Women’s month is a good opportunity to examine the views and opinions of the various women in South African society.
There is huge polarisation among women in our country. It seems that responses vary depending on where women are in their lives and in the social spectrum. Those who perceive themselves to be lower or working class are far more likely to feel marginalised, financially stressed and out of control of their lives. 80% of these working class women feel they have dreams but never achieve them, 39% that they have no power or control over their own lives, and more than half often feel depressed and angry.
Some of their frustration extends to white people who 53% believe should still feel guilty about apartheid with three quarters believing that white people still feel superior to black people in this country. While 44% see themselves as strong supporters of the ANC, an above average 23% say they are wavering in their support for the party. Almost six in 10 women acknowledge being angry about their struggle to survive (versus the average of 44%) and the sad fact is that 27% say they, or a member of their household, often goes to bed feeling hungry at night. More than half find they spend what they earn with nothing left to save. They understandably fear that if someone in their household loses their job, they could lose everything (68%).
On the other side of the spectrum are post-matric educated women, most of whom now perceive themselves as middle class or above. They are very active on the social media front. In fact, 46% check what others have posted on their choices of products, brands and services. The same percentage finds online ads useful and 7 in 10 would feel lost without their cell phones. This is a risk-taking group with nearly half of them admitting that they enjoy doing things others would find risky. More than half are prepared to take a risk when investing if it is likely to deliver better returns. This is clearly a function of their sense of financial security as three quarters reveal that their families are managing to save some money and two thirds that their families are doing better financially than previously.
Their lifestyles tend to be healthy both in the food their households eat and in the exercise regimens they follow. Half of them are active in the PTA, community events and social or sporting clubs and nearly eight in 10 have friends in other race groups. Far less than average are strong ANC supporters (30%) with almost as many saying they are wavering in their support for the ANC (26%). On the opposition front, 20% see themselves as strong DA supporters with a further 12% saying they are DA supporters, but wavering. The DA has a larger potential following from this post-matric educated group of women at 11% compared with the ANC at 6% potential support.
The generation of younger voters aged 18-24 appears to be more interested in social networking on multiple levels than in politics: 36% are strong ANC supporters with a further 20% being supporters but wavering. There is very limited potential support for the ruling party in this segment. But, the DA is not particularly attractive to them either with only 13% being strong supporters, a similar percentage wavering in their support and 9% saying they are potential supporters. Their focus is on all things internet and this includes the online commercial space. It is noteworthy that, in general it is the under 35s who are showing signs of buying online more and more (though the figures are still fairly low), with many researching products, brands and services online before making a purchase whether it’s online or not.
It’s going to be interesting to watch the power of women in the municipal elections in the year ahead. They will be active citizens, willing to do their bit to help South Africa become a better place however the political apathy among younger women is concerning. It will be incumbent on the political parties to harness South Africa’s women (and motivate younger ones, potentially through social media) to drive much needed change in our society on many fronts in the future.
The findings presented above are from a futurefact survey in late 2014 based on a probability sample of 3 048 adults aged 18 years and over, living in communities of more than 500 people throughout South Africa and representing 22.8 million adults living in 9.4 million households. See www. futurefact.co.za
This story was first published in the August issue of The Media.
Want to continue this conversation on The Media Online platforms? Comment on Twitter @MediaTMO or on our Facebook page. Send us your suggestions, comments, contributions or tip-offs via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.