Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Women’s representation in SA parliament set to rise to 45%

From Gender Links:

South Africa is likely to witness a 12% increase in women’s representation in parliament from 33% to 45%, according to a report released by Gender Links on the eve of the April 2009 elections. This would be the largest increase in women’s representation since the first democratic elections in 1994 in which women’s representation jumped from 2.7 percent to 27 percent.

The increase would put South Africa firmly on course to meet the Southern African Development Community (SADC) target of 50% women in political decision-making by 2015. It would also place South Africa in the lead position in the regional body (at 36% women in parliament Angola is currently the front runner). South Africa would, however, still be behind global leader Rwanda at 56%. The increase in numbers, largely brought about by the African National Congress (ANC’s) 50/50 election list as well as improvements in women’s standing in opposition parties, is also likely to spark a new debate on how meaningful numbers are.

“We will face the irony that while we may have many more women in parliament we will also most likely have Jacob Zuma as president,” noted GL Executive Director Colleen Lowe Morna. While Zuma was acquitted of rape charges, his utterances that scantily dressed women are asking to have sex and polygamous life style “hardly reflect progressive views on women’s rights,” she added.

A telling moment in South Africa’s history was during the ANC’s Pholokwane congress when “the proverbial two bulls slugged it out in the ring with not even a hint of a woman as an alternative leader,” Lowe-Morna noted. “The ANC has made history by fielding equal numbers of women across its party list, but patriarchy still runs deep in this as in every other party,” she added.

While the Independent Democrats (ID) and Democratic Alliance (DA) have women leaders, neither has fielded equal numbers of women and men in the top 50 candidates
on their lists. The Congress of the People (COPE) has come close to parity in its top 50; except (like the ANC) at the very top.

GL’s election analysis shows that women constitute over half of all registered voters in all provinces and 55% of voters overall. In the bumper voter registration turn out, young people constitute 12 million of the 23 million voters and young women constitute 53% of these voters, making them the most powerful voting block. But the report comments that party manifestos and campaigns have done little to address key concerns of women like gender violence and the economic crisis. Awareness of gender as a critical factor in elections remains weak, the report says.

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