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South Africa: Why Women in Rural Communities Continue to Be the Face of Statelessness in South Africa

As we mark Women’s Day we must confront why these women continue to bear the brunt of this existential crisis.

In the heart of South Africa, far from the cosmopolitan cityscapes, lies an unsettling truth that belies the vibrancy of its landscapes. As of 2021, Lawyers for Human Rights’ statelessness project had received more than 2,000 queries about birth registration in the past five years.

The recurring theme? A severe lack of birth registration among those living in remote border regions, areas marked by extreme levels of poverty and limited access to essential government services.

Census data from 2001 and 2011 show that the crisis is not gender-neutral. Women, who comprise 55% of the residents in these areas, are the face of this silent pandemic of statelessness, with black Africans making up 32.2% of this demographic.

As we commemorate Women’s Day, we must confront and address why women in these communities continue to bear the brunt of this existential crisis.

South Africa continues to grapple with socioeconomic disparities, unequal access to resources and opportunities, racial, class and gender-based inequality, and the remnants of apartheid’s legacy.

These factors have contributed to the realities of women like Mpho Modise, an orphan from a small farming town in North West, Phindile Mabuza, a mother of six from…

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