During the month of July, Marie Claire launched the Power Survey to find out your views on all issues pertaining to anyone who identifies as a woman in South Africa. Focusing first on the biggest challenges we face in this country, this is what our respondents had to say about where they felt things are going for us.Preview Changes (opens in a new window)

While 21.1% of our Power Survey participants are admirably optimistic, saying things are gradually improving, a staggering 49.4% are of the opinion that things are looking grim given the rate of violent crimes committed against women, queer and non-binary individuals.

We asked: do you think things are getting better or worse for women? You answered:

1. Getting worse: 51%. Women shared their perceptions of constantly increasing threats to their security and wellbeing.

1.  ‘As a young woman residing in South Africa, I’m completely convinced that our nation now ranks highly in the global femicide rates. We live in a democratic South Africa where more than two decades later a woman is still grappling with issues like discrimination on the basis of her sex, being undermined, and her safety is often compromised. How many women are involved in senior management of companies, both in the public and private sector? We are not seeing many [women] in the country’s leadership as well. These are major aspects that should have been improving over time, but I feel as though they are continuing to deteriorate.’ – Zanele*

2. ‘Women are starting to put a voice behind injustices directed at them. Femicide is on the rise, abuse in all its forms, inequality in the workplace, and at home. The more you speak out, the more you are targeted and bashed by chauvinistic patriarchs, who believe women must be barefoot in the kitchen.’ – Natasha*

‘It is a scary reality not knowing whether your next Uber ride home will be your last…’

3. ‘I say worse for women because I’ve been a victim of sexual assault at just six years old. There are so many women who are also victims, yet have to carry on like it’s okay. We are not safe as women. The same people who are meant to protect us are the same people that harm us. We can’t walk alone at night as women. We can’t leave our kids with their uncles/male cousins etc. We, in addition to all this, still need to tend to our families at an unfair salary compared to men. In order to be high on the ladder in corporate fields, there absolutely has to be a trade-off between family and work, meaning there’s basically no work-life balance.’ – Kholeka*

thetotalshutdown wmens march south africa protestor holding a sign

Susan Khumalo. Photograph by Christi de beer

4. ‘It is a scary reality not knowing whether your next Uber ride home will be your last or whether going to the bathroom alone in public will result in being trafficked.’ – Catherine*

5. ‘The society we live in makes woman feel inferior because of their race, economic situation, background, and where they live. The fact that school-going girls have to sacrifice learning due to having their periods, which is a natural thing, while breastfeeding in public is still stigmatised. It is such a sad state for everything, I only can pray that things get better for the female generation, I have a daughter and I am fearful of what the future holds for her.’ – Marilyn*

6. ‘South Africa is an increasingly dangerous place, women don’t have the peace of mind or freedom to even go for a run by herself anymore without having the thought and fear of an attack by criminals lingering in the back of her mind the whole time. Even driving alone at night is a risk. We constantly have to stress about our safety and the safety of our children because of criminals.’ – Kagiso*

7. ‘Violence against women is increasing daily – I don’t feel safe anywhere. Work pressures are also increasing, but black women still earn less than anyone, and we’re not taken seriously or given fair opportunities.’ – Thandi*

‘Women who are deemed powerful are branded as ‘controversial’ and their character is always attacked.’

This world deliberately mischaracterizes a strong-willed person, particularly a woman. S/he attracts silly words such as “controversial” etc. Winnie Mandela was clearly not controversial but simply independent-minded. But the sing-alongs are going “controversial” “controversial”

— Khulani Qoma (@KhulaniQoma) April 5, 2018

8. ‘I believe that women have become more vulnerable than ever to different types of exploitation. Economically, women are not receiving equal salaries as compared to their male counterparts. Their political status is normally reduced to that of affiliation through marriage or struggle (not merit). Women who are deemed powerful are branded as ‘controversial’ and their character is always attacked. On the social front, women are confronted by patriarchy to the highest degree. The voices of reason are not sustainable because we attribute too much power to respect of the male. Essentially, women are treated as third-class citizens.’ – Nomsa*

2. Staying the same: 29% respondents acknowledged progress, but the general consensus is that the scale is still tipped towards less than pleasant conditions for us.

1. ‘There has been little done by government or in the private sector over the past decade to change the status quo. When the former president and MPs such as Mduduzi Manana get away with serious assault and harassment, it entrenches and normalises the existing patriarchy and GBV in our society.’ – Sibu*

2. ‘Our leaders fail to prioritise the well-being of our women mainly because our leaders are predominantly males and some are past sexual harassment offenders. They are in those positions to better themselves and not the lives of the majority, for example, women of colour.’ – Priya*

3. ‘The only difference between then and now is that women are speaking against the abuse that they’ve lived with for all this time.’ – Carla*

total shut down #totalshutdown protest

A grandmother and her granddaughter who wish to remain anonymous

4. ‘Some industries have caught up on modern times, but as an estate agent, I have lost count of the number of times men talk right over me. In terms of family life, it still often seems to be the mom’s responsibility to run everything as if her other responsibilities take a backseat to the dad’s. Balancing work, family and studies really takes its toll.’ – Mandy*

‘Situations that we live in have not changed. The only difference now is that we are more aware…’

5. ‘The laws that are supposed to protect women are there, but they aren’t being implemented. As a result, there’s a false sense of things improving because a piece of legislature says so, but in reality things are still the same.’ – Busi*

6. ‘As a black woman, you carry the burden of being black and an extra load for being a woman. Situations that we live in have not changed. The only difference now is that we are more aware of what is actually happening to us as women, as we now have easy access to information through media and social media. There are, however, many more stories that haven’t been shared. It’s horrifying being a woman.’ – Nkosazana*

3. Getting better: 20% of women said the situation is getting better based on a comparative analysis

1. ‘I can definitely see the generational changes. Women are now in many places/situations considered equal. We still need to sort out things like equal pay at some places, but we’re most definitely better off now than in the past.’ – Yonela*

2. ‘Things are getting somewhat better for women given the fact that many women in this country are making waves in different industries that used to be dominated by men. Women now can work in the construction industry, for example, but I think from where we are right now things could still get better.’ – Shoshona*

3. ‘With things like the #MeToo movement, our voices our getting heard on a global scale much more than say, a decade ago. There is still A LOT that needs to be worked on, but I feel like things are changing, albeit very slowly.’ – Trish*

protestor at the womens march cape town

Photograph: Christi de Beer

‘Woman are speaking up and out. We are getting stronger, more confident, aware and supportive. ‘

4. ‘With the growing international #MeToo movement and South Africa’s #ThatsNotOkay movement women are empowered to speak out against sexual harassment and hold men accountable in a way that has not happened before. University protests like ‘Patriarchy Must Fall’ have also contributed to young women challenging the status quo of gender inequality and confidently reclaiming their autonomy in male-dominated spaces.’ – Phumla*

5. ‘Women are starting to speak up and speak out. No more standing down to any one. Especially now that celebrities and powerful women are making their voices heard and creating a movement.’ – Sudhira*

So what’s the tea?

Pink tax, equal pay, sexual harassment and rape, safety and patriarchal norms continue to be major causes of concern for not only South African women, but across the globe. With Trump’s America and post-Zuma’s South Africa, it appears that we’re all stuck between a rock and a hard place. That won’t stop us from owning these conversations, though. Even in the midst of all the road blocks, we’ll get there.

Join the Marie Claire Power Network here to stay up to date and connected to other women in the run-up to the 2019 election. 

*Names have been changed