SA Elections 2009 À“ Gender Issues

Date: January 1, 1970
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This series of opinion articles, published before and after South Africa’s general elections in 2009, discuss the fact that despite South Africa’s impressive record on gender parity in government, gender issues may not yet be meaningfully incorporated into government’s agenda.

Articles analysed
  • “Who exactly will this ministry serve?,” Mail & Guardian, May 15 to 21, 2009
  • “’Let’s put all the problem people together,’” City Press/City Pulse, 17 May 2009
  • “Gender talk exposes true plight of women,” City Press, 5 April 2009
  • “Struggle for women’s rights in SA has just begun,” Unknown, 19 April 2009
This article may be used to:
  • debate the role of female politicians in communicating the gender agenda;
  • discuss indicators of real gender mainstreaming;
  • show that stereotypes about women continue to shape the women’s rights agenda.
Trainers’ notes:
This series of predominately opinion articles clearly raises the questions as to whether achieving gender parity means achieving gender equality. Post the 2009 elections, Lowe Morna points out, women will hold 45 percent of parliamentary seats. This cements South Africa’s slot among the world’s top 10 countries regarding gender parity at this level of politics and among those countries part of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) slated to meet regional targets on gender parity.
However, it is clear from these articles that women in government don’t necessarily translate to the presence of women’s issues in politics – a fact especially highlighted in “Gender talk exposes true plight of women,” which provides a frank look at the gender literacy of the country’s top parties. This lack of literacy has contributed, these articles argue, to a lack of true gender mainstreaming in which the “gender agenda” becomes a part of all agendas. Enter the creation of a Ministry of Women, Youth, Children and People with Disabilities. The sole news article presented (“’Let’s put all the problem people together,’”) quotes one gender activist saying that such a ministry is tantamount to the ghettoisation of women both a special interest group and a vulnerable group.
The writers argue that had departments like defence and finance shaped their agendas with an eye to gender that this would have presented more meaningful progress on women’s issues than the creation of a ministry, hey believe, is conceptually weak. That the ministry is designed to promote the agenda of three disparate groups with disparate needs – women, children and the disabled – remains a concern. It also stands as a reminder that stereotypes surrounding women – in this instance perceptions about all women’s pervasive vulnerability and perhaps roles as caregivers that might explain the linkages drawn by the ministry – continue to inform politics and policy.
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. In South Africa, the push for gender parity was spearheaded largely by the ruling African National Congress’ Women’s League, which pushed 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 April 2009, women made up 45 percent of parliament and 41 percent of President Jacob Zuma’s cabinet
Discussion questions
  • Does gender parity in politics translate to gains on the ground for most women?
  •  Is it fair to expect women, based on their gender, to push gender and women’s rights agendas? Are women necessarily the only ones capable of articulating the agenda of women’s rights?
  • What are the pros and cons of aligning groups such as women, children and the disabled under a ministry?
 Training exercises:
  • As pointed out by Win’s article, women’s ministry’s often become the dumping ground for a hodgepodge of issues from sports to delinquent youths. Find examples from the continent where this has been the case and email a gender organisation in that country, asking them how this has helped or hurt the ministry’s work.
  • Chart the road to gender parity in your country. Where are we and where are we going? Chart progress on women’s rights as well, interviewing gender and women’s rights organisations on the subject. Is there a correlation between gender parity and real gains in gender and women’s rights in your country?
  • Interview members of your community in a Vox pos format – what do they have to say about the progress of women’s rights?
Other Training Resources
From the Gender and Media Diversity Centre
Click here and search theme "Politics" for more related research on the GMDC database.
Click here and search theme "SA Elections 2008"" for more related VRC case studies.
Related GL Commentaries
Click here and search theme "Elections" for more related GL Commentaries. 

Download : Who exactly will this ministry serve
Download : Lets put all the problem people together
Download : Gender talk exposes true plight of women

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