Women in the Northern Cape are some of the heaviest drinkers as compared to their counterparts in the rest of the country. This is according to Statistics South Africa’s Demographic and Health Survey. At least 6% of women in the province show signs of problem drinking. This is at least double the national average. And 10% of Northern Cape women are more likely to binge drink, also double the national average.

A pastime, which usually accompanies social interactions, but in the Northern Cape, drinking is becoming problematic for some women. The Northern Cape Social Development department says more women seek help, either at non-profit organisations or at substance abuse rehabilitation centres. The department’s spokesperson Gamiem Abrahams says that irresponsible use of alcohol among women is on the rise.

“There’s been an increase of especially females. So that gives us a clear indication that women; drinking among women and irresponsible use of alcohol and other substances is on the rise.”

As the festive season approaches, liquor stores in the Kimberley area are stocking up more alcohol for the December period. Local liquor store owner, Francine Lombard acknowledges that alcohol abuse can have social consequences.

“We have to stock every week to make sure we have enough stock. And obviously we order three times as much stock for December month. Yes, I am worried but unfortunately I can’t make the decision for the clients. Therefore, they need to act responsible. If they’re intoxicated, we don’t help them.”

During weekends in Kimberley, residents can be seen flocking to taverns, popular hang-out joints and local municipal parks. One of those is 38-year-old mother of two, Nobelungu Mdubeki. While she admits to drinking alcohol regularly, she says she makes sure to take care of her children and is in control.

“I drink. Alcohol does not control me, I control alcohol. I know my limit when I know that I had enough, I stop drinking and I go home to sleep. I drink every weekend. If I get a chance to drink, I drink. Drinking with friends, drinking with family. I drink.”

Others interviewed by the SABC, echoed her sentiment that alcohol use is not necessarily the problem.

“I do enjoy drinking because of drinking makes me forget a lot of things and I’m not controlled by alcohol, I control alcohol so I’m not gonna say it’s bad.”

“Sometimes you’re like stressed out and everything. It’s work, it’s your family, it’s money stress. It’s a lot of things. So people tend to think that alcohol is going to take that away,” said another local.

An Alcoholics Anonymous representative, whose identity may not be revealed, says the group does not advocate for a total ban on alcohol use. He says people are free to indulge but it must come with moderation.

“There are only three types of drinkers. There are heavy drinkers, there are sometimes binge drinkers and there are alcoholics. It’s not how much you drink, where you drink and with whom do you drink that makes you an alcoholic. It’s what alcohol does to you. The secret is that you never ever pick up that first glass if you want to avoid triggering that animal inside you in that’s called alcoholism.”

The Social Development Department has warned residents in the province to moderate their alcohol intake this festive season, especially those who have children in their care.