Kgothatso Dithebe, Miss SA Top Ten finalist. Supplied image.
Kgothatso Dithebe, Miss SA Top Ten finalist. Supplied image.

As South African women, we don’t feel safe in our own country – Miss SA finalists

By Sameer Naik Time of article published Aug 21, 2021

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Johannesburg - To commemorate Women’s Month, the Saturday Star caught up with this year's Miss SA Top 10 finalists to chat about the challenges that women in the country face.

They also chat to us about their experiences of being discriminated because of their sex.

Bianca Bezuidenhout

What are some of the challenges you face as a woman living in South Africa?

There is a silent war going around against women in South Africa. Alarmingly high rates of gender-based violence (GBV) makes being a woman in South Africa more challenging and dangerous than being in some of the world’s war-torn areas. As a South African woman, I don’t feel safe in my own country that I call home.

Have you ever been discriminated against because of your sex?

As a survivor of GBV, I have experienced discrimination, physical and verbal abuse first-hand when I was in high school which had a significant effect on my self-worth, identity and overall mental health. God’s love restored and transformed my life completely and reminded me that I am worthy of a purposeful life. It breaks my heart that what I went through still remains a sad reality for most women and children all over my country.

Which one South African woman has inspired you?

Definitely Miss Universe 2018, Zozibini Tunzi.

Catherine Groenewald, Miss SA Top 10 finalist. Supplied image.

Catherine Groenewald

What are some of the challenges you face as a woman living in South Africa?

It is the high levels of violence against women. I realise how calculated we need to be as women. We constantly need to check if our friends get home safely and ask that they send their live location. We get lucky when we get home but others don’t. It bothers me that men don’t see that they need to be active participants in this fight. The rallies are always done by women and normally there are very few men. It hurts me so much to hear about women being discriminated against. I want to fight GBV in our country.

Have you ever been discriminated against because of your sex?

Yes! It’s happened on numerous occasions. I have been catcalled so many times. At one point, it happened every single day I walked to university for a full year. I’ve also had male lecturers being extremely inappropriate and sometimes when we as women complain, people don’t always believe us or take us seriously.

Which one South African woman has inspired you?

Rolene Strauss is a huge inspiration to me.

Jeanni Mulder

What are some of the challenges you face as a woman living in South Africa?

Constantly being worried for our safety, that falls under the many forms of GBV. Gender inequality there are so many issues underlying that.

Period poverty a 2018 study showed that 30% of South African girls miss school due to a lack of access to menstrual products.

Have you ever been discriminated against because of your sex?

I feel all women get discriminated against for their sex, we have always been seen as less. I’m lucky to not work in a corporate environment, but I have so many girlfriends who have to work twice as hard and as long just to prove themselves.

Which one South African woman has inspired you?

I’ve really been inspired by so many women in South Africa, but one off the top of my head would be Rolene Strauss.

Kaylan Matthews, Miss SA Top Ten finalist. Supplied image.

Kaylan Matthews

What are some of the challenges you face as a woman living in South Africa?

It breaks my heart to know that us as South African women are objectified in so many areas of our lives. If it’s not catcalling in the streets, it is being underestimated in the workplace or field of study. We are constantly undervalued and not seen as equals to the male stature. We have come a long way but we still have a long way to go to form a part of being future leaders in our country.

Have you ever been discriminated against because of your sex?

Absolutely. A simple example is that of me being in the gym. I love to lift weights and have a deep knowledge on exercise as I am currently completing my final year degree as a Human Movement Science student.

I have had males approach me in the gym and try to undermine what it is that I do, or how they think a woman should look. That is until they find out what it is that I do study.

Which one South African woman has inspired you?

My mother. She is a woman of strength, integrity and independence.

Kgothatso Dithebe

What are some of the challenges you face as a woman living in South Africa?

We live in fear because violence against women has increased and continues to increase. Not only in relationships between two parties but also the rate of crime. Because of the high crime rate in South Africa, women and children are most vulnerable.

Have you ever been discriminated against because of your sex?

Yes, I have been discriminated against because of my sex. Having a company that deals with construction which is a male-dominated industry, I have been told countless times that I cannot have a certain project because I won’t be able to do the work required of me. My company is relatively new, so I still want to acquire experience by being given a chance. I have also been told that males do the job better than females because they have more experience, and they know way more than females do.

Which one South African woman has inspired you?

Ma’am Basetsana Kumalo. I love how she mentors young women, especially in the entertainment industry.

Lalela Mswane

What are some of the challenges you face as a woman living in South Africa?

A pertinent challenge I face as a woman living in South Africa is gender inequality. Most women are subjected to unfair discrimination based on gender, particularly in the workplace. This is evidenced by issues such as the ever-increasing domestic violence cases and the gender pay gap where a man and a woman would produce work of equal value but the man would be remunerated more by virtue of his gender. That gender remains a determinant factor in remuneration consideration, is disturbing but is the unfortunate reality we experience.

Have you ever been discriminated against because of your sex?

I unfortunately have been discriminated against based on my sex. This occurred a couple of years ago when I worked in retail and I was denied a promotion which I was the best suited and qualified for. The promotion was given to my male counterpart instead as he could handle all the tough stuff which came with the job. So many women face similar situations on a daily basis and so I feel it is not only my desire but my duty to spark conversations aimed at addressing issues such as these.

Lalela Mswane, Miss SA Top Ten finalist. Supplied image.

Which one South African woman has inspired you?

Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma is one South African woman who has inspired me.

Moratwe Masima

What are some of the challenges you face as a woman living in South Africa?

The biggest challenges I face right now are definitely relate to my safety. I do not feel safe driving to work, going to get groceries or even going to the gym because of the possibility of harassment.

Being a woman in a male-dominated workplace of medicine also challenges me because I feel like women are constantly having to prove themselves just to be seen as equal and competent as our male colleagues.

Have you ever been discriminated against because of your sex?

Yes, I have. Being a medical doctor has put me in a highly competitive career that has resulted in my competence as a woman, especially a black woman, being called into question. I was once told by a senior doctor that I took up the space of a male doctor and alluded to the fact that I did not deserve to be in medical school simply because I was a woman and was not intelligent enough to be there.

Which one South African woman has inspired you?

I am inspired by Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe.

Tiffany Francis

What are some of the challenges you face as a woman living in South Africa?

I know I am not the only woman that has had to share my location or send the “Let me know when you’re home safe” text or the only woman who worries about her safety. This is a testament to how, as women, our everyday approach to life has to be so calculated. We take extra precautions in order for us to have a sense of normality and to feel safe.

Have you ever been discriminated against because of your sex?

Yes, I’ve come face to face with misogyny in the entrepreneurial world. Women and the skills of women often get undermined and for a long time, I felt the pressures of having to work even harder to solidify my space as an entrepreneur due to the negative and judgemental labels put on women. I’ve personally been able to rise above these labels by gaining confidence in my abilities and being assertive in the difference I aim to make in the lives of the women in our country. I hope to encourage all women to do the same in their field.

Which one South African woman has inspired you?

Zozibini Tunzi.

Zimi Mabunzi

What are some of the challenges you face as a woman living in South Africa?

Safety. This is a big one for all of us. Women’s safety is a huge challenge in our country to a point where you cannot even trust a person that’s actually being sincerely kind sometimes.

Discrimination. We experience discrimination in so many spaces for the way we dress, to being deemed incapable because we’re female or because we have families to also take care of.

Public health care system. I think there’s room for improvement in our health care. Our system tends to place women in vulnerable positions where their lives are sometimes threatened, especially in cases of labour and delivery of children.

Have you ever been discriminated against because of your sex?

I think a lot of women can agree that we go through this more than we speak about it. The discrimination I’d say I’ve experienced most is that of being expected to dress a certain way because I’m a woman. From the gym to the beach to our churches, etc. There’s a heavy, sometimes unspoken expectation that’s placed on women that isn’t placed on men.

Which one South African woman has inspired you?

Caster Semenya. When I think of power, I think of Caster.

The Saturday Star

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