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How junk status could negatively affect women in particular

By Faeza
07 July 2017

black African American ethnicity depressed and frustrated woman working as secretary in stress at office desk with computer laptop desperate in work  depression concept black African American ethnicity depressed and frustrated woman working as secretary in stress at office desk with computer laptop desperate in work depression concept

Lately there has been a lot of talk in the news about the impact of the decision by ratings agencies to downgrade South Africa to ‘junk status.’

For many of us, these ratings don’t mean anything tangible and can feel like just another example of the mysterious workings of global capitalism. However, junk status could have a particularly profound impact on women in South Africa.

But how?

Changes in interest and exchange rates

Changing interest and exchange rates can result in increases in petrol and food prices, with a negative effect on household income and spending.

“Men are often more in control of household spending decisions than women are. We know that women are more likely than men to spend on things that have a positive impact on the status and development of children, and thus it isn’t unreasonable to expect that spending on these things will be constrained in the face of reduced household income,” says Laura Brooks, economist and Senior Consultant in KPMG’s Human and Social Services practices.

So less household money may mean women are less able to spend on their children and themselves.

This has particularly negative effects on households that were already struggling before junk status. “Items which are often treated as luxury goods, such as sanitary products and sexual and reproductive health products are sacrificed to the disproportionate disadvantage of women and girls,” says Brooks.

As we know from recent campaigns around these products, not having a pad or tampon can mean missing days of school, with long term effects on educational and employment opportunities for women.

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