Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Women as Agents of Development: An Assessment of Modimola Village in the North West Province of South Africa through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP)

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Women as Agents of Development: An Assessment of Modimola Village in the North West Province of South Africa through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP)

Article excerpt

Throughout history and in many societies, inequalities between women and men have been a part and parcel of an accepted male-dominated culture. It is a complex historical process which needs to be thoroughly examined and studied before conceiving a viable strategy to improve and sustain the status of women in society. Lack of recognition of women in the African society is aptly noted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The organisation is of the view that there has been very little recognition of the actual or potential contribution of women in terms of economic, social and cultural development within their communities (OECD, 2008: 7).

The role of women within households, coupled with the high level of unemployment and disguised employment of the population in general, has led to the unequal state of priority of men in matters of employment. This is, despite the fact that resilient and resourceful rural women contribute in various ways through different livelihood strategies in getting their households and communities out of poverty (Snyder & Tadesse, 1995). According to Amusan, (2014), rural women play a pivotal role in agriculture and in rural development in most countries of Africa. These roles challenge the socio-biological notion that societal responsibility is genetically determined (Goldstein, 2001: 51). Despite their potential in job creation and raising the standard of living of their communities, there are a number of constraints which prevent them from playing important and effective roles in societies bound by age-old traditions and beliefs of patriarchal modes of economic performance. Rural women have always been discriminated against due to stereotypes that restrict them to a reproductive role. They are also denied access to resources which could eventually enhance their social and economic contribution to the society.

According to Statistics South Africa (Stats SA, 2014), 52% of South Africa's total population are women and a greater percentage of this number live in rural areas. The number of rural women differs drastically between population groups. 75% of black South African women live in rural areas compared to only 17% of Coloured women and 8% White women. The rate of unemployment among rural women amounts to 53% for all population groups compared to 47% of urban women. These women lack access to basic services and opportunities; a situation that persists even today. In addition, among rural African women, unemployment amounts to 56% compared to 31% among rural Coloured women and only 13% among rural White women. The above statistics indicate that the majority of black African women continue to live under extreme poor conditions in rural areas (Bobo, 2011:2). What then should be done to address this situation? For the purpose of this study, the question raised is, given the state of rural African women, do South African government projects, under its Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP) significantly improve the living standards of rural women? In trying to unpack this problem, it is the intention of this paper to focus on Modimola village in the North West Province of South Africa. Though we are conscious of a fact that this paper may not be able to give a clear picture of the South African situation, at the same time, it will contribute to the body of academic knowledge for future planners in rural areas of the country.

The intention of this paper is to examine a general trend of women's plights in Africa as a continent before examining Modimola village as a case study. In doing this, our research will show if it is possible to make a general assumption about rural areas in Africa in general and South Africa in particular. The specific objectives of the paper are to investigate the role played by South African rural women in community development, especially through EPWP in Modimola village; and to determine the benefits derived by rural women from their participation in EPWP development projects. …

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