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Making Mothers Count: A quick guide to the 2021 Budget Speech

To our fellow moms –

We know you are exhausted with much competing for your attention –

We shoulder the burdens (and experience the joys) of raising South Africa’s children. 4 in every 10 of South Africa’s children live in a household with their mother and without their father.[i]

We have historically, but especially during the pandemic, borne the brunt of childcare. 67% of women versus 25% of men were looking after young children that they lived with while Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres and preschools were closed.[ii] Women also reported spending almost 3 and a half hours more per day looking after children than men.[iii]

We have been the hardest hit by the pandemic but are the least supported. Women lost more than double the number of jobs than men did during lockdown level five.[iv] And yet women have been less likely to receive UIF support or the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant.[v]

We have dug down to the bottom of our emotional, physical and creative resources to care for our children. Mothers continue to shield their children from the effects of the pandemic and have been willing to forgo their own meals to stop their children going hungry.


So, what is the budget speech? – 

Today, the Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, will be delivering the budget speech at 2pm.

The budget speech sets out national government’s spending plans for the financial year ahead. In his budget speech, Minister Mboweni will highlight where national funding will be allocated to achieve government’s objectives.

The budget speech provides us with an important picture of what government plans to prioritise in the year ahead, by showing us where it allocates its money.


So, why do we need to listen together – 

The voices of mothers must be urgently counted. More than ever before, government’s policy decisions are impacting our day-to-day lives – from top-up grants that allow mothers to put food on the table to opening up schools so mothers can work.

Mothers have weathered the Covid-19 crisis with creativity and out of sheer necessity. It’s time that government hears our contributions to the policies that affect us and our children. If we as mothers are going to meaningfully contribute to the conversation, we need to be informed on government’s plans.


What to watch out for?


Grants and nutrition support:

The Child Support Grant top-up and the Covid-19 Social Relief of Distress Grant (SRDG) have provided much needed relief to many families during the series of lockdowns. However, the discontinuation of these grants is concerning. Since top-up grants have discontinued, child hunger has worsened from 12 to 16 percent of households with children.[vi] The SRDG is only set to be extended by a further three months. The President’s State of the Nation address was largely silent on the issue of malnutrition.   Will the budget speech seek to rectify this and address the premature ending of support to children and families?


Support for the ECD Sector:

ECD centres have been hit hard by the national lockdowns, and there is a major risk that they will be forced to close permanently.

In November/December 2020, the temporary or permanent closure of centres was still one of the dominant reasons (37%) why young children were not attending an ECD centre.[vii]

With parents struggling to afford the fees for these services, government has sought to support the ECD sector with employment relief. Will there be a continuation of support to centres in some form?


Support for health care:

The pandemic has disrupted mothers’ access to ante- and postnatal care services.

  • 11% of mothers living with HIV ran out of antiretroviral therapy during the lockdown.
  • 5% of mothers whose children needed care or vaccinations did not seek such care.[viii]

With another COVID-19 wave expected soon, how will government seek to bolster the health care system to the benefit of mothers and children? Will the National Health Insurance (NHI) fund be mentioned as a priority, or has it been affected by funding being reallocated towards fighting the pandemic?


Support for female entrepreneurs and employees:

Government has sought to kick-start the South African pandemic-stricken economy by injecting much needed funds and support to businesses, including SMMEs. These include improvements in the loan guarantee scheme, tax relief and the narrow extension of Covid-19 TERS.

The President has made economic empowerment of women a priority. Will this translate into focused funding for female entrepreneurs and employees?


So let’s make Mothers count together

Let’s use the day to remind those that control the purse strings that whilst we may be busy doing all the work that mothers do, we won’t be distracted from seeing if our needs have been truly considered.

  • Tune in with us for the live budget speech at 2pm, or commit to reading the speech highlights once they’re released to the public.
  • Listen out for points of interest and tweet your opinion about how they affect you or other mothers. Tag @tito_mboweni, @EmbraceZA and use the hashtag #makemotherscount


[i] Hall, K. & Mokomane, Z. (2018) The shape of children’s families and households: A demographic overview. South African Child Gauge 2018 Children, Families and the State Collaboration and Contestation. Children’s Institute and University of Cape Town: 37.

[ii] Statistic from NIDS-CRAM Wave 2 in June 2020; Casale, D. & Shepherd, D. (2021) The gendered effects of the Covid-19 crisis and ongoing lockdown in South Africa: Evidence from NIDS-CRAM Waves 1 – 3: 20.

[iii] Statistics for June 2020; Casale, D. & Shepherd, D. (2021): 25.

[iv] Casale, D. & Shepherd, D. (2021): 6.

[v] Casale, D. & Shepherd, D. (2021): 18-19.

[vi] Van der Berg, S., Patel, L., & Bridgman, G. (2021) Hunger in South Africa during 2020: Results from Wave 3 of NIDS-CRAM: 1.

[vii] Wills, G., Kika-Mistry, J. &  Kotze, J. (2021) Early Childhood Development and lockdown in South Africa: An update using NIDS-CRAM wave 3: 19.

[viii] Spaull, N. et al. (2020) NIDS-CRAM Wave 1 Synthesis Report: Overview and Findings.