With an average score of 62%, gender attitudes in South Africa are gradually changing for the better, but evidence of deep-seated patriarchal attitudes is still strong. For example, while 52% of women and men agree or strongly agree that “women and men should be treated the same”, 43% agree or strongly agree that “a woman should obey her husband.”
These are among the key findings of the Southern African Gender Progress Study (GPS) administered to 8,387 women and men of all age groups in South Africa between January 2019 and May 2021. Read the full South Africa report here. Access and share a power point presentation on the findings here.
With an average score of 62%, gender attitudes in South Africa are gradually changing for the better, but evidence of deep-seated patriarchal attitudes is still strong. For example, while 52% of women and men agree or strongly agree that “women and men should be treated the same”, 43% agree or strongly agree that “a woman should obey her husband.” These are among the key findings of the Southern African Gender Progress Study (GPS) administered to 8,387 women and men of all age groups in South Africa between January 2019 and May 2021.
The GPS is administered by country focal networks of the Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance coordinated by Gender Links to better understand different perspectives on gender equality, so as to target efforts to change attitudes and behaviour in more effectively. The Alliance comprises women’s rights networks across SADC that campaigned for the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development adopted in 2008 and produce an annual Barometer to track progress against its provisions.
The GPS consists of 25 questions that respondents either strongly agree, agree, or disagree, strongly disagree with. The responses are rated on a scale of zero (least progressive) to 100 most progressive.
On a positive note, relatively low percentages agreed or strongly agreed that “disabled boys should have priority over disabled girls to special needs facilities and services” (14%); “if a man beats his wife, it shows that he loves her (14%); families should spend less money on
the education of their daughters than of their sons (15%).
Worrying findings include low percentages of those who agreed or strongly agreed that “a woman can refuse to have sex with her husband” (49%) and “men should share the work around the house with women such as doing dishes, cleaning, and cooking” (46%). It is also worrying that only 35% of those surveyed agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that “a woman should be able to choose to terminate her pregnancy in the first three months of
Female respondents had higher gender attitude scores than male respondents. Overall, women scored 63% compared to men (61%). Although for some questions responses between male and female respondents were similar, for most female respondents held more
progressive gender attitudes than male respondents.
The research grouped GPS questions into six clusters: gender-based violence, Harmful practices, Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR), Sexual diversity, Media, and General questions. Men held more negative gender attitudes in relation to gender-based violence questions, SRHR, harmful practices questions, and general questions than female respondents held. Women and men had the least different views on sexual diversity and media. Young people in the younger than 18 age bracket had lower scores (58%) than respondents between the ages of 25 and 50 with a mean score of 64%. This is disappointing in a country
where the majority population are young, and high hopes are being pinned on them in the 2030 #GenerationEquality campaign.
Respondents with tertiary level education had higher scores (66%), than respondents with only a vocational level of education (59%). The over-riding finding of the GPS is that patriarchy is alive and well in all countries, all ages, and all levels of education. There are no short cuts to accelerating advocacy campaigns to change those attitudes and behaviours that perpetuate gender inequality.
Grantees from the Women’s Voice and Leadership who assisted to gather the data include:
1000 Women Trust
Africa Women in Energy and Power NPC
Agenda, Feminist Media
Amanzimtoti Trauma Unit t/a Turning Point Amanzimtoti
Bellona Female Network
Children’s Resource Centre on behalf of Girl Child Movement Project
Coastal Resources Centre
Dream Factory Foundation
Ebenezer Multi-Purpose Integrated Social Services
Epic Youth Matters
Eshowe Child and Family Welfare Society
Gala Queer Archives
Indwe Learning Centres
Isibani Law and Therapy Centre
Justice and Women JAW
Let us Grow Organization
Life Savers Foundation
Mamadi Advice Center
Mankweng Community Law Advice Office
Mutale Victim Empowerment Programme
New Heritage Foundation
One in Nine Campaign
Personal doll training SA
Queer Women in Business + Allies NPC
Rise Up Against Gender Based Violence
Salt Lake Residents Action Group (SARAG)
Sinqobile Kingdom Empowerment
Sisonke National Sex Worker Movement
Siyakhula Community Project
South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG)
South African Women in Construction and the Built Environment (SAWIC & BE)
Tipfuxeni Community Counselling Centre
The Great People of South Africa
The Strong Ladies
Voice of Disability
We will Speak Out SA
Women Across Borders
Women Navigating the Future Network
Our sincere appreciation to UNTF, Diakonia, Amplify change, Global Affairs Canada, UKAID through the Southern Africa Trust for project funding and financial support.