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Impact of Women’s Political Leadership on Democracy and Development in South Africa
 
Written by Colleen Lowe Morna and Mukayi Makaya-Magarangoma | 11 June 13
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With approximately 40% women in local government, parliament and cabinet, South Africa is one of the Commonwealth’s best performers with regard to women’s political participation. Women have entered the corridors of power in their numbers, and occupied non-traditional spaces, like the ministries of intelligence, home affairs, and defence. In less than twenty years they have contributed to radical changes in laws, policies and service delivery that have resulted in far greater gender awareness and responsiveness in South Africa’s governance than ever before. These changes reflect in new institutional norms and discourse; sea changes in the lives of women previously excluded from the corridors of power and in the “new men” emerging to champion gender causes. They also reflect in the lives of “ordinary women” now claiming access to land, mineral resources, finance and other means of production with which to enhance their livelihoods and those of their families. Even so, women remain the majority of the poor, the dispossessed, those living with HIV and AIDS, and daily violated as a result of high levels of gender violence. Women’s names do not feature in on-going power struggles for top leadership of the African National Congress (ANC), although the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) has three women at the helm. In the count down to 2015 – the deadline for the 28 targets of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development and of MDG 3 – South Africa needs to redouble its efforts to ensure the achievement of gender parity in all areas of decision-making. South Africa also needs to ensure that this translates into real changes in the lives of the majority of women.

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