By SEDIKO RAKOLOTE
STATISTICS INDICATE THAT South Africa is young and female. According to Statistics South Africa’s (Stats SA) mid-year population estimate report as at July 23, 2018, there were 57.7 million people in South Africa and more than half of the population (51%) being female. The report also stated that women live, on average, six years longer than men, with a life expectancy of 67.3 years compared to 61.1 years for males. Young people between the ages of 15 to 34 years old were 20.6 million.
The post-apartheid South Africa is facing challenges of legacies of inequalities, unemployment, and poverty which most of its victims are women and youth. Around the end of 2018, the national unemployment rate was at around 27.2%. There are different statistics on youth unemployment in South Africa. The statistics revealed in Pocket World put the country’s youth unemployment rate at 57.4% whilst the according to Stats SA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the second quarter of 2018, youth unemployment was 38.8% compared to the 17.9% rate for adults.
Despite the difference in statistics of youth unemployment, the fact remains that youth unemployment has a negative impact on the economic growth of the country. There are also other risks associated with youth unemployment which includes, but not limited to: a risk of loss of talent and skills as the young graduates are unable to find a job and put their knowledge and capabilities into contributing to economic growth; increase in social spending of the country; low income tax collection by the government etc. Youth unemployment can destabilize the safety and security of a country.
Women and girls also face social and economic marginalization in South Africa. This is caused by an entrenched system of patriarchal domination and also perpetuated by some cultural and religious beliefs. Women and girls suffer multiple forms of violence perpetrated by men in South Africa. Stats SA reported that femicide is on the rise in South Africa. According to Stats SA, the murder rate for women increased drastically by 117% between 2015 and 2016/17 and the number of women who experienced sexual offences also jumped from 31 665 in 2015/16 to 70 813 in 2016/17, which is an increase of 53%.
In South Africa, workplaces as a microcosm of societies are not immune from patriarchal domination. The employment equity report 2017/2018 indicates that across males occupy 77.1% of the top management positions and females only 22.9%. In senior management, males occupy 66.2% of the positions and females only 33.8%. Notwithstanding the achievements of the post-apartheid South African government, the statistics show that more still needs to be done to address the legacies of apartheid, colonialism, and patriarchy. The country cannot move forward whilst the majority which is women and young people are marginalized.
The right to vote is one of the fundamental rights in South Africa. Elections are platforms for the citizens to exercise their right to choose those who must represent them in National assembly/Provincial legislatures/Municipal councils. Around May 2019, South African registered voters will descend to over 22 000 independent electoral commission voting stations throughout the country to participate in the National and Provincial elections. It is a norm that before the elections, political parties will develop and launch their election manifestos and crisscross the country to lure voters. Political parties will present their manifestos to voters and plead for their votes.
Whilst it is the sole prerogative of political parties to decide on what to put in their manifestos, I think it is vital for political parties to strongly consider having gender and youth biased manifestos with practical an implementable plans to eradicate challenges faced by women and youth of our country. Challenges facing women and youth in South Africa cannot be overemphasized.
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