Gender in Local Government South Africa

Gender in Local Government South Africa

Date: October 8, 2013
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This report concerns the Gender Justice and Local Government programme for Gender Links South Africa and the current situation with the COE process July 2012 to to date. The report incorporates the analysis of council institutional profiles and projects obtained through the Centres of Excellence (COE) verification process. 


Key facts:

  • SA has been working with 20 Councils have been part of the Centres of Excellence (COE) process.
  • 5 more councils will join the COE process every year in South Africa – over the three provinces – Limpopo, Western Cape and Gauteng.
  • These 20  COE councils cover a population of 3 941 639
  • The COE’s include councils that are based in rural and urban settings.
  • Of the 20 COE councils in SA, 51% are female councillors.
  • Currently the number of women in management positions at 36% and this is a cause for concern therefore interventions need to be put in place to ensure equal representation of women within key decision-making positions
  • A high proportional number of women are employed within the councils at 42% however this is not an indication that these women are employed within management positions. Very often these women are mostly employed at the clerical or administrative levels.
  • GL has succeeded in working with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) within the various provinces.
  • Of the 20 COE councils; seven of the actively remaining councils have formulated gender action plans the impact of those plans at council level also varies (see summary analysis as a result of the verification exercise in the table at Annex A).
  • Seven of the initial 13 COE Councils administered the Gender in Local Government Score Card and an average baseline score of 63% was determined at the start of the project.
  • However there has been a significant increase in terms of the current progress overall score of the council based on the verification exercise to 75% increase in improvement in councils which were verified.
  • Gender Action plans have been developed and incorporated into existing Integrated Development Plans (IDP) of the current COE councils.
  • UN Women FGE Fund and FOKUS have been identified as the main grantees to assist with the cascading and funding of the COE process for South Africa

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The South Africa Centres of Excellence in Gender Mainstreaming Programme sought to:

  • Raise awareness and canvassing support for the COE process in South Africa.
  • Raise support for the roll out of the COE’s to at least 5 councils within South Africa by 2013 and a targeted number until 2015.
  • Cascading of the COE process within local councils through twinning arrangements between councils.
  • Popularise and enhance application of the Post SADC Gender Protocol and Sustainable Development Goals through the village workshops that accompany the COEs and incorporating its targets in the local action plans.
  • Ensuring that gender action plans include targets for ensuring equal access by women to employment opportunities created by councils, and challenging gender stereotypes in the work place.

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The COE’s bring together research, policy, action plans, on the job support and capacity building in a unique model that gives local expression to the 28 targets of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development À“ the sub regional roadmap for MDG 3 (gender equality). As in the case of the MDG’s, these targets are to be achieved by 2015. 12 councils will be have been part of the COE process in South and an additional 5 have been targeted for 2013 across the three provinces with an additional 5 being identified for each year.

A list of the councils that are COEs in South Africa a listed below is:

Current COE councils 2013 target councils
  • Aganang
  • Capricorn
  • CapeWinelands
  • Mosselbay
  • Polokwane
  • Witzenberg
  • Bitou
  • Bergriver
  • Emfuleni
  • Lesedi
  • Matzikama
  • Overstrand
  • George
  • Midvaal
  • Cape-Aghulas
  • Blouberg
  • Lepelle-Nkumpi

GL South Africa has a working relationship with the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) whose main purpose is to provide oversight to municipalities across SA’s nine provinces. This partnership has assisted GL to facilitate the COE process in some of the local municipalities.

GL undertook a COE verification exercise of the current councils where evidence of progress was gathered and through re-administering the local government scorecard GL was able to update the COE’s councils’ initial baseline score to gauge improvement within the councils. This level of monitoring and evaluation assisted with assessing the progress and impact being implemented at grassroots level. The verification exercise was also an opportunity to assess the gender action plans devised by the councils which include the gender based violence plans all based on the SADC protocol on gender and development.

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GL South Africa’s most critical partner within the local government work is the South Africa Local Government Association (SALGA). SALGA has taken resolutions in support of the gender strategy for local government and plays a key role in motivating councils to be part of the COE process as well as mobilising municipalities whilst ensuring their participation in the COE process which will contribute to ownership and implementation at council level.

GL South Africa also has an established working partnership with the Ministry of Women, Children and Persons with Disabilities, across the various GL programmes. While the ministry is not an operational or implementing partner, it is the key custodian of the Gender Policy Framework for Local Government, and GL will foster and facilitate a process to strengthen this working relationship.

GL South Africa has also worked closely with the City Of Johannesburg; key partnerships have also been formulated with local councils. GL will also seek to form partnerships with other key partners to join the COE process these will include the private sector, local government provides an important enabling environment for Local Economic Development. This is key to addressing issues of women’s access to economic opportunities and poverty alleviation which reduces the vulnerability of women to gender based violence, and other forms of abuse.

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Target groups

The target groups for the programme are the local government councils located with the three provinces in South Africa, Limpopo, Western Cape and Gauteng. The current funding grant from the UN Women Fund for Gender Equality is currently focused on identifying and working with councils within these provinces.

The COE programme in South Africa has assisted with the awareness of gender issues within councils, and also created an opportunity to have women and men who are advocating and implementing these changes within their councils. (Gender champions/ gender focal points) Women and members of the communities in which the COE process is being facilitated within their locality, were also profiled through the series of Women in Politics and Changing Lives stories. These personal accounts have been a clear endorsement of how the programme is creating impact on the ground.

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COE programme in South Africa

To date in South Africa there are currently seven active COE councils with the new five identified councils which are going to join the COE process in 2013, however due to some financial constraints experienced in 2012 GL was not able to fully fund the continuation of the COE process in South Africa; nonetheless the COE process was still able to be facilitated in a few councils.

The current COE councils are identified in Annex A; five more are set to join the COE process this year and seven have gone up to action planning stage. At the local level, GL has integrated the targets of the Protocol into the gender action planning frameworks of the COE’s. This has considerably strengthened the Local Economic Development sections of the plan, since the SADC Gender Protocol has sixteen economic targets that relate to equal access to economic decision-making as well as productive resources (including land and finance). The SADC Gender Protocol also has strong provisions on care work and the recognition of the unwaged work of women, particularly at grassroots level.

COE councils have further indicated their commitment to ensuring gender equality and implementation of the COE process within their councils, by signing the Statement of Commitment (Stage 6). This has also been a great area of showcasing council commitments to implementing and achieving the targets of the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.

The COE process in the targeted localities will assist women to gain equal access to economic opportunities, safety and decision-making in accordance with the targets of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development to be achieved by 2015 (also the target date for MDG 3). The cascading and twinning arrangement will assist GL with the roll out of the COE process and will have reached a targeted number of councils within the identified provinces.

COE council scores

One of the main outcomes that was highlighted through the COE Verification process was to take note of the progress of the initial baselines scores constructed on the scorecards which were initially administered to the council at the beginning of the COE process. As indicated in (Annex A) this further validates and affirms the work that the COE process is implementing on the ground, many councils have matured and also developed policies and programmes that are aligned to gender empowerment.

COE Cascading Model

Below is the roll-out strategy for the cascading of the COE’s in South Africa, based on the existing COE councils within the three identified provinces. The cascading model would also highlight the envisaged twinning arrangement model which will, see the adoption of established COE councils mentoring and working closely with new councils. SALGA provincial coordinators located in the various provinces will also assist with the cascading model, by offering an oversight role in conjunction with the cascading COE council.

The already established COE councils will be identified as cascading councils whilst the new councils to join the COE process will be referred to as the core councils, the aim would be to eventually have the core councils graduate to become fully fledged cascading councils.

List of COEs

Province Core COE council Cascading COE council SALGA
Gauteng Emfuleni Local   Municipality Sedibeng SALGA Gauteng
Midvaal   Local Municipality
Mogale city
Limpopo Vhembe   District Municipality Ba-Phalaborwa SALGA Limpopo
Capricorn District Municipality Aganang Local Municipality
Polokwane Local Municipality
Blouberg Local municipality
Lepelle-Nkumpi Local municipality
Western Cape George SALGA Western Cape
Witzenberg Local Municipality
Mossel Bay
Cape Winelands

New council Key


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COE Verification

In 2012 Gender Links (GL) undertook its annual verification process. This process is part of the monitoring and evaluation exercise (also known as the stage 9 in the Centre Of Excellence 10 stage process) done by the organization to assess how the councils that are in the COE process are progressing in terms of mainstreaming gender in policies which will result in good service delivery. Scorecards were administered to councils who had joined the COE process in 2011, these score cards have assisted GL in tracking the progress of gender mainstreaming within councils.

Gender Links South Africa initially identified 7 councils for verification and new scorecards were also administered to new councils that have subsequently joined the process, however only 5 councils were able to be verified in the 2013 evaluation. The criterion used to select the councils was the identification of the present COE councils, to evaluate their current process of implementation.

The process involved councils reviewing their gender score-card (see Annex A ) and also verified the information according to their present baseline and also the progress , against evidence

Outcomes of the verification exercise Outputs of the verification
  1. Verified councils had done exceptionally well in progressing with gender issues.
  2. Participants realised the need to be more gender sensitive in their service delivery.
  3. The verification process highlighted the need for councils to come up with more structured monitoring and evaluation tools to complement the existing tools.
  4. Capacitation of GFPs is a necessity as well as having gender inscribed in their job descriptions.
  1. GL collected a sizeable number of files in which councils had evidence of the actual work they were doing e.g. policies, budgets, minutes.
  2. Photography of COE work being done on the ground.
  3. Institutional Case studies for the 5 verified councils.
  4. Changing lives accounts.

Many activities take place during verification, other than just re-scoring the council. GL takes this opportunity to visit some council projects that have been serving the communities. It takes the opportunity to interview some of the beneficiaries of the projects to understand how their lives have been changed by the process. These first-hand accounts/stories (qualitative) are gathered and streamlined into a catalogue on the GL website entitled Changing Lives series which can be found on In South Africa during the COE verification process changing lives stories and 5 institutional case studies were collated.

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Emerging evidence of impact

Higher representation of women in COE Councils and some excellent case studies of the 50/50 campaign: The analysisshows that women constitute an average of 42% in the COE councils; these numbers rang from the various councils in the difference localities. There is also a fair amount of women who are represented as councillors at 40% however there is room for growth, the number of women who are at managerial level is standing at 36% which is a number which needs to be monitored to ensure that the number is elevated to a level where women are part of the decision making process.

Women leadership is now taken seriously in the COEs: The female councillors in the various COE councils have been very instrumental in ensuring that council issues and gender mainstreaming is factored within the institution. This also means that women are also able to advocate for gender issues within the council by implementing various projects that can ensure that women are empowered.

Progress in implementation: The average baseline score for councils in South Africa as measured by the Gender in Local Government Score Card (is 63% (see analysis at Annex A). In the self- scoring evaluation exercise, this increased to 75%. The progress self-score of 75% would need to also be evaluated and re-examined by the external judges and evaluators.

  1. Overall there has been a significant progress over the year. These scores are based on the indicators of gender responsive governance. They reflect women’s increased representation, participation, and access to resources and services as a result of the COE process.
  2. The Monitoring and Evaluation process is participative; honest and fair. The fact that judges scores are in line with self-scoring in most instances shows that Councils have taken ownership; improved evidence gathering skills and are highly motivated.


The COE councils in the COE process serve a population of 3, 928, 705 the COE process has included SADC Protocol Village workshops giving the community a chance to understand the SADC protocol. Cyber dialogues have been held in councils where through the internet, the public participates on topical issues during the 16 days of activism and during the 2013 International women’s day event. The impact of the COE’s on the lives of members of the community is reflected in the “Changing Lives” testimonial evidence being gathered as part of this process.


Although the gender mainstreaming process has been highly successful in local government, challenges include:

  • The limited capacity of councils means that flexibility is required in planning workshops as these are usually spearheaded by the gender focal persons.
  • Administrative dynamics in councils make the situation unstable as political buy in can be difficult.
  • Sustaining enthusiasm for the work COE Work within local authorities
  • Political dynamics located within the different provinces and councils make the situation unstable as political buy in can be difficult due to the dynamics
  • Minimal full engagement with local authorities due to human and financial resources to sustain momentum of the COE process.

Next steps

  • Women in Local Government À“South Africa will be holding National Elections in 2014, this also poses as an opportunity to capacitate and train women who are politicians. However this may also be the ideal time for GL South Africa to conduct an audit of the report to take stock and measure the level of women as politicians
  • Entrepreneurship training À“ GL South Africa with the support of the Fund For Gender Equality and the FOKUS grant, GL at regional level is designing a next phase of the COE process that involves linking the GBV action plans for councils with local economic empowerment. The aim is to test the linkages between reduction of GBV with economic empowerment of survivors of gender based violence. Target councils for the pilot phase in South Africa include: Midvaal, Blouberg, Lepelle-Nkumpi, George and Cape Aghulas. Women survivors of GBV will be trained in each council and through a monitoring and evaluation framework, change will be recorded at both impact and output level. Through collection of personal accounts of these women (‘I’ stories), documented evidence of change will form part of the monitoring exercise. The programme will make linkages to microfinance institutions and business opportunities.
  • COE cascading and roll out À“ Following the training of trainers workshops held successfully in South Africa , the COE programme will be rolled out to a further 5 new councils namely George, Midvaal, Lepelle-Nkumpi, Blouberg, and Cape Agulas. These councils will be using the twinning arrangement as most are neighbours or a rural local of the other. Through the gender focal persons trained in the COE process, it has been agreed that Stages 2, 3, 7 and 8 be facilitated by them whilst the rest is handled by Gender Links. This model will increase sustainability and ownership of the COE process whilst at the same time enhancing impact level on the job training.

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Download : South Africa Local Government COEs report
Download : Analysis of COE work

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