Against the odds

Township women are heroes in the struggle for a better life

  • by Spotong
  • Aug 11, 2016
  • 252

Women’s Month is commemorated in August as a tribute to the more than 20 000 women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 in protest against the extension of Pass Laws to women. The Government of South Africa declared August women’s month and 9 August is celebrated annually as Women’s Day.

As we celebrate Woman's Month, Gauteng Liquor Forum saw it imperative not to overlook our businesswomen in townships. We felt it necessary to peek into some of the challenges they face as they strive to beat the odds in the struggle not only to survive, but also thrive. In that quest we visited Tembisa and an informal settlement in Boksburg to understand the challenges faced by our female entrepreneurs in the townships.

Closely interacting with some of these brave and strong willed women, we gained insight into their plight as they gave voice to their frustrations and anger, which are influenced by the impact of both past and present systems, leaving townships neglected, underdeveloped and diversely over populated with a high unemployment status.

Women’s Month is commemorated in August as a tribute to the more than 20 000 women who marched to the Union Buildings on 9 August 1956 in protest against the extension of Pass Laws to women.

Townships have great economical potential, though they remain isolated. Amongst all these negatives beats a strong heart of female entrepreneurs, striving to provide food on the table, put clothes on their families' backs and educate their children for a brighter tomorrow. Our woman entrepreneurs range from street vendors to liquor traders, all with a common goal to survive and make their businesses flourish, fighting against the odds of crime, lack of funding, infrastructures, landownership, irregular laws and police brutality.

We interviewed two women amongst many who were both in the food and beverage industry, one being a street food and mini spaza vendor and the other a liquor trader. Both highlighted the fact that the food and beverage market had great potential in townships, but lack of business skills, funding, existing violating laws and neglect by local authorities threatened to make their efforts and dreams fade into thin air.

The street vendor mentioned that vendors' hard earned stock would be forcefully removed by police regularly, leaving them stranded and helpless, not understanding the brutality and questioning why they are not fined and left with their valued stock. She strongly opposed the newly proposed tobacco laws which would cripple her business, make her more vulnerable to corrupt police officials and counterfeit cigarettes.

She went on to mention her desire for a stable working place, but due to unresolved land issues over the past 23 years she has resided in the informal settlement, she has neither been able to register her business nor access a trading licence, due to not having a permanent and legitimate address as the other pending challenges.

The female liquor trader, who has been in the business for the past six years, alluded to the existing socioeconomic challenges, which affect women and youth entrepreneurs immensely. She also expressed her frustrations in regards to funding opportunities being cut off at the 35 years limit. She felt that older traders were not given fair opportunities and were being discarded. She pleaded for business skill empowerment and a more effective liquor license issuing process, as traders are constantly exposed to police brutality, having their stock confiscated and being expected to pay up to R1500.00 to retrieve it. She further expressed her anger towards the proposed liquor and tobacco laws, stating that these laws would be detrimental to gaining business, ultimately forcing her to let go of her employees, meaning more unemployment. She queried why the government continuously introduces laws and changes them, as she saw nothing wrong with existing laws, which are respected by traders wishing to co-exist peacefully. Sadly, she added that these laws will will just expose traders to more corrupt police activity. It seems that the police prey on township entrepreneurs.
On a positive note, our affiliate's President, Mr Sithole of Gauliba Liquor Association in Tembisa, applauded women liquor traders as he issued them with membership and compliance certificates.

The Gauteng Liquor from President, Mr L. Madida wishes all women entrepreneurs a well celebrated woman's month, assuring them that progressive actions will be implemented to assist with elevating their existing challenges.

With the support of industry bodies such as GLF, our courageous women entrepreneurs are supported in their valiant struggle. They are truly the mothers of our nation.

Happy Women's Month, we highly respect and value our township entrepreneurs.

Compiled by Dudu Ntsele on behalf of Mr L. Madida, President: Gauteng Liquor Forum