Women's access to housing in Clermont township.
Mbambo, Priscilla Dumisile.
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Obtaining access to housing is the greatest hurdle for women throughout the developed and the developing world. However, this phenomenon varies from country to country, and it is determined by the level of each country's economical and technological development. Social and political power relations of a country also play a crucial role in determining who is to be provided with housing, where and when. Patriarchal family structures and government policies often marginalise women regarding their access to housing. In South Africa during the period when the Nationalist Party was in power (between 1948 and 1993), Black women were prevented from obtaining access to housing in formal urban townships. This was also the time when an influx of Black people to urban areas was occurring. The government responded by establishing mass housing for Black urban workers, but under strict conditions, which excluded women. The marginalisation of women in housing delivery resulted in many of them taking jobs where accommodation was provided such as nursing and domestic service. Clermont township was established in the 1930s, during the years of rapid industrial development in South Africa. Due to availability of African-owned housing, which could be rented privately in Clermont, many industrial workers particularly women were able to find accommodation there. This trend continued, until the Nationalist Party government extended the right to rent housing in all townships to women. This occurred in the late 1970s. A case study of Clermont, (a township characterised by a freehold tenure), was undertaken to investigate the position of women in housing development, and how changes in the political situation have affected their access to housing. This thesis reveals that the number of households headed by women in Clermont township exceeds those headed by their male counterparts (53 per cent of women compared to 47 per cent of men in the sample). These women were mainly renters rather than house owners. Some of them implemented alternative strategies to access housing despite their low incomes, insecure jobs and the prevailing government restrictions. These strategies include illegal occupation of land (land invasion) owned by the state (nearby Clermont) and land owned by individual people in Clermont township. The Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) , which is the socio-economic policy framework of the Government of National Unity (elected in 1994), 'identified the provision of housing as a priority area. There are many programmes that have been implemented by this government in order to increase the housing access for women. It is unfortunate that these new programmes many not be accessible to some women, as most are still caught in a web of unemployment.