Janet Semple – South Africa

Janet Semple – South Africa

Date: June 16, 2010
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Janet Semple, representative of South Africa’s main opposition DA on the Joint Monitoring Committee on the Improvement of Quality of Life and Status of Women and head of the DA Women’s Network (DAWN), is proud that the DA has 30 percent women councillors who were “not imposed.”

The DA, she said, addresses diversity in all its forms (gender, race, language, geographical position, religion etc) without resorting to quotas which it believes are undemocratic. The DA, she maintains, is a party of “merit.” DAWN aims to give women that specific training and development to enable them to participate on an equal footing, she said.

Although there are more DA women at local (30 percent) than at national level (21 percent), the women at national level are very strong, Semple maintains. The DA has women mayors in Cape Town, Stellenbosch and Midvaal. With former party leader Tony Leon stepping down before the 2008 elections, the DA even has a woman leader.

According to the DA official, the DA has had “endless discussions” about numbers and particularly about what level the quota should be pegged at. “In an ideal world we would have 52 percent women in decision-making”, she says but adds that sometimes too much emphasis is placed in the numbers to the detriment of other issues like gender stereotypes within the party and its work. Semple noted that the DA ensures that portfolios within the party are distributed according to merit and not gender: thus the spokespersons for safety and security, water affairs and forestry and justice are women while those for health and education are men.

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