South African Woman in Society

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Women in Society
South Africa Table of Contents In general, all racial and ethnic groups in South Africa have long-standing beliefs concerning gender roles, and most are based on the premise that women are less important, or less deserving of power, than men. Most African traditional social organizations are male centered and male dominated. Even in the 1990s, in some rural areas of South Africa, for example, wives walk a few paces behind their husbands in keeping with traditional practices. Afrikaner religious beliefs, too, include a strong emphasis on the theoretically biblically based notion that women's contributions to society should normally be approved by, or be on behalf of, men.Twentieth-century economic and political developments presented South African women with both new obstacles and new opportunities to wield influence. For example, labor force requirements in cities and mining areas have often drawn men away from their homes for months at a time, and, as a result, women have borne many traditionally male responsibilities in the village and home. Women have had to guarantee the day-to-day survival of their families and to carry out financial and legal transactions that otherwise would have been reserved for men.Women and ApartheidApartheid imposed new restrictions on African women beginning in the 1950s. Many lived in squalor in the former homelands, where malnutrition, illness, and infant mortality were much higher than in urban areas. Other women who followed their husbands into cities or mining areas lived in inadequate, and often illegal, housing near industrial compounds. Women often left their own families to commute long distances to low-wage jobs in the domestic work force in white neighborhoods. Substantial numbers were temporary workers in agriculture; and a growing number of women joined the burgeoning industrial work force, as has been carefully researched in Iris Berger's Threads of Solidarity: Women in South African Industry,...
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