A special edition of Elle magazine, in August, will reveal the findings of its Female Factor survey, an 18-month project described as a “journey into the hearts and minds of the women of South Africa”. The aim, according to Elle features editor, Annelize Visser, “was to learn as much as we could about South African women, and to help bring about change that would make us all happier, safer, surer, stronger”.
Over 2 500 independent women contributed through the online and print survey and hundreds more told their stories at editors’ breakfasts and round-table discussions in three cities across the country.
In addition to a quantifiable statistical study, Elle employed storytelling and debate stimulated by relevant editorial in specific subjects in the magazine to engage South African women in a conversation about issues impacting their lives – from female sexuality and perceptions about appearance to equal opportunities in the workplace and beyond.
“South African women have a legacy of activism and we’ve seen the re-emergence of strong women in the socio-political sphere and the reigniting of civil society with the recently held local government elections,” said Jackie Burger, editor of Elle SA
Elle has long been the thinking woman’s magazine and champion of women’s rights and progress. In 1970, Elle France launched the Current State of Women survey that culminated in13 proposals to government and a historical gathering at Versailles. Historic laws followed. By 2010 when ELLE France revived the survey to establish how far women had advanced, the magazine’s influence had grown to reach 4.5 million readers via 42 international editions, including the South African edition.
And, in the spirit of the magazine’s guiding principle, ‘style with substance’, Elle South Africa has now spearheaded a survey that echoes both the landmarks of the past and similar recent surveys conducted by Elle France and Elle Italy. The ultimate goal of Female Factor is to pioneer legislative changes in areas identified by South African women. Having created a national dialogue about the issues faced by women, the project will conclude in the presentation of the Female Factor Report to the Ministry of Women, Children and People with Disabilities.
With content that extends from a modern definition of sisterhood, issues of gender inequality, being a working mother, sexual health and freedom, surviving crime, life as an HIV-positive woman in South Africa and the question of true beauty, the Female Factor survey results are informative, heartwarming and at times controversial.
With resonating stats such as that 35% of respondents said sexual freedom meant having diverse sexual experiences, while 27% said it meant deciding to have a baby when the time was right – this is the truth about what women in South Africa think and feel, which modern women can’t afford to miss.
On the 9 August, as the country celebrates Women’s Day and in honour of women across the country, Elle will launch a special issue dedicated to South African women that will offer insights into the survey data and provide a comprehensive look at what still needs to change to improve the quality of life of women in our country.