Women Are Still Pioneers

Compared to patriarchal households, women-led households have been on the rise in South Africa in recent years. Matriarchal households face greater social and economic challenges. I saw this firsthand growing up.

I grew up in a rural area in the Eastern Cape. My very first memories are that the people who were at the forefront of my life and many other children around me, were women. This starts with me thinking that my grandmother was my mother and that the old woman who was our neighbor was family because she was just always there when we needed her. Like many other South Africans, I was raised by my grandmother. I was born in 1993 and just after the election in 1994, my parents had to move to the big city in hopes of better opportunities. As a single parent and single grandparent to us, our grandmother raised her younger children and us. With the little money that she received from our parents, she had to stretch it enough to make sure that all thirteen of us were fed. She did an amazing job, making sure that we were well fed. Most of our food came from her garden in front of the house, the chicken she kept for eggs and milk came from her brother who stayed close by who had livestock. 

Later, I moved to one of the townships in Cape Town for better education and better health care. I saw that the family dynamics were still very similar here. I saw women trying to make ends. Just like my grandmother would wake up in the wee hours of the morning to go to her garden, many women would wake up early to prepare their informal trading stalls and a few got ready to go work as domestic workers. The difference is that there were no gardens where they got their food, instead, spaza-shops to buy food every evening to feed their families. My grandmother was no different from the other 6.1 million women who lead households today. 

Recently, I joined The Noakes Foundation where I met many amazing women making great strides in the Health and Nutrition industry. What hit me the most is meeting the women who are a part of the Eat Better South Africa programme. Despite their circumstances, these women were still able to change their lifestyle to a Low Carb lifestyle. As women automatically they are responsible for cooking at home. Amongst the many challenges they faced, most of them shared how they would have to prepare separate meals because children and their male counterparts are resistant to changing to low carb and refer to “diets” as things only women do. Listening to women in the Eat Better South Africa speak, thinking back to the women in my village, and looking at the women in the township I am from, I realized that though these women come from very different backgrounds, they are the same.

Just like the women of 1956, women today are still pioneers.

National Women’s Day draws attention to important issues South African women still face, such as parenting, domestic violence, sexual harassment, unequal pay, and so on. This day can be used as a day to fight for or protest these ideas but today, I call for men to step up. For men to share the burden women carry in our society.

About the author:

Sisipho Goniwe is a Marketing graduate from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. She has experience in Social Media marketing for big brands. She is a sister and mentor to young girls in her area. Sisipho prides herself on her involvement in youth issues and initiatives. Sisipho is passionate about community development and empowerment.Sisipho is the Marketing Administrator for The Noakes Foundation and Eat Better SA. Before joining The Noakes Foundation she ran a series of women’s workshops where women spoke about women’s health and overall well being


Eat Better South Africa! (EBSA) is the community outreach branch of The Noakes Foundation, and is a lifestyle and dietary programme aimed at educating people from underserved communities, teaching them to get better by eating better.

EBSA is funded through the generosity of our donors and through proceeds from our affiliate program. Following fourteen successful community pilots in two provinces in South Africa, we are ready to expand our programmes nationally, using our demonstrated and published results and success.

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