Often called the “Rainbow Nation” because of its hybrid mixtures of different cultures, South Africa is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. This multiculturalism is reflected in its art, dance and music, which have been influenced by more than two hundred years of colonialism, but have also retained a strong local imprint and incorporate indigenous sounds. Arts and crafts, such as masks, textiles and traditional beaded jewelry are only some of the examples of richness of the South African cultural identity.
With a population of 52.27 million people in 2012, South Africa is now considered one of the five major emerging national economies of the world (BRICS countries); however, the country still struggles as one of the most economically unequal countries in the world. Poverty and transformation have been the biggest challenges in the past two decades, and while poverty indicators show slight improvement over time, 13.8% of the population still lives below the poverty line of $1.25 a day. South Africa’s score in the 2011 Human Development Index places it in 121st place out of a total of 187 countries.
of the country’s population lives below the poverty line on less than US $1.25 a day
out of 187 in the Human Development Index
From South Africa: Meet the Artisan
Roots of Creation is a fair trade company based in Cape Town, South Africa. Specializing in brass products, they are recognized for their high quality and innovative designs. For 20 years, this co-conscious enterprise has provided employment in all stages of production: mould creation, creating molten metal, polishing products, electroplating, and shipping. Furthermore, every step of the process to make their adorned products happens under one roof.
HUMAN RIGHTS SITUATION
20 years after Nelson Mandela led the abolition of the apartheid era in South Africa, and despite its strong constitutional protection for human rights, South Africa continues to struggle with the legacy of racial segregation and the challenges relating to addressing increasing demands from its citizens for the realization of economic and social rights as well as respect for fundamental civil and political freedoms. Prevailing human rights problems include police use of lethal and excessive force; abuse of refugees and asylum seekers; corruption; pervasive violence against women and children; sexual harassment and societal discrimination against women; child prostitution; societal discrimination against persons with disabilities and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community; trafficking in persons; etc.
On paper and in theory, there is a human rights culture which is particularly nuanced to take account of gender difference and women’s particular vulnerability to the effects of poverty, health access and violence. In practice, however, women comprise the majority of the most marginalized, impoverished and least empowered sector of South African society. Discriminatory practices, social norms and persistent gender stereotypes continue to determine women’s and men’s opportunities and interactions. Although women make up nearly half the labor force, most are in lower-wage sectors, particularly domestic service. Poverty among women-headed households is higher than the average and women continue to earn less than men, even though differences in years of education have largely been narrowed. About 61 percent of women live in poverty, and 31 percent live in destitution, compared with 39 percent and 18 percent of men respectively. The country’s Gender Inequality Index places South Africa at 94 out of 146 countries.