SA Elections 2009: Conduct at the polls and results

Date: January 1, 1970
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This series of articles discusses the role of women in both politics and elections.

  • “Lessons from an election that brought out our best and worst,” Sunday Times, 26 April 20
  •  “Women’s voices still in short supply,” The Star, 4 May 2009
  •  “SA champions gender equality,” The Star, 4 May
  • “Women’s freedom still has far to go,” The Citizen, 9 May 2009      

These articles may be used to:

  •  highlight the prominent roles women play in both politics but also in conducting free and fair elections;
  • debate the importance of gender parity and quotas;
  • discuss subtle stereotypes about survivors of gender-based violence.
Trainers’ notes:
Much, although not enough, has been said about the role of gender equity in politics but little is anything has been said about the role of women in ensuring free and fair elections.  Makhanya’s opinion piece is a great example of gender-aware commentary on women’s roles in organising South Africa’s 2009 general elections (see “Lessons from an election that brought out our best and worst”). Makhanya  speaks about the chairman and CEO of the country’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) n a way that not only comments on the democratic values South Africans have internalised since the advent of democracy but that also challenges stereotypes about women by describing the female heads as strong, no-nonsense and goal-orientated figures who were instrumental in the country’s successful elections.
However, in an era where women are at the helm of major elections, they are not necessarily at the helm of politics as the remaining articles in this series point out, of which “Women’s voices still in short supply in politics” offers us the best example.  As the remaining two articles in this series show, politics often mirrors society – with gender inequalities remaining deeply rooted at the family-level (see “SA champions gender equality” and “Women’s freedom still has far to go”). However these pieces, as examples of journalism could go further in their discussion of their respective subject matters – early marriage and gender-based violence.  Shonisani’s piece is obviously an event story and as such sadly has very little depth in terms of sourcing. Deadline permitting, It would have been beneficial to call at least one other source to comment on early marriage’s affects on young girls, including early pregnancy and related complications as well as increased risk of HIV transmission. Meanwhile, The Citizen’s editorial, while it does a good job highlighting gender issues in a prominent way – falls short of avoiding subtle stereotypes – the term “less fortunate sisters” reinforces the idea that survivors of gender-based violence are victims and thus somewhat diminishes their agency. Meanwhile, the editorial could also be argued to reinforce stereotypes of survivors as women who are either members of the rural or urban poor.
In many societies continue to represent the minority of decision-makers. Theories backing gender equity say the principle remains crucial to ensuring healthy, transparent and responsive democracies. In 2008, leaders from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) signed the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, which legally bound them to achieve gender parity in decision-making by 2015. However the debate around gender parity in South Africa stretches back much farther. The ruling African National Congress Women’s League pushed hard for 50-50 gender parity until it was finally adopted as party policy at the party’s 2002 national conference. As a result, as of the May 2009, women made up 44 percent of parliament and 41 percent of President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet.
Discussion questions
  • Civil servants are not elected officials – what influence does gender inequalities within these ranks have on women and women’s issues, if any?
  •  What areas of women’s agendas remain most neglected among government agendas?
  • What is the relationship between the personal and the political? Why have women’s rights activists argued that the personal “is political?”
 Training exercises:
  • The editorial we just discussed highlighted the importance or lack thereof given to gender-based violence by some police officers in South Africa. Travel to your local police station and ask to interview the superintendent in charge – what kind of training do officers receive regarding gender-based violence and what are the office’s demographics?
  • Do a content analysis. Look at four major newspapers in your country over two to four months and chart how many times their editorials speak about gender equality in government. Is this a question we address outside election years?
  • Interview female civil servants – what’s the hardest part about being a female in their departments?
Other Training Resources
Click here and search theme "Elections" for more related GL Commentaries. 

Download : Lessons from an election that brought out our best and worst
Download : SA champions gender equality0001

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