SA local elections a regional test case for gender parity

Date: January 1, 1970
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Johannesburg 25 August: The local government 50/50 campaign is a litmus test of the decision taken by Southern African leaders at their summit last week to ensure that women and men are equally represented in decision-making.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit in Gaborone “endorsed the African Union position which provides for a 50 percent target of women in all political and decision-making positions.”
The local government elections in South Africa later this year will be among the first since this decision was taken.
In a statement at the launch of the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) 50/50 campaign, Gender Links (GL) said the elections “will be watched closely by the 50/50 movement across the region and world wide.”
GL noted that there has been a greater willingness in the region to take bold moves to ensure greater representation of women at local than national level. Lesotho and Namibia have legislated quotas for women at local level. Namibia has 42 percent women in local government: the highest proportion of women in any area of decision-making in the region.
GL challenged SALGA to “go one step further and become the first decision making structure in Southern Africa to achieve gender balance” by confronting squarely the several challenges that exist. These include:
  • At present the Municipal Structures Act (1998) encourages but does not oblige all political parties to field equal numbers of women and men candidates.
  • Only the African National Congress (ANC) has openly adopted a 50/50 quota for the upcoming elections.
  • There is presently a big imbalance in the representation of women as PR and ward councilors. Women comprise 38 percent of PR councilors but only 17 percent of ward councilors. If the 50/50 objective is to be realised, there will need to be a concerted effort by all parties to ensure much greater representation of women as ward councilors.

(GL coordinates the Southern African Gender Protocol Alliance formed during the SADC summit; is a member of the global 50/50 campaign and is engaged in programmes to develop gender policies and strategies with the City of Johannesburg, eThekwini and Msunduzi. For more information call Colleen Lowe Morna on 082-651-6995.)


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