This report is part of the second phase of At the Coalface: Gender and Local Government in Southern Africa which aims to extend research on gender and local government carried out in Lesotho, Mauritius, Namibia and South Africa to all of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries.
The evidence gathered in this research shows that even in their small numbers women in Swaziland bring different perspectives and interests to local governance. They are concerned about every day issues – education, HIV and AIDS, housing, roads and transport and markets. They are also seen as hard working; accessible; close to the people and to local issues.
But being a woman councillor comes with many challenges; the structures within which they operate are male dominated and still largely patriarchal; they lack resources, exposure and support and there are just not enough of them. Councillors and constituents interviewed for the research agreed that increasing the numbers of women councillors is a good goal to strive for.
The research, which was conducted in Swaziland in 2008, involved 53 councillors in 19 localities who gave of their time for in-depth interviews. 76 women and 33 men participated in focus group discussions. Their views and voices are the heart of this work.