Empowered Women, Social Networks and the Contribution of Qualitative Research: Broadening our Understanding of Underlying Causes for Food and Nutrition Insecurity.

Stefanie Lemke, Fanie Jansen van Rensburg, Hester Hendrina Vorster, Joachim Ziche

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

37 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To investigate underlying causes for food and nutrition insecurity in black
South African households and to gain understanding of the factors contributing to
better nutrition security, with emphasis on household organisation, gender and intrahousehold
dynamics and social networks.
Design, setting and subjects: Within a larger cross-sectional survey that investigated
the impact of urbanisation on the health of black South Africans, 166 people, mostly
women, were interviewed on household food security. Methods used were structured
face-to-face interviews, in-depth interviews, observation, interviews with key
informants and a sociodemographic questionnaire. Information was collected from
1998 to 2000 in 15 rural and urban areas of the North West Province, South Africa.
Results: Three-quarters of households in this sample are chronically food-insecure.
Families are disrupted, due to migrant work, poverty and increasing societal violence,
and half of households are female-headed. Certain categories of female-headed
households and households based on partnership relationships, despite more limited
resources, achieve a better or an equal economic status and better nutrition security
than those households led by men, with the latter often being considered an
economic liability. The reliance on and fostering of social ties and networks appear to
be of central significance.
Conclusion: Gender and intra-household relations, as well as social networks and
income from informal sector activities, are often not uncovered by conventional
statistical methods. Qualitative research can reveal the unexpected and furthermore
empowers people, as their voices are heard.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)759-764
Number of pages6
JournalPublic Health Nutrition
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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