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Minister for Women calls for gender empowerment informed by the historical imperative of creating a truly representative, democratic and equal society

Posted: 14 July 2016


Minister in the Presidency responsible for Women Susan Shabangu has told delegates at the SALGA Women’s Commission Lekgotla that gender representation was not about merely filling up numbers with women in positions of influence but giving them opportunities to be at the center of development as “drivers of transformation” and agents of change.

The two-day SALGA Women’s Commission (SWC) Lekgotla which was held at Kempton Park on the 13th – 14th July, Gauteng, brought together under one roof women leaders from various walks of life; SALGA’s National Commissioner, Provincial Commissioners, mayors, councilors, and multiparty women caucus leaders to review the progress on the implementation of the Programme of Action towards the 50/50 campaign and also review key policies and legislative matters impacting women empowerment and gender equality in Local Government.

Speaking at the Lekgotla, Minister Shabangu said the challenge she observed was that some see gender representation just as making up the numbers, not as a deliberate act of gender empowerment informed by the historical imperative of creating a truly representative, democratic and equal society.

“The trend lately is women are replaced by men while the reverse is not happening, which results in the decline in women’s representation and hampering major stride made in the past two decades,” she said.

Minister Shabangu said South Africa has an obligation to put women at the centre of development, not merely as beneficiaries, but as drivers of transformation.

Her views were echoed by Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) Des Van Rooyen who said that gender empowerment was not just about compliance and numbers but quality representation because ‘our people deserve better” much to the applauds of the delegates.

“We congratulate the SALGA Women’s Commission for spearheading the efforts towards a 50/50 campaign for the 2016 Local Government Elections. However, we also have to take note of the challenges in ensuring the political legitimacy of candidates,” Minister Van Rooyen said.

The Women’s Commission has taken the lead in these efforts since its formation in 2010. SALGA and its member municipalities set up well–resourced gender structures particularly; the SALGA Women’s Commission, the Women’s Caucus as Section 79 Committees and the gender focal points to drive gender mainstreaming and women empowerment in Local Government.

Gender Links Report of 2011 demonstrates steady progress in the first three elections, with women’s representation increasing from 19% in 1995 to 29% in 2000; up further to 40% after the ruling party adopted a 50/50 quota in 2006. Of particular significance, in 2006 women’s representation increased in ward seats (where women traditionally do not do as well as in PR seats) from 17% in 2000 to 37% in 2006. The report also shows the decline in women’s representation in ward seats from 37% in 2006 to 33% in 2011 and corresponding overall decline of women’s representation by two percentage points.

National Commissioner Councillor Sindiswa Gomba has urged political parties to ensure “zebra” style when compiling party lists ahead of every election. This refers to alternating between female and male candidates in a manner that every other second candidate on the list is female.

“We further call for the review and amendment of legislation and policies pertinent to the gender equality debate, in particular, amendment of Electoral Act to establish quota system, and provide mechanisms for non-compliance by political parties. This should be followed by further amendments to the Local Government: Municipal Structures Act 1998, and the Local Government Municipal Electoral Act 2000, to embed the principal of 50/50 in our local government framework,” National Commissioner Gomba said.

At the end of the Lekgotla, a handover report on the work of the SWC aligned to the current Local Government term of office was also tabled.

The SALGA’s Women’s Commission has called for the following:

  1. There should be equal opportunities for men and women in leadership positions at all levels
  2. Enforce the legislation for the promotion of gender equality and empowerment of all women and girls.
  3. Women should benefit in service delivery programmes of municipalities
  4. To develop programmes to prepare women from middle management to senior management and need to increase the appointment of women as Section 56 & 57 Managers
  5. Councillor induction to include gender mainstreaming
  6. Development of guidelines for the implementation of the Gender Policy Framework for LG
  7. Local Government should be recognised as a strategic and critical point for the transformation of the society, without women participating at this level there will be no change in our society
  8. There should be dialogue and review of discriminatory policies and practices that discriminate against women and the girl child
  9. The issues of unpaid work done by women and other various challenges facing women should be addressed (i.e. childcare, violence against women & children, access to land, safety etc)
  10. Sustainable Development Goals should ensure that women are not left behind. Commissioners should incorporate these goals, especially Goal 5.
  11. Commissions should challenge unfair leadership positions
  12. Programmes for collaboration should include (National Dialogues, reviewing policies, training and capacity building)
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