gender equality

gender equality

  • Aidan Prinsloo

    Job title: 
    Gender Issues Unit
    Consultancy Africa Intelligence
    gender [dot] issues [at] consultancyafrica [dot] com
  • Elections Put Fewer Women in Parliament – UNDP

    According to the United Nations (UN), recent elections in East and Southern Africa have left fewer women in politics, placing countries at risk of not meeting equality targets.

    Speaking at a women conference in Johannesburg, UN Development Programme director, Bo Asplund, pointed out that, "Elections in the region have shown regression with regard to women's representation in parliament."

    Asplund said research has shown that when you have progress on the millennium development goal (MDG) of gender equity, there is automatic progress on two of the other MDGs -- poverty and maternal health.

    To read the article titled, “African elections put fewer women in Parliament,” click here.
  • POWA: Sexual Cases Unreported in SA

    People Opposing Women Abuse (POWA) says it is concerned about the large number of sexual offences that go unreported in South Africa.

    POWA executive director, Nonhlanhla Mokwena, points out that while the decrease in the number of sexual offences is encouraging, optimism over the figure must be balanced against the knowledge that some women do not report that they have been raped.

    Mokwena states that, "There are a huge number of women who are not going to police stations to report cases because they do not have trust in the justice system."

    To read the article titled, “Police, NGOs want more done for rape survivors,” click here.
    All Africa
  • Are Men Really Better in Business than Women?

    The latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor shows that in South Africa men are 1.6 times more likely to succeed as business owners than women.

    This shocking statistic is reported to be a particularly South African phenomenon. Amongst other things, it appears to be related to low levels in self-belief amongst women that they have the knowledge, skills and experience to start and succeed in business.

    As owner of a business that is dedicated to supporting the growth of entrepreneurs, and a single mother of three girls, the reasons for this situation (and more importantly the possible solutions) have special relevance.

    The problem of gender inequality and gender violence is well documented in our country – and this in itself is enough to reduce the self-confidence and self-belief of women. However, it is only when travelling outside the main centres that one sees the broader effects of this inequality – where girl children are pulled out of school at a young age to help around the house, and the prevailing attitude seems to be ‘why bother?’, as they will invariably marry young and/ or be pregnant by the age of 16 or 17.

    This is certainly not only a South African problem - I recall being shocked at the low levels of schooling amongst girl children in rural Zambia, where girls are removed from school and married off as young as 13! Of course part of this equation is the effect of culture, and cultures which entrench the concept of women as second class citizens incapable of independent thought should not be surprised when these same women fail as entrepreneurs.

    But its not just culture, nor education that holds women entrepreneurs back – and for this I am a case in point. I was raised as an equal in a family of boys, and am blessed with a post-graduate education - so from a self-belief, cultural and skills perspective I score tops. Yet despite this I have had to shoulder some burdens from which the average man is shielded.

    Firstly, I have no wife at home to care for the children, do the shopping, cleaning, laundry – I do that. Secondly and possibly most significant, I care for everyone else too – often both financially and emotionally – my mother, my staff, my community.

    I am by no means the outlier in this statistic – many, if not most women entrepreneurs are wives and mothers who run the business with one hand and the world with the other. The more rural the environment, the harder the task as rural women face challenges of water collection, firewood collection, atrocious health support systems, and often an oppressive cultural environment.

    My own experience in running enterprise development programmes assisting emerging entrepreneurs and community projects has provided some wonderfully inspiring examples of successful women in business, proving that with the appropriate opportunities women can certainly compete, if not surpass men as entrepreneurs.

    So within this reality, how can we help women rise to find independence, wealth, satisfaction and success as entrepreneurs?

    Firstly, women and girls need to be supported in the belief that they can be successful business leaders and entrepreneurs. This begins with exposure to success stories, and by seeing successful women at work in their communities. One such example of a true female role model is Eunice Mlotywa of Iliwa, based in Khayelitsha township in the Western Cape and a beneficiary of the Old Mutual Legends Programme. Eunice has over the years single-handedly built a highly successful sewing and beading business, and as her confidence and success increases she is branching out into other gaps in the market, opening a spaza shop and selling airtime and electricity to the community. In amongst all this, Eunice somehow finds the time to manage a feeding scheme for the aged, be a mentor to young girls in the community, run training workshops and be a mother herself. Hers is a story that needs to be told, to inspire other women to rise up and make an impact.

    Secondly girls need to be properly educated – all the way to matric and beyond. And education needs to include subjects such as mathematics, science, computer literacy, communications and public speaking, all vital components of a leadership and business role. I recall an experience in Mpumulanga in 2009, when providing business skills training to a group of rural women and discovering that almost half of them were functionally illiterate. One lady could hardly hold a pen to place a cross where her signature should go, and yet this woman was dynamic, highly intelligent and capable – on the face of it far more capable than her brother sitting on the opposite side of the room, who had been educated to matric level. Given the right education opportunities, who knows what she might achieve?

    Thirdly, women need to surround themselves with people who enable them to succeed as women, and as mothers and as business leaders! This means creating support networks, access to peer groups and mentors who support them in their goal to succeed and lead. One of my favourite success stories is the Inina Craft Cooperative from Eshowe near the Valley of a Thousand Hills, KwaZulu-Natal.

    This group of 150 Zulu mothers and grandmothers, most of whom are illiterate and have little or no formal education, have created a thriving business using the traditional weaving, beading and handcraft skills within their community. Inina is efficiently managed by suitably skilled local women, for the benefit of local women. In the true spirit of mothering, they even find the time and generosity to create and support an orphanage for HIV-affected children in the community.

    Lastly, women and girls need to learn to be more selfish. They need to know that not only is it okay to put themselves first, to ‘say no’, but that unless they do they will endlessly remain the supporter of someone else’s dreams, and never achieve their own. Women need to know that success comes to those who say ‘Yes!’ to opportunity, and step up to reach their dreams.

    So, while the data may show that men are 1.6 times more likely to be successful entrepreneurs in South Africa, perhaps the real measure of success should be not simply the number of men or women in business, but the impact that their success has? If we look closely at the wider benefits that women in business create – beyond income and job creation to family stability and community support – it may be just as accurate to say that successful female entrepreneurs offer 1.6 times more value to the economy and the country as a whole, than their male counterparts!

    - Catherine Wijnberg ( (MBA, M.Agr.Sc. BSc.Agric.(Hons) is recognised as a catalyst for her innovative thinking in the field of small business development. She is the Director of Fetola & Associates, a fast growing enterprise development agency that operates throughout Southern Africa, as well as the Fetola Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation made up of individuals with a desire to make an impact in sustainable community development.

    Qualified with a Masters degree in Agriculture and an MBA from Henley UK, Catherine has owned and operated small businesses in five different sectors, including agriculture, tourism & craft development.

    Contact: Catherine Wijnberg 084 668 4603 / 021 701 7466

    Catherine Wijnberg
  • Gay Rights Activist Pleads ‘Not Guilty’

    A Zimbabwean gay rights activist has pleaded not guilty to breaching censorship laws when he appeared before a magistrate's court accused of possessing pornography.

    Ignatius Muhambi, an accountant for Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), and office administrator, Ellen Chademana, were arrested in a police raid at the association's offices in May.

    The accused were arrested after police found one pornographic DVD and pornographic booklet from the GALZ offices being used by the accused. Prosecutor Memory Mugabe says both contained graphic images of men having sex.

    To read the article titled, “Zim gay activist denies charges,” click here.
  • NGO Slams Plans to Exploit Women During World Cup

    A London-based human rights organisation, Women of Africa (WOA), has denounced plans by 'flesh networks' and some individuals to sexually exploit and abuse African women during the FIFA World Cup.

    The organisation says states that it is, "Very concerned to know that alongside preparations for the games, there are robust plans to traffic our vulnerable women and girls to South Africa for sexual exploitation during this historic world event for financial gains."

    WOA's stance, contained in a strongly-worded press statement issued in London, is a reaction to an online publication which revealed plans by the 'flesh networks' to supply women and girls from various countries, including Nigeria, to ‘take care of the men’ during the soccer showpiece.

    To read the article titled, “Rights group denounces 'trading of women' at South Africa 2010,” click here .
    All Africa
    Article link: 
  • NGO Urges Political Parties to Nominate Women

    Ghanaian NGO, the Foundation for Grass Roots Initiatives in Africa (GrassRootsAfrica), has urged the political parties to nominate women as running mates for the 2012 general election.

    GrassRootsAfrica policy and advocacy officer, Viola Naawiete Desoberi, argues that political parties should create room for women to become running mates, in order to help bridge the gender disparity in governance and decision making and to facilitate balance development

    Desoberi, who is of the view that no nation could develop properly without giving equal opportunities to women in the various sectors of the economy, says statistics revealed that since the advent of the First Republic and the fourth Parliament, women representation had always been fewer than 10 percent of the total number of parliamentarians.

    To read the article titled, “Political parties should nominate women as running mates- NGO,” click here.
    Ghana News Agency
  • No Gay Rights in Zimbabwe, Says Mugabe

    Zimbabwe President, Robert Mugabe, says the issue of gay rights being written into the country's pending constitution cannot be discussed.

    Mugabe has described those wanting to discuss gay rights as ‘mad’, adding that, "If we do, the dead will rise against us."

    The country's power-sharing government headed by Mugabe and former opposition leader, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, is shortly to embark on nationwide public hearings about the drafting of a new constitution.

    To read the article titled, “Mugabe: No gay rights in Zim,” click here.
  • The Controversial Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill: A Human Rights Concern

    The Republic of Uganda implemented the Penal Code Act which defines homosexuality as an offence punishable by law on 15 June 1950 (2). The Ugandan Constitution furthermore forbids same-sex marriages(3), a decree that impinges on citizens’ human rights on the grounds of traditional family norms. Despite these existing legislations, the Ugandan Government seems determined to pass the latest and very controversial Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which will further violate the rights of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans-gendered (LGBT) community in Uganda under the pretence of “protecting” heterosexual citizens and children from homosexuals.

    The Bill states, among other things, that certain consensual homosexual acts will be punishable by death(4). Two categories of same-sex acts will be punishable by death if the Bill is accepted. The first of these is ‘aggravated homosexuality’, which means a person engages in homosexual activity with another person who is either under 18 years of age or disabled; or homosexual activity by a person in authority or one who is infected with HIV and AIDS. The second category is labelled ‘serial homosexuality’, which implies that the offender has engaged in homosexual activity more than once. The Bill also expands to such a degree that a person who merely attempts to engage in homosexual activity may be convicted to either seven years imprisonment or given a lifetime sentence(5). The Bill’s provisions also include the punishment and imprisonment of persons who do not report to authorities the people they know to be homosexuals within 24-hours, despite their relations to the offenders and their sexuality(6).

    The Bill’s extensive coverage even includes a clause on Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction, which provides for the instance where a person who is a citizen of Uganda but engages in a homosexual act outside the borders of Uganda. Such a person will meet the same punishment the Bill prescribes for when the homosexual act is committed within the country (7). This clause and the above-mentioned provisions of this Bill clearly infringe on the human rights of an already marginalised group in Ugandan civil society. Many regard the Bill as immoral, discriminatory, illegal and as an outright replication of targeted executions committed by the dictator, Idi Amin(8).

    United Nations condemn Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill

    Navi Pillay, the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights, criticises the Bill for violating international human rights and insists that the Bill be abolished. She declares that the Bill will breach international human rights standards intended to thwart discrimination and therefore should be eradicated(9).

    Rupert Colville, spokesperson for Pillay, feels that legislations such as the Anti-Homosexuality Bill should not even be considered 60 years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been implemented. He agreed that if the Bill becomes legal, homosexual citizens of Uganda will be deprived of a range of essential human rights. Pillay warned the Ugandan Government that it is bound to stop receiving foreign aid and will be rejected by the global community if they pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (10). They should be careful not to end up in an international exile from the rest of the world(11) - this sounds dramatic, but the highly controversial nature of the Bill, the large amount of support for it and the international community’s opposition to it, renders global rejection entirely possible.

    The Ugandan Government’s Stance on the Bill

    World leaders have expressed their concerns about the proposed legislations, but all Ugandans cannot be said to feel the same about the Bill. Some support it, but others admit that it has ‘shortcomings’. Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda, has withdrawn from involvement in the Bill. James Nsaba Buturo, Minister for Ethics, said that Museveni never supported the death penalty for homosexuals and that this penalty was to be removed from the Bill. David Bahati, Minister of Parliament for Ndorwa West, is in full support of the Bill. He feels that it will protect the traditional model of the family from being ‘destroyed’ by lesbian, gay and transgender people. He claims that children of Uganda should be protected from being ‘recruited into homosexuality’, and that family ideals will remain intact if the Bill is passed(12).

    Buturo revealed to the Canadian Press that Museveni does not stand by the death penalty of homosexual people, but rather that they should be counselled and undergo reparative therapy in order to rid the homosexuals of their ‘bad habit’. Mary Karoro Okurut, spokesperson for the ruling party in Uganda, stipulated that even though Museveni may be opposing the death penalty of the Bill, it should nevertheless be passed. The Government of Uganda therefore remains divided about legislating the Bill, which was expected to stand for consideration in Parliament in late-February or early-March 2010 (13).

    Late in December 2009, the Government explained that the Bill was introduced by Member of Parliament (MP) David Bahati, not the by Government. It is the MPs democratic right to introduce a Bill. “To that extent, the Government cannot be seen to interfere with his rights as an MP,” said Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa. “It is inconsistent to promote gay rights and at the same time demand that the right of a Member of Parliament to legislate be interfered with,” he added. He said the Government was aware that the Penal Code is already against homosexuality and that it therefore may not be necessary to further criminalise it. “It is a fact that if there are any homosexuals in Uganda, they are a minority. The majority of Africans, and indeed Ugandans, abhor this practice. It is, therefore, not correct to allow this minority to provoke the majority by promoting homosexuality,” he argued.

    Ugandan Churches in Disagreement

    Ugandan churches are highly influential and are in disagreement about the Bill, similar to the Government. Pastor Martin Sempa was planning to arrange a ‘million-man’ march on 17 February 2010 in order to show support for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. He condemns the Western World, stating that their Governments have ‘failed’ because they embrace the human rights of homosexual people(14). Sempa has warned that he will launch a campaign to ban Ugandan consumption of products made in the United States of America, the United Kingdom and Canada if these countries continue to act against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Ugandans will stop drinking Coca-Cola, Pepsi and other products manufactured in USA if the US does not stop opposing the Bill. Uganda will rather purchase goods from Asian countries who, according to Sempa, ‘respect their dignity’(15). He also threatened to retract Uganda from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA).

    Ugandan Anglican Church leader, Canon Gideon Byamugisha, on the other hand has stated that the Bill may be regarded as ‘state-legislated genocide’ against the already marginalised Ugandan homosexual community. He said that homosexual persons are being used as ‘scapegoats’ by the Government and are being unfairly blamed for the social problems of Uganda, including things like the collapse of the family system and the rise of HIV rates ahead of the national elections that will take place in 2011(16).

    The Bishops of the Catholic Church in Uganda have also expressed their opinions about the Bill. Archbishop Cyprian K. Lwanga of Kampala stated that even though they support the Ugandan Government’s current anti-homosexuality laws, the new Bill is ‘too cruel’. Lwanga believes that the Bill concentrates more on the ‘sinner’ than the ‘sin’. In other words, the Bill condemns the offender instead of the act. He emphasised that homosexuals need care, understanding and compassion, as all people endeavour to go to ‘heaven’. The Church also opposes the Bill’s provision to imprison those who try to counsel and fail to report homosexual persons within 24 hours, as it breaches the confidentiality rights of people such as pastors, teachers, doctors, counsellors and even parents. They feel the Bill is unnecessary because the Penal Code of Uganda already criminalises sodomy(17).

    Final Considerations

    Some Ugandan leaders note that it’s unlikely that the Bill will be passed, yet the fact that it receives so much support indicates just how strong the anti-homosexuality sentiment in the country is. The Bill, however, does not only threaten the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered community of Uganda, but all general citizens of the country. Many have a family member(s) or a friend(s) who may be homosexual and their lives may be at risk purely because they are related to, or associate with, these homosexual persons.

    Efforts to enlighten and educate Ugandan citizens on safe sex practices will be thwarted by the new Bill. Given that HIV & AIDS is often associated with homosexual activity, the Bill will certainly have serious repercussions on the field of prevention and treatment. It may result in fewer people getting tested for HIV and seeking or providing counselling due to fear of being reported to the police(18). Dr. Francois Venter, the President of HIV Clinicians Society of Southern Africa, demonstrated his concerns about the Bill by stating that it may hamper efforts to reduce HIV infections in Uganda because it discourages openness and promotes the stigmatisation of HIV infected individuals(19). If passed, the Bill will limit the distribution of information about HIV because it will be perceived to promote homosexuality(20).

    Finally, foreign relations built up over the years may be destroyed because most developed countries are not against homosexuality but strongly oppose the harsh punishments the Bill provides for. The Bill should be revoked as Uganda may lose a lot of international support and its people may consequently become significantly marginalised. The approval of the Bill will confirm that it is acceptable to stigmatise and even kill homosexual persons, which may in turn even set the stage for genocide and war. The international community should not be intimidated by Uganda’s threats, but rather stand firmly by their beliefs and commitments to human rights. Those who support this Bill should not be afforded the opportunity to implement their fundamentalist sentiments. If the rights of homosexuals are legally and acceptably violated, whose rights will be next?


    (1) Maya Zozulya is an External Consultant at Consultancy Africa Intelligence (
    (10) Ibid.
    (13) Ibid.

    Maya Zozulya
  • Minister Slams the Proposed Porn Channel

    The Minister of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities, Noluthando Mayende-Sibiya has sharply condemned the idea of a porn channel on South African television.

    Mayende-Sibiya says that, “Adults can source porn wherever, but now when you want to bring it at home, then it becomes a problem. Also, there is a linkage between porn and violence and the abuse of women and the abuse of children.”

    She says the rights of children are paramount, adding that it is wrong for pornography to be easily accessible to children especially and says it violates the rights of children.

    The department was responding to suggestions that a leading satellite provider -Multichoice was considering launching the channel due to viewer demand for adult content.

    To read the article titled, “Minister slams idea of porn channel on SA television,” click here.
    SABC News
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