Motherhood is political. This is the message that social movement, Embrace, hopes to drive home in the build-up to the local government elections taking place on 1 November.
The #motherhoodispolitical campaign launches this week and is born of the realisation that despite women comprising the majority of voters in South Africa, and even though, mothers in particular play a significant role in the economic and social life of the country; the concerns of mothers are not prioritised by those elected to public office. The campaign kicks off with an opinion poll open to all mothers living in South Africa. The purpose of the poll is to gather valuable information directly from mothers on their priority issues, as well as, challenges facing their communities.
“In 2019, 57% of voters in the general elections were women. And now, women make up 55% of registered voters in the upcoming local government elections. South Africa records over 1 million live births annually – that’s over 1 million women stepping into a new journey of motherhood every year. Clearly, we are an important demographic. However, mothers are not recognised as a legitimate constituency. Mothers are not specifically targeted by election campaigns and their concerns are not prioritised in the articulation of party priorities,” says project leader, Julie Mentor.
She explains that the outcome of the municipal elections is critical to the lives of mothers. As the ones primarily responsible for the wellbeing of their families and communities, mothers are acutely affected by poor service delivery. “Mothers are the most qualified to speak about the issues affecting their communities and their experiences should be at the centre of conversations around local government. It is mothers who wait in long queues at primary healthcare clinics, walk home in unsafe and unlit streets, who have to ensure that their households have clean water when there are disruptions to basic services like water, electricity and sanitation. Mothers are the ones paying rates and should be consulted on how their rates and taxes are spent. Every mother is an expert on her child and should not be excluded from decisions affecting the education, recreation or future employment of her children,” says Mentor.
The National Income Dynamics Study – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey revealed that women are disproportionately affected by job loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.. In addition, mothers spent more on childcare in response to school closures and re-openings, and more women than men cited childcare responsibilities as a constraint to their labour activities. This is especially worrying when one considers the high number of female-headed households.
Mentor believes that the lack of gender-sensitive language in many party manifestos and no explicit mention of mothers is indicative of the marginalisation of mothers in society. The #motherhoodispolitical campaign is geared at raising awareness about the influence mothers have in and out of the voting booth.
“We want to ensure proper recognition of the participation of moms as voters and that proposed policies, programmes, bylaws and budgets truly reflect the needs of women. We would like to see mothers demand their rightful role in politics. The poll will give us a better sense of what SA mothers really want, how they think their local municipality has performed over the past five years, and what local government should do to improve living conditions, for them and their children,” says Mentor.
“Mothers have the distinct advantage of being a part of the biggest group of voters in the country. As long as mothers and mother-supporters are informed, engaged and united; they stand a better chance of realising their goals. The poll will be available on Embrace’s social media platforms. All mothers and pregnant women residing in South Africa are encouraged to have their say”.
The campaign also aims to educate mothers on local government and help them make an informed vote. “We want the mothers of South Africa to wake up on 1 November feeling confident and empowered to vote in their best interests. The mother vote is a powerful one,” says Mentor.
Follow the conversation on Facebook and Twitter @EmbraceZA #motherhoodispolitical #movementformothers #votelikeamother #elections2021
For more information on Embrace, visit www.embrace.org.za
Header image via https://www.embrace.org.za/