• Media Urged to Give Women Voices

    Women Parliamentarians in Zimbabwe have urged the country to promote females in politics in order to bridge the gap between them and their male counterparts who hold the bulk of positions of authority in political parties and government.

    The women decried lack of media attention and accused some sections of the media of always pulling them down through stereotyped coverage which portrayed them as less influential in the administration of the country.

    Information deputy minister and Zimbabwe Women Parliamentary Caucus (ZWPC) chairperson, Monica Mutsvangwa, argues that the country's media should be seen as getting to the forefront of enhancing women's participation in politics and governance processes.

    To read the article titled, “Media urged to give women voices,” click here.

    All Africa
  • SA Urged to Do More to Empower Women

    Independent researcher and analyst, Nomboniso Gasa, says although South Africa has made progress in the advancement of women, more still needs to be done.

    Gasa says strides have been made towards women advancement especially in the public sector where women are found in leadership positions.

    She however, highlights that the private sector remains behind in ensuring that women are considered in leading positions, adding that institutions in the private sector should be structurally designed for the inclusion of women.

    To read the article titled, “There's room for improvement in women advancement,” click here.

    SABC News
  • Call for Women to Claim their Place

    Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela states that it is time for women to claim their place at the main table where Africa’s fate is being decided, where decisions on distribution of resources are being made, and Africa’s contribution to the fate of the world as a whole is being determined.

    Speaking at the Africa’s Most Influential Women in Business and Government awards, Madonsela warned that shying away women would be dishonouring the women who came before them and failing to provide an example to the girl child.

    She praises women across the continent as being pioneers, effective leaders and examples to young girls, and showing that it was possible and within their reach. 

    To read the article titled, “Women must claim their place - Madonsela,” click here.

    The Citizen
  • Call for Gender Parity in Mozambique

    Mozambican non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have urged political parties to select equal numbers of men and women on their lists of parliamentary candidates for the general elections scheduled for 15 October 2014.

    The appeal, issued by a range of organisations including Gender Links, Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa), and JOINT (League of NGOs in Mozambique), reminds the parties that, under the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development, at least 50 percent of decision-making posts in both public and private sectors in SADC member states should be occupied by women by 2015.

    The NGOs state that none of the three parliamentary parties - the ruling the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO), Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) and the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) have a woman as either their president or their general secretary.

    To read the article titled, “NGOs call for gender parity,” click here.

    All Africa
  • Women Grossly Under-Represented in International Politics

    Strategies to increase women’s participation in politics have been advanced through conventions, protocols and international agreements for gender mainstreaming, but they are yet to prove effective in achieving gender parity in the highest government rankings. The latest data from the Inter-Parliamentary Union show that globally, women account for an average of about 20 percent of parliamentary seats.

    This begs the question why, despite formal movements towards advocacy and implementation of mainstreaming policies, quota systems, gender networks, non-governmental organisations and decentralisation of power, there is still a gross minority of women occupying leadership roles in international politics.

    There is no single answer to this difficult question. Two factors can immediately be identified for discursive purposes and to analyse the general gender imbalance in political leadership: gender stereotypes and lack of adequate support structures to rectify existing codified institutions to include women in political leadership and achieve gender equality in global politics.

    Women are still severely under-represented in governments globally. A 2013 World Economic Forum report covering 115 countries notes that women have closed over 90 percent of the gender gap in education and in health but only 15 percent when it comes to political empowerment at the highest levels of government. Although 97 countries have some sort of gender quota system for government positions, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, women hold only 17 percent of parliamentary seats and 14 percent of ministerial-level positions worldwide, most of which are related to family, youth, the disabled, and the elderly.

    The lack of support structures to legitimately implement policy is an issue that needs to be problematised. In this, the quota system becomes an important point of discussion. Abundant lip service is paid to implementation of quotas, especially in the developing world. It must be emphasised that the problem of legitimacy and implementation of the official spaces that women occupy in political leadership is a matter of global concern and is not endemic to the South or under-developed nations. That said, these nations have come under the spotlight for previously lacking the gender-progressive policies enjoyed by Northern nations have.

    Numbers are often misleading. This is especially true of quota systems. South Africa presents an interesting case, especially after the 2014 elections. Enshrined in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development is the 50 percent target for women's representation in all areas of decision-making; this was adopted by South Africa in 2008. South Africa has also been heralded for being one of the most progressive constitutions worldwide, second only to Rwanda in terms of female parliamentary representation on the continent.

    The ruling African National Congress (ANC), has recently come under fire for the drop in female leadership at national and local government levels. Women's parliamentary representation in South Africa has dropped from 44 percent in 2009 to 40 percent after the recent 2014 elections. That of women in provincial legislatures dropped from 41 to 37 percent. Following the announcement of the new cabinet, women in cabinet remain at 41 percent. The proportion of women premiers dropped from 55 percent in 2009 to 22 percent in 2014. In the 2011 local elections, women's representation dropped from 40 to 38 percent.

    In 1998, Francis Fukuyama wrote in a Foreign Affairs article entitled ‘Women and the Evolution of World Politics’ (September/October 1998) that women's political leadership would bring about a more cooperative and less conflict-prone world. This is the common world view with regard to female political leadership.

    This essentialist view maintains and perpetuates gender stereotypes and binaries that are arguably incongruent with empirical historical examples of female leadership in government, the military and the diplomatic corps. The likes of Mbande Nzinga, Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher and Condoleezza Rice, serve as examples of female leaders that break the mould of such feminine stereotypes as ‘nurturer’, ‘mother’, ‘peacekeeper’ and ‘negotiator’. The problem with these stereotypes is mainly that they represent women as a homogenous interest group and equate the existence of women in political leadership with feminised norms: for example, women should be concerned with empowering other women and furthering women’s rights; women innately aim to avoid conflict; women are emotionally driven rather than rational.

    Furthermore, we should be wary of creating unrealistic expectations. The increase of women in political leadership is necessary not because it will lead to world peace but because women are a group, however heterogeneous, previously excluded from formal public spaces like government and the business sector for the mere fact of being women.

    Essentially it is necessary to have quotas in place and to analyse quantitative fluctuations of women in global political leadership. However, further inspection needs to go into the quality of women’s roles in these public spaces.

    While it is important to be concerned with the decrease in numbers, it is also equally and arguably more important to be concerned about the status of gender relations and normative ideas around gender in government spaces. Growth in number is the first phase through which gender parity can happen. More, however, needs to happen: a new phase in both national and international politics in which the structural, systematic inequalities that prevent women from making legitimate strides in political leadership are rigorously scrutinised.

    - Farai Morobane is a SAIIA-KAS Scholar and is currently completing her Master's degree at Wits University. This article was first published in Leadership magazine.
    Farai Morobane
  • 50/50 by 2015 Remains an Elusive Dream

    It may have been just a four percentage point drop in women’s representation in parliament in the May 2014 South African elections. But that drop sent tremors across a region hoping to at least show some progress on this front by 2015, the deadline year for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development, signed here in 2008.

    On 9 August - Women’s Day in South Africa – it is a sobering thought that we not only let ourselves down by failing to reach gender parity in one key area of decision-making: we took all of SADC down with us.

    South Africa is the most populous nation in the SADC and a torch bearer for gender equality. Half the region’s MPs reside in this country.  Achieving 44 percent women in parliament in the 2009 elections shot South Africa to the top of the chart in SADC and to the global top 10. The drop to 40 percent in May 2014 dealt a crippling blow to the 50/50 campaign.

    With less than one year to go until 2015, no country in the 15-nation region has reached the 50 percent target of women’s representation in parliament, cabinet or local government. Over the six years, women’s overall representation in parliament hit its highest at 26 percent in 2014, increasing by two percentage points from 24 percent in 2013.

    However, best predictions in the 2014 Southern African Gender Protocol Barometer  are that even with five more elections by the end of 2015, this figure will at most rise to 29 percent, meaning SADC will not have achieved the original 30 percent let alone 50 percent target by 2015. Women’s representation in local government slid from 26 percent to 24 percent in the last year, and may just claw back to 28 percent by the end of 2015, but will also fall shy of both the 30 percent and 50 percent targets.

    During the 2014 SADC Protocol@Work summits, the Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance held working meetings on the 50/50 campaign and came up with country-specific strategies. The strong message that emerged from these consultations is that without specific measures - quotas and electoral systems - to increase women’s political representation, change will remain painfully slow.

    The 2014 Barometer reflects the global reality that women’s political representation is highest in Proportional Representation (PR) electoral systems (38 percent in parliament and 37 percent in local government) and in countries with quotas (38 percent in parliament and 37 percent in local government). Countries with First Past the Post Systems (17 percent women in national and 14 percent women in local) have the lowest level of women’s representation, as do countries with no quota (17 percent national and eight percent local).

    However, SADC countries with the First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) system have shown innovation over the last few years by following the Tanzania example of adopting to a mixed system, with women able to run for the openly contested seats, and be awarded an additional 30 percent of seats on a proportional representation basis in accordance with the strength of each party.

    The Zimbabwe elections in July 2013 provided a stark example of the possibilities and pitfalls of gender and election strategies. Zimbabwe witnessed an increase of 22 percentage points in women’s representation in parliament from 16 percent to 38 percent thanks to the constitutional quota that created a mixed system and guaranteed women a minimum of 22 percent of the seats in the National Assembly. However, in the absence of similar provisions for local government the proportion of women in this sphere of governance declined from 18 percent to 16 percent in the same election. 

    In South Africa, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) became the first political party in SADC to adopt a voluntary 50 percent quota (the South West Africa Peoples Organisation in Namibia has since followed suit). The danger of voluntary quotas, long raised by activists, is that they are linked to the electoral fortunes of political parties. This proved to be the case in the South African elections. The decline in women’s political participation in the May elections is directly attributable to the decline in the ANC’s proportion of the vote, from 66 percent in the last election to 62 percent in the 2014 elections.

    Malawi had a spirited 50/50 campaign but no constitutional or legislated quotas in FPTP system. The elections took place at a turbulent time, marred by charges of foul play. As often happens in such circumstances – and despite an incumbent woman president contesting the elections - the proportion of women dropped significantly to 17 percent from 22 percent. For a moment too brief, the SADC regions marvelled and celebrated the first female President, Joyce Banda, former president of Malawi. She lost to Peter Mutharika (brother to the late former leader, Bingu Mutharika) during the May 2014 elections.

    With 44 percent women in parliament, Seychelles has come closest to achieving the parity target in this area of political decision-making, while Botswana and the Democratic Republic of Congo (10 percent) are the lowest. Seychelles is unique in that it is the only country in the SADC region to have achieved a high level of women in parliament without a quota, and in FPTP system. The island, which has a long tradition of men leaving in search of work, has a strong matriarchal culture.

    Between August 2014 and the end of 2015, five more SADC countries – Botswana (local and national); Mozambique (national), Namibia (national), Mauritius (national) and Tanzania (national and local) are due to hold elections. Madagascar’s long overdue local elections may also take place during this period.  With primaries already past in Botswana, there is a danger of further backslide in the October 2014 elections. Mozambique (39 percent) and Tanzania (36 percent) already have a high representation of women in parliament. Mozambique has a proportional representation system and the ruling Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frelimo) has a voluntary quota. Tanzania has a Constitutional quota, and this is being raised from 30 percent to 50 percent. Gains are likely in both countries.

    There are moves afoot in Namibia to legislate escalate the legislated quota at local level to national level, but it is not clear if this will happen in time for the October 2014 elections. Mauritius is debating a White Paper on Electoral reform that is likely to result in the quota at local level being escalated to national level but not in time for the 2015 national elections. It is therefore likely that only modest gains will be registered in both countries.

    Detailed projections in the Barometer lead to the unavoidable conclusion that by the end of 2015, the region will not make even the 30 percent mark. This should however give impetus to a much more strategic approach to the 50/50 campaign, with emphasis on electoral systems and quotas, accompanied by strong advocacy campaigns, rather than simply training women for political office.

    - Colleen Lowe Morna is Chief Executive Officer of Gender Links and editor-in-chief of the Southern African Gender Barometer. She formerly served as Chief Programme Officer of the Commonwealth Observer Mission to South Africa in the run up to the 1994 elections. This article is part of the Gender Links News Service special series on Women’s Month.
    Colleen Lowe Morna
  • Lacking Political Will Compromises Strong Constitutional Frameworks

    Gender equality and women’s rights are guaranteed in most Southern African constitutions but these do not result in substantive equality for women. Among other struggles, women remain unequal, under-represented at all levels of decision-making and experience high levels of gender based violence (GBV). These conditions obstruct women from realising their human rights.
    On paper, all countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have strong provisions on gender equality and equity. In addition, 13 countries, except Mauritius and Botswana have signed and ratified the SADC Gender Protocol (SGP), and are in the process of domesticating the provisions. SADC countries have also committed to other continental and global instruments promoting human and women’s rights. These include the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW 1979), the African Union Protocol on the Rights of Women in Africa, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) and the United Nations Millennium Declaration (2000) that spells out the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
    In practice however, these instruments and their clauses are compromised by a lack of political will, slow implementation of key pieces of legislation that promote gender equality, and flagrant abuses of human and women’s rights.
    As South Africans observe national Women’s Day on 9 August 2014 the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality (WEGE) Bill that aims to give effect to gender equality provisions in the Constitution is currently on hold. WEGE’s key provisions address the “social development’ of women, via education and training aimed at eradicating gender-based discrimination and violence and increasing education around access to healthcare. The other key focus area is equal representation and empowerment of women through the progressive realisation of a minimum of 50 percent representation and ‘meaningful participation’ of women in public and private decision-making structures, including businesses and political parties. There are specific provisions that address the socio-economic empowerment of rural women and women with disabilities.
    Recent developments on the WEGE are of concern. The Bill has been referred back to Parliament from the National Council of Provinces (NCOP). The NCOP asked how the Bill was linked to other legislation meant to address women empowerment as previous legislation had failed on that objective. What then, was the guarantee that the Bill would be effective?
    The 2014 Human Rights Watch World Report highlights concerns about human rights abuses in Angola that contradict the provisions in the Constitution as well as other human rights commitments made by the country.
    In early April 2014, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, visited Angola at the invitation of the government. During her visit, Pillay raised a wide array of human rights concerns, including media restrictions and freedom of expression; the state’s use of excessive force to repress protests; mistreatment and sexual violence against migrants; forced evictions; and violations of economic and social rights. Pillay’s visit shone a spotlight on Angola’s human rights record, which is mostly ignored by regional and international partners in favour of strengthening trade links.
    Another key challenge in most SADC countries are the contradictions emerging from dual legal systems either through the formal recognition of customary law or common practice. As a result women are treated as minors and do not enjoy the rights guaranteed in the countries’ constitutions. Muna Ndulo, professor of law and director of the Cornell University's Institute for African Development, also chairperson of the board of Gender Links, discusses the impact of dual legal systems in the Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies.
    The sources of law in most African countries are customary law, the common law and legislation (both colonial and post-independence). In a typical African country, the great majority of the people conduct their personal activities in accordance with and subject to customary law, which has a great impact on matters such as marriage, inheritance and traditional authority. Customary laws were developed in an era dominated by patriarchy, some of its norms conflict with human rights norms that guarantee equality between men and women.
    While recognising the role of legislation in reform, it is argued that the courts have an important role to play in ensuring that customary laws are reviewed and developed to ensure that they conform to human rights law and contribute to the promotion of equality between men and women. The guiding principle should be that customary law is living law and therefore cannot be static and must account for the changing lived experiences of the people it aims to serve.
    Ndulo states that many constitutions recognise the application of customary law without resolving its conflict with human rights provisions. He uses the Zambia Constitution as an example to illustrate ‘claw back’ clauses that qualify and compromise constitutional provisions on equality and non-discrimination.
    The new Tanzania Constitution is proposing far reaching changes including press freedom; the public's right to access information; education for all; greater representation for women in politics; and the adoption of a federal system of government.
    The draft guarantees women 50 percent representation in Parliament, an increase from the current 30 percent quota. At present, women parliamentarians are appointed to special seats by parties. Under the proposed Constitution, political parties would lose the power to nominate women to parliamentary seats and instead, voters in every province would elect two parliamentarians, of who one has to be a woman.
    Moving forward all SADC countries must make constitutions living documents that change women’s lived reality and ensure equal rights for women.
    - Kubi Rama is the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Gender Links. This article is part of the Gender Links News Service special series on Women’s Month.
    Kubi Rama
  • CGE Pleased With Women in Cabinet

    The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) is pleased with the number of female members in President Jacob Zuma's new Cabinet.

    In a press statement, the commission points out that, “…although 50/50 gender parity has not been reached, it is within reach and should be possible to reach in the next election."

    The commission notes that women ministers constitute about 40 percent of the membership of the new cabinet, further welcoming the increase in the number of female deputy ministers compared to the previous administration.

    To read the article titled, “Commission for Gender Equality pleased with number women in cabinet,” click here.

    Times Live
  • South Africa Misses The Mark on Women in Politics

    Following the elections and President Jacob Zuma's recent cabinet appointments, South Africa has missed its last opportunity - so tantalisingly close - to achieve gender parity in politics ahead of the 2015 deadline.
    The 50 percent target for women's representation in all areas of decision-making is enshrined in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development adopted in South Africa in 2008.
    South Africa came under the spotlight at the SADC Protocol@Work summit on 27 May 2014, under the theme, ‘50/50 by 2015, and a Strong Post- 2015 Agenda’. The summit brings together 350 activists and government officials from across the region in the final countdown to 2015 - the deadline for the 28 targets of the Protocol.  
    Women's representation in parliament dropped from 44 percent in the 2009 elections to 40 percent in the 7 May 2014 polls, while that of women in provincial legislatures dropped from 41 to 37 percent. Following the announcement of the new cabinet at the weekend, women in cabinet remain at 41 percent. The proportion of women premiers dropped from 55 percent in 2009 to 22 percent in 2014. In the 2011 local elections, women's representation dropped from 40 percent to 38 percent.
    "South Africa is the one country that should have hit the bull's eye," said Gender Links chief executive officer, Colleen Lowe Morna. The reason for the drop, she noted, "is that South Africa has steadfastly refused to adopt a legislated quota, leaving this to the whims of political parties." 
    The relatively high numbers owed to the ruling African National Congress' [ANC] 50 percent quota. "But the ANC has not always stuck to its quota. And as its majority has declined, both at national and local level, so has the representation of women," Lowe-Morna noted. "We rest our case: the issue is too important to leave to the fate of political parties."
    The ANC adopted a voluntary 30 percent quota for women in 2002, and upped this to 50 percent in 2009. However, the party did not live up to this quota nor did they stick to the zebra proportional representation on the party list, since the first three people on the ANC party list are men.
    Out of the 249 ANC seats at national level, 115 (46 percent) are held by women. This is a four percent decline from 2009.
    The main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) has always been averse to quotas. Helen Zille came under fire for appointing an all-male cabinet in the Western Cape in 2009. Women hold only 27 of the 89 seats (30 percent). At provincial level, women's representation in the DA declined by four percentage points from 35 percent in 2009 to 31 percent in 2014.
    In her Western Cape cabinet, Zille boasted that she had increased women's representation by 200 percent as she now has two women in cabinet. She added that she would not discriminate in favour of women because they have X chromosomes or against men because they have Y chromosomes.
    "This is simplistic and it is disappointing, coming from a woman leader," commented Lowe Morna. "Zille completely ignores the historical imbalances between women and men. Nowhere in the world have these been corrected without deliberate measures to do so."  
    The new kid on the block, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) got a whopping 25 seats in parliament of which only nine (35 percent) are held by women. At provincial level, the party has 38 percent women. During Women's Month last year, the EFF said they "view the deplorable condition of the majority of women as a slap in the face for women who sacrificed so much for our liberation". With that in mind, although higher than many other parties 35 percent of women is still a slap in the face to gender parity.
    In another show of blatant gender blindness, the Inkhatha Freedom Party (IFP) continues to demonstrate a disturbing decline after each election. Out of the 10 seats in parliament, only two seats (21 percent) are held by women. This is a one percent decline from 2009, and a 14 percent decline from 2004. The decline also extends to the provincial level, down from 35 percent in 2009 to 20 percent women in 2014.
    Agang, led by a woman, only got two seats. However party leader Mamphela Ramphele, said she is not going to Parliament because she wants to reflect on her party's disappointing performance, and is putting forward two male MPs.
    In the 2009 elections, the ANC managed to get 50/50 representation of premiers. In 2014, of the eight provinces that the ANC won, men lead seven, while one province is led by a woman (13 percent). Nationally, there are seven (78 percent) male premiers and two female premiers (22 percent).
    Cabinet is where women's representation should be equal to that of men as the President has absolute control. But women now constitute 15 (41 percent) of the 37-member cabinet, and 16 (44 percent) of the 36 deputy ministers.
    Just before the elections, the national assembly passed the Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill. If approved by the National Council of Provinces, the bill will oblige both public and private entities to ensure gender parity. South Africa could have made a head start with its just ended elections. "Missing the mark at this place and time sends out the sad message that patriarchy is still alive and well," noted Lowe Morna.
    - For more information about the Gender Summit underway as well as the figures of women in government, contact Katherine Robinson on 076 227 6517. A multimedia newsletter with pieces suitable for online radio, video will be sent out for your usage shortly.
    Katherine Robinson
  • Young Voices Absent in Swazi Media

    According to new research by Swaziland's Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) in partnership with child rights NGO Save the Children, children and young people's voices in Swaziland's media are heard in only eight percent of the stories that are about them.

    The two organisations monitored the country’s two daily newspapers - Times of Swaziland and Swazi Observer - from 22 May to 2 June 2013 and during this period, the Times of Swaziland published 42 stories about (or involving) children or young people.

    The research found that of those 42 stories about children / young people, only three stories (seven percent) included the voice a child / young person.

    To read the article titled, “Youth voice absent in Swazi media – MISA research,” click here.

    All Africa
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