been reunited and will grow up knowing her family.

While we use these “Women Day” celebrations to recognise the advances of women in the world we also need to highlight how far we still have to go to provide women with equality and equity.