- The most important, single issue facing government today is improving conditions for greater labour absorption.
The South African Bill of Rights says, “Every citizen has the right to choose their trade, occupation or profession freely.” But local laws and institutions do not fully support that right, and one consequence is our staggering unemployment rate.
The results of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS), recently published by Statistics South Africa, revealed some alarming labour market trends. According to the strict definition, the unemployment rate increased from 24.3 percent (4.165 million) in the last quarter of 2009 to 25.2 percent (4.310 million) in the first three months of 2010 – a loss of 145 000 jobs. When the first quarter of 2010 is compared to that of 2009, if we include discouraged work seekers who have given up searching for work because they believe there is none available, the unemployment rate increases from 28.4 percent (5.4 million) to 32.4 percent (6.1 million) unemployed people.
This paints a very bleak picture indeed.
To make matters worse, these employment figures are at odds with the growth in real gross domestic product (GDP) – 4.6 percent in the first quarter of 2010 compared to 1.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2009. And, according to the Quarterly Employment Survey (QES), gross labour earnings paid to employees in the formal non-agricultural sector in the first quarter of 2010, was 11.7 percent more than in the first quarter of 2009. Therefore, on average, for those with jobs in South Africa, things got a whole lot better despite almost a million losing theirs in 2009.
A further worrying concern is that, of the unemployed, 63.5 percent have been out of a job for longer than a year, and the majority are young with limited education and other skills. If the low end of the labour market were allowed to function unhindered, young and unskilled people would not have such a desperate struggle to get onto the first rung of the employment ladder. Without doubt, the already employed will protest that any weakening of job-security legislation or erosion of minimum wages will lead to increased poverty. Studies have shown that unemployment is a significant driver of poverty, so how can we close our eyes to it.
Often ignored is that worker productivity is the main determinant of what employers are willing to pay, and a legislated increase in the price of labour does not increase worker productivity. According to fundamental economic logic, if a minimum wage of R2 000 per month can improve conditions for workers, then one of R20 000 per month should improve conditions even more. But, obviously, a minimum of R20 000 would render more people unemployable. People who do not get jobs as a result of such legislation are unseen victims while those who can clearly be seen to lose jobs are only too visible.
Claire Bisseker states in an article (Financial Mail, 25 June 2010) that, “There are 387 manufacturers that have refused despite an exhaustive legal process by the clothing industry national bargaining council, to honour minimum wages and conditions of employment.” She reveals that a total of 43 percent of clothing manufacturers in the country are not complying with minimum wage legislation. The clothing industry national bargaining council is currently sitting on execution orders against the first 70 firms that have failed to meet their regulatory obligations, which, if carried out, could result in about 4 000 workers losing their jobs. I know that if I were one of these 4 000 individuals facing unemployment, I would certainly be against the carrying out of the execution orders.
Bisseker sums up the situation succinctly, “The standoff in the clothing industry forces a choice to be made between upholding decent working standards and making thousands of people redundant in the middle of winter”. So, at the heart of the matter is the African National Congress’ policy of ‘the creation of decent work’. The small firms that ‘refuse to honour minimum wages and conditions of employment’ do not do so out of pure cussedness or because they are mean but because they cannot afford to pay the higher costs. But, who gets to decide what is ‘decent work’? Despite all statistics, if you were the one unemployed, so that, as far as you are concerned, the rate of unemployment is 100 percent, surely you would want to have the right to decide for yourself what constitutes ‘decent work’.
Employees do not happily work under trying conditions for extremely low wages because they prefer such jobs to better paying and more attractive ones. They take such jobs because, at the time, it is their only chance to earn the money they need to support their families. Their choice is often between a poorly paid, unpleasant job, and starvation for their families and themselves.
A significant and laudable factor that emerges from Bissiker’s article is that it was the South Africa Clothing and Allied Workers’ Union (SACTWU) that asked for the writs of execution to be delayed to “explore further avenues”. The spokesperson for the Apparel Manufacturers of South Africa (AMSA) was more uncompromising. According to Ms Bissiker he said that, “they don’t want to shut companies down either but neither can the status quo be allowed to continue, simply to save jobs”. Do AMSA and SACTWU truly believe that the workers will be better off unemployed than in jobs that, in their view, are not “decent”? Will they support the families of the unemployed workers who lose their jobs because of these actions? Self-interest is usually buried in such strange logic.
Other manufacturers will benefit if the 387 firms can be knocked out of the competition, but the self-interest of the labour union seems more obscure. Is it in the interests of SACTWU members for their union to be a party to making first 4,000 and later even more workers unemployed? Labour unions are supposed to look after the interests of their members, a task they perform with vigour. It is not their responsibility to solve the country’s socio-economic problems. That is the task of government.
The most important, single issue facing government today is improving conditions for greater labour absorption. For government to achieve its stated objective of reducing unemployment and stimulating growth, it has to urgently address labour market policies and laws that exacerbate unemployment, such as those that abridge the constitutional and human rights of garment manufacturing workers, and threaten to imminently make thousands of them unemployed.
- Jasson Urbach is an economist at the Free Market Foundation. This article first appeared in the Tshikululu Social Investments’ (TSI) Thought Leadership. It is republished here with the permission of TSI.
- It is now commonly accepted that there is a deep crisis regarding the ‘culture of reading” in South Africa. Only a very small section of the public reads and buys books, there is a virtual collapse of library services, and publishing in black languages continues to struggle 16 years after the end of apartheid.
The indices of this crisis are equally well-known:
- Only a very small section of the public reads and buys books – both for leisure (fiction) and self-education or self-advancement (non-fiction)
- Public libraries have been in long-term decline, and school libraries are just about non-existent
- Although a large part of young South Africans go through the schooling system, it is also commonly accepted that their reading and numeracy skills are very low – lagging behind that of their counterparts in the sub-region
In many discussions of the crisis of the ‘culture of reading’ one key explanatory factor stands out: the legacy of apartheid. Apartheid, quite rightly, is an important factor in accounting for the state of literature in black languages, in the literacy levels among the adult population of South Africa, and indeed in the class structure that still sees the majority of South Africans trapped in poverty. But it has been 16 years after the end of official apartheid and smaller countries in the South African Development Community (SADC) region, with much less resources, register better reading and numeracy skills than young people in South Africa. Cuba, with equally limited resources, was able to raise the standard of reading and wipe out illiteracy in a few years. So why does a crisis in the culture of reading persist so stubbornly 16 years after the end of apartheid?
Two other factors account for the persistence of this crisis.
Firstly, the democratic government of the post-1994 period made a number of policy choices that have proved fatal for the development of a culture of reading. Basically, the fundamental policy choice made by the post-apartheid government was to choose a market-driven path to economic and social development in South Africa. This path was captured most dramatically by the adoption of the Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GEAR) policy in 1996, and the closure of the RDP office soon thereafter. GEAR, however, is not just an ‘economic’ policy: it is a holistic political, social and economic policy. Over the last 14-odd years, the consequences have been profound:
- South Africa today is the most unequal society in the world. Markets reinforce, and do not overcome, inequality
- Almost half the population lives below the poverty line, and about 40 percent of men and women of working age are unemployed. The majority of unemployed are youth, who are the natural target audience for a broad-based culture of reading
- Starved of resources, the ‘social infrastructure of reading’ in many townships has been under severe stress and in most cases has virtually collapsed
Given these conditions, it is no wonder that the majority of South African do not read, or cannot read. It is not difficult to see or to demonstrate the correlation between levels of inequality and a low culture of reading in a country. Countries with high levels of inequality have a low culture of reading, and vice versa: countries with a more equal society will show a higher culture of reading.
Structure of Publishing
The second factor that accounts for this crisis in the culture of reading is the structure of the publishing industry itself. In many debates on the culture of reading the publishing industry presents itself as the victim of this crisis. Of course, the publishing industry stands in a contradictory relationship to a culture of reading in any country. On the one hand, it has an interest in the expansion of the reading market, and the more people who read the more it is a potential beneficiary. On the other hand, as an industry driven by the profit motive, it can only accept the expansion of reading if this protects and expands the proverbial bottom line (or the profit margin). In South Africa this contradiction is an acute one, and the publishing industry shares this contradiction with the majority of capitalist industry.
The publishing industry in South Africa is highly concentrated, with a small number of publishers (estimated at less than 20) accounting for the major part of the country’s book trade. Further, in the last few years, global companies and distributors have made significant inroads into the industry. This industry has remained profitable because of market concentration, since it focuses on a small and predominantly white middle class for its market. This has also reinforced a (high) price structure that generally excludes the majority of the population from being able to afford books. Indeed, over the last five years the tendency has been that price increases outstrip growth in volumes sold, indicating the general price indifference of the primary market for publishers in South Africa.
The structure of the industry acts a barrier to the development of a broad culture of reading in South Africa.
Firstly, the tendencies towards concentration are accompanied by a tendency towards risk aversion, and so book titles that do not promise high returns are excluded. The impact on local stories and new writers is a negative one, and in turn this has a negative impact on a broad-based culture of reading. Secondly, small and independent publishing is the lifeblood of a strong culture of reading, especially in a developing country such as South Africa. The tendencies towards concentration inherent in capitalist industry destroy small publishers without maintaining the appetite for risk that small publishers have. Thirdly, the tendency is for profit-maximising publishers to treat readers as ‘customers’, and not as citizens with a right to reading. These corporations only see the ‘culture of reading’ as a philanthropic act, and therefore do not engage in broad-based and sustained activism that is needed to transform reading cultures in South Africa. Fourthly, although private large publishers cannot play the role of transforming reading cultures, they oppose (whether actively or passively) affording a central role for the state in the transformation of reading cultures. Fifthly, the tendency to risk aversion in the publishing industry has meant that the book distribution network is largely concentrated in the white middle class areas, with no willingness or strategy to create a distribution network in working class areas.
An analysis that deepens our understanding of the sources of the crisis in the culture of reading is vital if we are to make significant inroads into transforming and expanding reading cultures. It is not enough for us to continue to blame the legacy of apartheid. We need to explore and deepen our understanding, our critique of how social, economic and political policy options affect the development of a culture of reading. We need to develop a critique of the publishing industry itself in order to explore the kind of changes (in the industrial structure) we need to transform and broaden reading cultures.
- Oupa Lehulere works at Khanya College and is member of the editorial collective. This article first appeared in the Khanya Journal 24. It is republished here with the permission of Khanya College, a NGO assisting various constituencies within working class and poor communities to respond to the challenges posed by the forces of economic and political globalisation.
- Press Release
23 August 2010
On 22 August a new library of cellphone stories – also known as mobile novels or m-novels – will be launched by the Shuttleworth Foundation as part of its m4Lit (mobiles for literacy) project. Yoza is the name of the m-novel library, which uses cellphones to support teen reading and writing. The m-novels are cool, interactive and free. Yoza is available on www.yoza.mobi and on MXit (go to Tradepost > MXit Cares > mobiBooks) on all WAP-enabled cellphones, as well as on Facebook (search for Yoza Cellphone Stories).
Steve Vosloo, founder of Yoza and fellow for 21st century learning at the Shuttleworth Foundation, says: “For the foreseeable future the cellphone, not the Kindle or iPad, is the ereader of Africa. Yoza aims to capitalise on that get Africa's teens reading and writing.”
Background to the Launch:
The m4Lit project began in 2009 as a pilot initiative to explore whether and how teens in South Africa would read stories on their cellphones. Most of the reading and writing that happens on cellphones is of very short texts, e.g. SMSes and chat messages on MXit. The Shuttleworth Foundation published a story called Kontax in September last year– twenty pages in length – and actively invited reader participation through this longer content; cellphones are interactive after all. Readers could leave comments on chapters, vote in opinion polls related to the story and enter a writing competition. By the end of May 2010 another Kontax story had been published.
The uptake was tremendous. Since launch, the two stories have been read over 34 000 times on cellphones! Over 4 000 entries have been received in the writing competitions and over 4 000 comments have been left by readers on individual chapters. Many of the readers asked for more stories and in different genres. Encouraged by the high uptake of the stories and by these reader requests, the Shuttleworth Foundation decided to launch Yoza.
What are the Yoza’s Goals?
To get young people reading and writing
Yoza’s goal is to get young people reading and writing, and in the ‘book-poor’ but ‘cellphone-rich’ context of South Africa, the phone is a viable complement and sometimes alternative to a printed book. If, as a country, we want our youth to read, then both books printed on paper and books on cellphones are needed. The paper versus pixels debate consistently takes up a lot of page space, but in a country with a severe literacy problem, it is necessary to move beyond that and focus on reading and writing, whatever the medium.
To create good reading material
First and foremost, stories published on Yoza offer compelling, entertaining reading for teens in South Africa. The aim is to captivate teens and inspire them to catch the reading bug. To that end, an initial line up of appealing stories in different genres have been planned (see Yoza's story line up below). Enjoying well-written stories by good authors is part of the Yoza experience. The m-novels are written in conventional language, with txtspeak only used when a character is writing or reading SMSes or instant message chats. Also included are prescribed school reading from the public domainKB: Is this important to mention? And will you put up full text, or some abridged or txtspk version? for example, Macbeth.
To use cellphones to make reading material affordable and widely accessible
There is a growing awareness around the impact that a lack of books has on literacy levels in South Africa. Books are scarce and prohibitively expensive for most South Africans. Stats show that 51 percent of households in South Africa do not own a single leisure book, while an elite six percent of households own 40 books or more. Only seven percent of schools have functioning libraries.
What South Africa’s teens do have access to are cellphones, with stats indicating that 90 percent of urban youth have their own cellphone. The take up and interaction with the first two Kontax stories published in English and isiXhosa clearly demonstrates that cellphones are a viable platform for local teen reading and writing. There is no charge for the actual stories, but users do pay their mobile network operator for mobile data traffic. Images have been kept to a minimum to keep the mobile data charges low – they range from 5c to 9c per chapter, making Yoza m-novels a very affordable option for great reading material for teens.
To be ‘Open’
Part of Yoza's success will be measured on the number of teens that read, enjoy and share its stories. The more, the better. For this reason stories are published under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike licence. This means that anyone can freely copy, distribute, display and remix the content, as long as they credit the original and subsequent authors.
The Praekelt Foundation was commissioned to develop the software platform that drives Yoza, and this too will be released as open-source software.
To grow the library of stories and create a community of readers
Over the next six months the plan for Yoza is to build a library of cellphone stories of multiple genres that are available to teens not only in South Africa, but ultimately throughout Africa. Kontax has already been published in Kenya through MXit. Competitions with airtime prizes prompt readers to participate in the interactive questions at the end of chapters, keeping readers engaged and coming back for more.
Current story languages include English and isiXhosa, an Afrikaans story is being written, and ideally stories in all of the South African languages will ultimately be published on Yoza. The Shuttleworth Foundation encourages the public to get involved in translating the stories into local languages – “if you translate it we’ll gladly publish it.”
To reach sustainability
While the Foundation is incubating the project, it will need to be sustainable from early next year. The project is actively looking for sponsors or partners to help make it sustainable.
What’s in the Yoza Library?
Kontax, the flagship title about a group of four teenage friends in Cape Town. In trial publications, the first two instalments of this m-novel series were read 34 000 times in seven months! The Yoza library features all m-novels in the series, with a fourth sequel launching on 22 August. This series is written by Sam Wilson and Lauren Beukes of Clockwork Zoo.
Streetskillz is a brand new soccer series written by talented young writer and soccer fanatic Charlie Human. The first story – Golden Goal – launches on 22 August and is set in the month of the soccer World Cup. Unforgettable international soccer reality merges with a dramatic fictional street soccer competition in Du Noon township in Cape Town.
Sisterz is a sassy new series by local chic lit star Fiona Snyckers. On 22 August Latoya’s Secret launches straight into the depths of dark family secrets, the highs of friendship, school Pop Idols auditions, and the breath-stopping sensations of first love.
Confessions of a Virgin Loser by talented, thoughtful novelist Edyth Bulbring is the story of a Joburg boy steering his way through the complicated world of peer pressure, teenage sex and HIV/AIDS, while just trying to be a cool kid at school.
Sequels to the above stories will generally launch on the first of each month from October 2010.
A Bicycle Ride through Lesotho by Duncan Guy – of Learn the News fame – tells the entertaining tale of riding through the Mountain Kingdom on a bicycle.
Yoza Classics is a section of its own, featuring a range of public domain titles. School prescribed work Macbeth is one of the first titles selected for Yoza Classics. The idea is not necessarily that teens will read the whole of Macbeth on their cellphones, but if they have to read Act 1; Scene 1 for homework and they don't have a textbook, then they can do so on their phones.
Useful Media Information:
Steve Vosloo, founder of Yoza, is the fellow for 21st century learning at the Shuttleworth Foundation. He has a technology background and focuses on youth and digital media.
Quote from Steve Vosloo
"We are looking to grow the library of stories as well as a vibrant community of young users who not only read the stories but participate in the commenting, reviewing and writing of them. We're turning reading into a social, sharing experience.”
Information for Readers:
Teens – get reading on Yoza
Look out for interactive questions at the end of each chapter – there are airtime prizes to be won! Also look out for regular writing competitions to win more airtime.
In August, Yoza and READ Educational Trust are giving away great prizes for the best story comments as part of Readathon 2010.
Write a story for Yoza and submit it at www.yoza.mobi/write – if they like it, they’ll publish it.
Parents and teachers – get involved
Encourage teens to read the stories, write comments and story reviews and enter the writing competitions.
Bring Yoza into the classroom by using one of the stories as prescribed reading and have learners write assignments on it.
Write a story for Yoza, or encourage your learners or child to submit a story at www.yoza.mobi/write. If they like it, they'll publish it.
For further information contact:
m4Lit Project Leader
Call: 083 208 9891
Blog: http://m4lit.wordpress.com (for project updates)Date published:23/08/2010Organisation:Shuttleworth Foundation
- NGOs have been urged to use Google Analytics to find about how their users found them and how they interact with their sites.
CEO of Hart Philanthropic Group (tedhart.com) and P2PFundraising, and Founder and CEO at GreenNonprofits.org, Ted Hart, says NGOs should among others, request their subscribers to visit their websites to download free content or receive other branded material, to drive traffic to their sites.
Speaking in Johannesburg during the first leg of SANGONeT’s 6th Annual ‘ICTs for Civil Society’ Conference, Hart also encouraged NGOs to incorporate blog technology as a way to update their websites.
For those of you not able to attend the Johannesburg, Durban or Cape Town events, visit our live blogs to follow updates of the conference sessions as they unfold.Source:SANGONeT
- Ted Hart, chief executive officer of Hart Philanthropic Group (tedhart.com) and P2PFundraising, and Founder and CEO at GreenNonprofits.org, is urging delegates attending day-two of the Johannesburg leg of the 2010 SANGONeT ‘ICTs for Civil Society’ Conference, to ‘stop fundraising and inspire action’.
Hart calls on NGOs to design interactive websites that allow users to upload and exchange content.
He is of the view that a website is an ‘asset’ to the organisation and should represents what the organisation stands for. He further maintains that the website’s navigation should tell the users about the priorities of the organisation and inspire them to take action. This action could be signing-up to an online newsletter, making an online donation, recruit volunteers, etc.
For those of you not able to attend the Johannesburg, Durban or Cape Town events, visit our live blogs to follow updates of the conference sessions as they unfold.Source:SANGONeT
- The Diakonia Centre is a project of a church organisation called Diakonia Council of Churches. We are based at 20 Diakonia Avenue (previously known as St. Andrews Street). For the first time this year, the Diakonia Centre will have an exhibition Stand No. 76 at the eThekwini Municipality’s 2010 SMME Fair which will run from the 3 – 5 September 2010 at the Exhibition Centre in Durban. Entry to the exhibition is free.
Diakonia Conference Centre
Exhibition Stand No. 76
Exhibition Centre, 11 Walnut Grove (Durban) opp. ICC
Time: 8 – 6pm for the duration of the Exhibition
Date: 3 – 5 September 2010
Contact Person: Ms Philile Mkhize, Conference Co-ordinator (031) 310 3523
The Diakonia Centre offers Conference facilities, catering and office accommodation.
Please bring along your business cards to the Diakonia Centre stand, so that you can be part of a daily draw and stand a chance to win discount vouchers on your next booking.
Please also visit our website at http://www.diakonia.org.zaEvent start date:03/09/2010Event end date:05/09/2010Event venue:Durban Exhibition Centre, Exhibition Centre, 11 Walnut Grove (Durban) opp. ICC
- Former South African President, Nelson Mandela, reminded us in 1994 that: “A critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy.” 16 years into democracy, opposition parties, civil society, activists and other stakeholders are facing new realities associated with our democracy - the proposed Protection of Information Bill and Media Appeals Tribunal (MAT).
The Alternative Information Development Centre (AIDC) has criticised the African National Congress (ANC) and the South African Communist Party (SACP) for tabling plans to censor and punish the media for reporting on corruption, when they are unable to maintain organisational discipline.
The AIDC is of the view that instead of striving to extend freedoms and access to information to all South Africans, the ANC-led government is targeting a series of freedoms that will further curtail media freedom.
“The ‘people shall not govern’ if they are not informed and cannot express their views. There can be no meaningful development or service delivery responsive to the needs of the people without the freedom of expression and information,” states the AIDC.
Contrary to the ANC's claim that the idea of the statutory MAT will strengthen media accountability, there is a feeling that it will constitute a step towards official media censorship. South Africa already has a self regulatory body in the form of a Press Ombudsman to oversee complaints of violations of the media code of conduct adopted by the Press Council.
In a recent press statement, 19 civil society organisations (CSOs) called on government to caution relevant authorities against misuse of the power of arrest against those who exercise democratic dissent and to also withdraw the Bill in its present form as it is severely obstructive of people’s right to information. They also want government to take adequate measures to ensure that the right to express freely is protected from encroachments.
Apart from promoting censorship, activists fear that the proposed Bill and the MAT could also be used to target citizens in the long run. Speaking during the Mail&Guardian Critical Thinking Forum in Johannesburg, Anton Harber, Caxton Professor of journalism and media studies at the University of the Witwatersrand, warned that people and even CSOs will no longer feel free to write news stories denouncing corrupt officials.
"The minute you give that power to the state or government to make those decisions, it will in the long run have the potential to be used, not only against journalists, but also against other citizens," warned Harber.
Harber’s view is somehow reiterated by former University of Cape Town chancellor, Dr Mamphele Ramphele, who warned that if enacted, the Protection of Information Bill could well be used to make the society less open and less accountable. Speaking at the recent launch of the Open Society Foundation’s Open Society Monitoring Index, Mamphele maintained that, “Citizens could be deprived of information and, ultimately, freedom of expression would be inhibited, if not choked altogether, for fear of the punitive measures the Bill contains.”
Botswana and Zimbabwe
In Botswana, government introduced the controversial Media Practitioners Act. According to CSOs the Act’s right to reply clause threatens the independence of the media in that country. Under the Act, media practitioners are required to register and accredit with the Media Council and allows for stringent fines and imprisonment’ of journalists.
In Zimbabwe, the imprisonment of journalists and human rights activists after the introduction of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act tells a story of a country with no media freedom. Despite a constitutional provision guaranteeing freedom of the press, the country had deported many foreign journalists.
We have been reliably informed that journalists are now forced to address President Robert Mugabe as: Head of State and Government, the commander-in-chief of the Zimbabwe defence forces and first secretary of ZANU-PF, Robert Mugabe, when writing news.
Outside our country, the International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, publishers and journalists, has come to the defence of media freedom in South Africa. In an open letter to President Jacob Zuma, the IPI calls on the country to halt the establishment of a mooted MAT and withdraw or amend the Protection of Information Bill.
IPI interim director, Alison Bethel-McKenzie, argues that, “...any Media Appeals Tribunal will not be independent. If the MAT is appointed by parliament, it will face an inherent conflict of interest that will skew its rulings in favour of public and party officials and essentially amount to government oversight of the media - which is unacceptable.”
In conclusion, Reporters Without Borders’ Worldwide Press Freedom Index ranked South Africa in 26th position in 2002 of the countries said to have ‘genuine press freedom’. South Africa was ranked 33rd in 2009, an indication that the country risks reversing the gains it made since the inception of democracy in terms of media freedom.
- Butjwana Seokoma is information coordinator at SANGONeT.
- Proposed Laws Will Silence Critics – NGO
- Govt Might Target CSOs Over Funding and Activities
- ANC Urged to Remove MAT from its Agenda
- IPI Criticises SA Over Media Freedom
- Zuma: ANC Not Trying to Control the Media
- Civil Society Deeply Concerned About Roll Back in Democratic Freedoms in South Africa
- MISA – SA Favours ‘Self-Regulatory’ Media
- Call to Defend, Advance Freedom of Expression
- MISA-SA Calls for Secrecy Bill and ANC tribunal Plan to be Withdrawn
- Protection of Information Bill and Media Appeals Tribunal are Serious Blows to the Freedom of Expression of the Unemployed
- The latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor shows that in South Africa men are 1.6 times more likely to succeed as business owners than women.
This shocking statistic is reported to be a particularly South African phenomenon. Amongst other things, it appears to be related to low levels in self-belief amongst women that they have the knowledge, skills and experience to start and succeed in business.
As owner of a business that is dedicated to supporting the growth of entrepreneurs, and a single mother of three girls, the reasons for this situation (and more importantly the possible solutions) have special relevance.
The problem of gender inequality and gender violence is well documented in our country – and this in itself is enough to reduce the self-confidence and self-belief of women. However, it is only when travelling outside the main centres that one sees the broader effects of this inequality – where girl children are pulled out of school at a young age to help around the house, and the prevailing attitude seems to be ‘why bother?’, as they will invariably marry young and/ or be pregnant by the age of 16 or 17.
This is certainly not only a South African problem - I recall being shocked at the low levels of schooling amongst girl children in rural Zambia, where girls are removed from school and married off as young as 13! Of course part of this equation is the effect of culture, and cultures which entrench the concept of women as second class citizens incapable of independent thought should not be surprised when these same women fail as entrepreneurs.
But its not just culture, nor education that holds women entrepreneurs back – and for this I am a case in point. I was raised as an equal in a family of boys, and am blessed with a post-graduate education - so from a self-belief, cultural and skills perspective I score tops. Yet despite this I have had to shoulder some burdens from which the average man is shielded.
Firstly, I have no wife at home to care for the children, do the shopping, cleaning, laundry – I do that. Secondly and possibly most significant, I care for everyone else too – often both financially and emotionally – my mother, my staff, my community.
I am by no means the outlier in this statistic – many, if not most women entrepreneurs are wives and mothers who run the business with one hand and the world with the other. The more rural the environment, the harder the task as rural women face challenges of water collection, firewood collection, atrocious health support systems, and often an oppressive cultural environment.
My own experience in running enterprise development programmes assisting emerging entrepreneurs and community projects has provided some wonderfully inspiring examples of successful women in business, proving that with the appropriate opportunities women can certainly compete, if not surpass men as entrepreneurs.
So within this reality, how can we help women rise to find independence, wealth, satisfaction and success as entrepreneurs?
Firstly, women and girls need to be supported in the belief that they can be successful business leaders and entrepreneurs. This begins with exposure to success stories, and by seeing successful women at work in their communities. One such example of a true female role model is Eunice Mlotywa of Iliwa, based in Khayelitsha township in the Western Cape and a beneficiary of the Old Mutual Legends Programme. Eunice has over the years single-handedly built a highly successful sewing and beading business, and as her confidence and success increases she is branching out into other gaps in the market, opening a spaza shop and selling airtime and electricity to the community. In amongst all this, Eunice somehow finds the time to manage a feeding scheme for the aged, be a mentor to young girls in the community, run training workshops and be a mother herself. Hers is a story that needs to be told, to inspire other women to rise up and make an impact.
Secondly girls need to be properly educated – all the way to matric and beyond. And education needs to include subjects such as mathematics, science, computer literacy, communications and public speaking, all vital components of a leadership and business role. I recall an experience in Mpumulanga in 2009, when providing business skills training to a group of rural women and discovering that almost half of them were functionally illiterate. One lady could hardly hold a pen to place a cross where her signature should go, and yet this woman was dynamic, highly intelligent and capable – on the face of it far more capable than her brother sitting on the opposite side of the room, who had been educated to matric level. Given the right education opportunities, who knows what she might achieve?
Thirdly, women need to surround themselves with people who enable them to succeed as women, and as mothers and as business leaders! This means creating support networks, access to peer groups and mentors who support them in their goal to succeed and lead. One of my favourite success stories is the Inina Craft Cooperative from Eshowe near the Valley of a Thousand Hills, KwaZulu-Natal.
This group of 150 Zulu mothers and grandmothers, most of whom are illiterate and have little or no formal education, have created a thriving business using the traditional weaving, beading and handcraft skills within their community. Inina is efficiently managed by suitably skilled local women, for the benefit of local women. In the true spirit of mothering, they even find the time and generosity to create and support an orphanage for HIV-affected children in the community.
Lastly, women and girls need to learn to be more selfish. They need to know that not only is it okay to put themselves first, to ‘say no’, but that unless they do they will endlessly remain the supporter of someone else’s dreams, and never achieve their own. Women need to know that success comes to those who say ‘Yes!’ to opportunity, and step up to reach their dreams.
So, while the data may show that men are 1.6 times more likely to be successful entrepreneurs in South Africa, perhaps the real measure of success should be not simply the number of men or women in business, but the impact that their success has? If we look closely at the wider benefits that women in business create – beyond income and job creation to family stability and community support – it may be just as accurate to say that successful female entrepreneurs offer 1.6 times more value to the economy and the country as a whole, than their male counterparts!
- Catherine Wijnberg ( (MBA, M.Agr.Sc. BSc.Agric.(Hons) is recognised as a catalyst for her innovative thinking in the field of small business development. She is the Director of Fetola & Associates, a fast growing enterprise development agency that operates throughout Southern Africa, as well as the Fetola Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation made up of individuals with a desire to make an impact in sustainable community development.
Qualified with a Masters degree in Agriculture and an MBA from Henley UK, Catherine has owned and operated small businesses in five different sectors, including agriculture, tourism & craft development.
Contact: Catherine Wijnberg 084 668 4603 / 021 701 7466 email@example.com
- ‘The South African Child Gauge’ is the only publication in the country that provides an annual snap-shot of the status of South Africa’s children. Published by the Children’s Institute at the University of Cape Town, this publication tracks South Africa’s progress towards realising children’s rights. The latest issue focuses on the theme ‘Healthy children: From survival to optimal development‘.
For more information, click here.