The Precious Little Black Book was published by the Motsepe Foundation in 2017 as a guide to help women across South Africa to change their lives, whether they are domestic workers, students, job-seeking graduates, professionals, or businesswomen.
Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe, CEO and co-founder of the Motsepe Foundation, conceptualised the book when she was a medical student, after realising that many people fall ill because they didn’t have information they could use to empower themselves and change their livelihoods.
The Precious Little Black Book was born after meetings with women from all walks of life. The common thread between them was a hunger for information that can help them to be healthier, protect their rights and attain financial freedom.
The book, which has been donated to schools and communities and distributed at various Motsepe Foundation events, provides basic but critical information on health, education, finance, social, and legal matters.
It also offers advice, tips, and tools that women can use to transform their lives.
Health and emergencies
Many fatalities can be prevented if attended to in good time, but very few people know what to do in an emergency. The book’s emergency section explains what Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) is and provides a step-by-step guide on how to perform it. Written simply and accompanied with illustrations, it packages information in a way that even a young child can understand. This accessibility runs through the entire book, making it easy to read and use.
Gender-based violence is rife in South Africa. The book explains the different types of abuse, such as more common versions like sexual and physical abuse, as well as others that are equally prevalent but rarely spoken about or explained, like psychological abuse, intimidation, harassment, and stalking.
The section offers pointers on what to do in the event of abuse and where to go for safety and justice, including helplines and how to get a protection order. Other social issues covered in the book are about parenting, vaccination, child maintenance and social grants, child sexual abuse, and where to get support for elderly family members.
There is also information that covers mental health and nutrition, which other than explaining mental illnesses like depression and schizophrenia, assures readers that they do not have to suffer in silence or give into the shame that stops people from getting necessary care.
One-third of the population lives with a mental illness but only 25% of the people affected seek help. By shining the spotlight on these issues, the book helps individuals and families to take on an issue that is typically swept under the rug.
“The best investment you can make for yourself or your child is some kind of post-school education or training,” the book explains, encouraging women to take their futures in their own hands.
The Precious Little Black Book brings education closer to everyone by highlighting different options for higher education, from community education and training colleges to universities.
It also provides information on where and how to apply for bursaries and funding, and it has a comprehensive list of important contact details across all nine provinces in South Africa.
It also warns women against fly-by-night schools. These are unregistered colleges that mushroom around the country annually in January, when the academic year starts, only for students to later discover that their qualifications are not valid. Victims are students from poor and low-income families.
In her keynote address at the Business Women’s Association of South Africa in August 2018, Dr Moloi-Motsepe said, “South Africa ranks number 19 in the global gender report, down from 18 in 2006, because of poor scores in economic participation and opportunity, health and survival, and educational attainment.”
There has been progress in the representation of women in the workplace and in the economy, but it is not enough. The Women in the Workplace section of the Precious Little Black Book is a woman’s journey to economic freedom.
It imagines the reader as an unemployed person who is looking for a job. It gives her practical tips and tools on how to find a job and empowers her with information about her rights and benefits. Through the book, she is able to write a powerful curriculum vitae (CV), prepare for a job interview, and be educated on income tax and the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF).
The section also explains maternity leave and benefits and how to fight for rights when discriminated against. Whether they belong to a union or not, South African workers are protected by labour laws that are not always observed by companies. However, they can always turn to institutions like the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA).
By sharing information on how to fight for their labour rights, the Little Black Book helps to fill the information gap that leaves many workers vulnerable to abuse.
Women still have to grapple with cultural and social norms that prevent them from taking on active leadership roles. The book raises awareness about the discrimination that women continue to face in the workplace. This is also supported by the #CountMeIn campaign that was launched by the Motsepe Foundation to tackle issues that women face whether in the workplace, in educational institutions or throughout society.
The campaign engages with men and women, as well as students and community leaders among other stakeholders to challenge societal views, attitudes, decisions, and policies that perpetuate prejudices that continue to see women paid less when they have the same qualifications and experience as male counterparts in similar roles.
Through the campaign, the foundation encourages companies to take a pledge to keep workplaces zero-tolerant to sexual harassment and pushing for ultimate gender equality.
The book explains every step involved in starting a business including financing it, legal requirements of starting a business, and the types of business one can register in South Africa. It also directs women to various organisations that have been set up to support entrepreneurship. This includes how to apply for funding and where to look for it.
According to the World Bank, women and people in rural areas are 20% less likely than men to have a bank account. They are also not as financially literate as men. Yet financial planning has always been acknowledged as an important tool for empowering women.
The Precious Little Black Book explains key financial concepts like short- and long-term insurance, interest rates and budgeting, and how to manage personal finances successfully through savings and investment accounts. It also explains the different banking products that are available in South Africa and how they each work.
The section further explains informal ways of saving such as stokvels and burial societies, when individuals pool money together that they give to one member at the end of the month or share equally at the end of the year.
The benefits of being in a stokvel include being able to buy food in bulk, starting a small business, and paying off loans and education fees. There are currently 800,000 stokvels that collectively contribute R45 billion to the South African economy.