With August being Women’s Month, it’s the perfect time to think about how we as a society can do more to support young women. Meet a young woman on the hustle, Nthabi *, a 21-year old young woman from Soweto, studying for a diploma in business management at the University of Johannesburg. She is motivated by the young entrepreneurs she meets and is focusing on her dreams and goals; in her words- “I want to do better in life and I do not want to stay where I am right now. I just want to keep moving”.
She wants to motivate her little brother to pursue his studies, as she is the first person in her family to study higher than a Matric. Both her mother and sister have not attended high school. Now with parents who have passed on, she, like many young women across the country, has added responsibility at home. Even young women who do not have their own children, often still have additional responsibilities at home as the division of household labour is often skewed, making it even more challenging to get out and hustle for educational or work opportunities. Sixty two percent of young females who are not in employment, education or training (NEET), state they are inactive specifically due to their caregiving responsibilities.
Young men can be perceived as not having to bear this particular burden as much as their female counterparts do. Nthabi described her perspective, “I am different from men at my age because of the way we think and how we do things. I feel like sometimes they are a bit immature or rather they still like enjoying life and stuff”.
Another notable difference between young men and women, is the effect that being married has on their likelihood to be in NEET status. Young men who are married are 15.4 % less likely to be NEET than young men who are not married. Married young women are 14.8% more likely to be NEET than young women who are not married. In South Africa, many people hold traditional beliefs for men to be working outside of the home through employment and for women to be working inside providing caregiving and household labour. This often results in young women needing to balance childcare responsibility and work. When Youth Capital met Zanele- young woman from Langa, earlier this year, she was balancing both employment and motherhood. She had had to drop out of school because she fell pregnant.
Young women may have a larger load to carry, which is reflected in being 8.4% more likely to be both unemployed and not in education or training than their male counterparts. However, with employment and educational support services that acknowledge these additional responsibilities, and support provided by their fellow female peers, young women can thrive. This is seen in the higher percentage of young women taking part in youth employability programmes as they continue to hustle and make the most of the opportunities available to them.
Young women across the country are making their hustle work for them. Nthabi and Zanele stress the importance for young women to support each other while they hustle. When asked what she has learned from other women Nthabi shared, “I have learned that we should not compare but be there for each other and have that mentality of sisterhood and be able to sustain and maintain that”. Echoing Nthabi’s call for sisterhood, Zanele said, “We shouldn’t give up our dreams just because of some boyfriend or friends or peer pressure, all that stuff. We should be focused with aims and ambitions like ‘No we can do this’ and we will if you tell yourself as a person that you can”.
How do you think young women can be better supported to thrive in their studies and in the workplace? Why not get in touch with us- we’d love to hear from you!
1. Graham, L., e.al. (2016). SIYAKHA YOUTH ASSETS Youth assets for employability: An evaluation of youth employability interventions. Johannesburg.
2. De Lannoy, A. & Mudiriza, G. (2019) A profile of young NEETs in South Africa.
3. Graham, L., e.al. (2016). SIYAKHA YOUTH ASSETS Youth assets for employability: An evaluation of youth employability interventions. Johannesburg.