Empower young women to break dependence

Empower young women to break dependence

Date: June 15, 2017
  • SHARE:

By Petronell Ngonyama

Johannesburg, 15 June 2017: This June, South Africa celebrates youth month under the banner “The year of OR Tambo: Advancing Youth Economic Empowerment”.

This theme comes at a time when many young women and men are unemployed and are encouraged to explore different opportunities and become drivers of the economy.     Recent Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) 2017 findings from the first Quarterly Labour Force Survey reveal that unemployment figures increased to 27.7 percent from 26.5 in the previous year.

Economic empowerment is a stepping-stone enabling young South Africans especially women to dream beyond what is presented to them by the patriarchal society.

Economic empowerment brings about transformation especially in the job sector. Empowering women will enable them to venture into fields, which they have not worked in before especially those traditionally dominated by men. This will ensure equal participation of women and men.

If the youth are not economically empowered, it causes the cycle of poverty to continue and young women who are the most vulnerable will be affected. With poverty-stricken backgrounds, many young South African women fall victim to negative exposure that brings undesirable impact on their lives.

The trend of “blessers and “blesses”, has kept the nation talking for months now with a number of young women praising the idea of living a life of luxury sponsored by rich powerful men instead of working for their upkeep. However, it is not all of them who are into this by choice, for some of them their circumstances at home force them into this situation.

The government has recently come out firmly against this phenomenon. Speaking at the budget vote 2017/18, Minister in the Presidency for Women, Susan Shabangu denounced the trend saying, “I hope that none of our Members of Parliament are counted as “Blessers” who abuse their powerful positions in society to gain sexual favours from students and unemployed young women”.

This is evidence that the trend of blessers is framed within a context where there are unequal power dynamics usually wealthy powerful men who have the means to provide for younger women.

This phenomenon also acts against the gains made by the country in reaching gender equality as young women continue to be dependent on men for survival, which expose them to many risks including HIV and AIDS.

With alarming rates of HIV and AIDS and teenage pregnancies in the country, young women are disproportionately affected. A recent report by the National Department of Health 2016/2017 shows that more than 2000 young women between the ages of 15 and 24 are infected with HIV every week in South Africa.

Speaking at the recently ended Higher Education AIDS Programme (HEAIDS) Conference Deputy Minister of Higher Learning and Training, Mduduzi Manana was quoted saying, “Many female students find themselves in financially unstable situations. There is immense pressure on them which leads to female students becoming sex workers or in relationships with older men … It leaves our female students in relationships depending on men who often leave them disempowered to negotiate condom use and to take care of their own health.”

Many young women are also quickly becoming parents when they themselves are still young. The National Department of Health also reports that, between 60 000 and 70 000 teenagers below the age of 18 deliver babies in the public health sector every year. With such sad realities, many young girls will not continue with their education, which will then reduce their chances of getting out of this cycle of poverty.

These trends and statistics offer the youth something to reflect on as they build the future of South Africa. Empowering young women not only this Youth Month but beyond will break the power dynamics which are created due to the lack of financial stability. If empowered they will become independent, active citizens who can contribute to the development of the country.

By Petronell Ngonyama, a Media Intern at Gender Links. She writes in her personal capacity. This article is part of the Gender Links News and Blogs service.



Comment on Empower young women to break dependence

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *