A groundbreaking photovoice project which unveils the struggles of low-income women in Cape Town is set to debut at the Motherload Exhibition in Community House, Salt River, on Monday.
Named for its utilisation of a feminist decolonial methodology, the project aims to amplify the voices of low-income women through participatory action research, addressing the prevailing middle-class bias in policy responses.
A collaborative endeavour between UCT, the Health Systems Research Unit at the South African Medical Research Council, the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Flourish (Grow Great Campaign) – a women’s rights organisation, and the Western Cape Government, the project’s primary objective is to recognise the intersecting vulnerabilities of low-income mothers. It seeks to forge sustainable policy solutions to enhance their quality of life.
Employing the photovoice method, the initiative sheds light on the day-to-day realities, challenges, and requirements of low-income women.
It underscores their disproportionately heavy care burdens stemming from multiple layers of labour-intensive motherhood, all without adequate resources, visibility, or support.
Dr Wanga Zembe-Mkabile, Senior Specialist Scientist at the SAMRC’s Health Systems Research Unit, said: “We engaged with low-income mothers across Cape Town to gather insights into their lived experiences.
“Through their photographic narratives, we uncovered the extensive, often overlooked care responsibilities stemming from their living conditions and the complex intersections of their social class, gender, and race.”
The exhibition promises a candid portrayal of the struggles, strengths, and unmet needs faced by these women, offering a platform for their narratives to drive actionable change.
As the unveiling date approaches, anticipation grows for the unveiling of this innovative project that aims to transform policy perspectives and improve the lives of marginalised women in Cape Town.
The mostly unseen care burden was termed the “motherload”.
This encompasses instrumental care including handwashing clothes, cooking with limited supplies, psychological care like hypervigilance to protect children from violence, emotional care including trying to keep stability in unpredictable circumstances, and cognitive care for example, remembering everything.
The participants also raised other issues, including fear of revealing teenage pregnancy, abandonment by partners and fathers, workplace policies disregarding care commitments, and stigma associated with food insecurity.
The public exhibition is on from 10am to 4pm at Community House, Salt River. Admission is free of charge.
The team includes Prof Ameeta Jaga of UCT, Prof Fiona Ross of UCT, Prof Jane Battersby of UCT, Dr ZembeMkabile and, Prof Yanga Zembe from the University of KwaZulu Natal/ SAMRC.