SA Elections 2009 – Gender Mainstreaming

Date: January 1, 1970
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These articles showcase the extent to which the need for women’s political participation has been mainstreamed, or incorporated into broader agenda outside that of gender. However, they also point to serious challenges in making this effective mainstreaming À“ namely the persistence of patriarchy.

This article may be used to:
  • debate what effective mainstreaming means for gender agendas;
  • discuss the use of quotas to ensure women’s participation;
  •  highlight the continued pervasiveness of patriarchal notions and stereotypes and its affect on politics.
 Articles analysed
  • MPs now playing a bigger role,” The Star, 3 December 2008
  • “Ironically conservative,” Special feature section – Democracy 2009: Gender, Mail & Guardian, March 20 to 26 2009
  • “Making the list,” Special feature section – Democracy 2009: Gender, Mail & Guardian, March 20 to 26 2009
  • “Burst the patriarchal bubble,” Special feature section – Democracy 2009: Gender, Mail & Guardian, March 20 to 26 2009
  • “In the name of culture,” Special feature section – Democracy 2009: Gender, Mail & Guardian, March 20 to 26 2009
  • “Man enough to wear an apron,” Special feature section – Democracy 2009: Gender, Mail & Guardian, March 20 to 26 2009
Trainers’ notes:
These articles begin by in large acknowledging the progress towards gender parity in South Africa, but points to serious gaps towards gender equality. Numerically, Tshabalala says, South Africa remains a global leader in gender parity. This is, in part, thanks to the ruling African National Congress’s (ANC) quotas for women leadership, which may have been catapulted to such prominence that Tabane argues gender parity has become a “must-have” in political campaigns.
Realistically, opinion pieces by Haffajee, Duarte and Govender say there is more to real mainstreaming than just maths. Haffajee points out that although politicians may be able to speak about quotas, they often cannot meaningfully engage with gender issues in public debate. That she sites the example of then ANC deputy general, Thandi Modise – who argued that the personal is not necessarily political, that what takes place in the home does not necessarily impact politics – is interesting when set against Duarte’s piece in which she writes: “We have a Constitution that entrenches equality and yet we still have attitudes, beliefs and traditional practices that inhibit the freedom of women.”
Why? Duarte points to what she calls the lingering patriarchal structure of society. Govender fleshes this structure and its consequences out – gender-based violence, diminished legal status and dwindling life expectancies. To this list, Duarte adds a compromised access to the very resources that international research has shown that – in the hands of women – can often uplift entire households. Palitza highlights the often neglected voice of men in regards to patriarchy, profiling Sonwabo Qathula, who although providing care and support to those in his community affected by HIV, endured ridicule for assuming a role thought to be a woman’s place. In the midst of pervasive patriarchy, is it any wonder that the country’s gender oversight body, the Gender Equality Commission, has stood a year without a commissioner, as Westhuizen writes?
Discussion questions
  • What, if any, has been the relationship between quotas and women’s participation in government?
  • What areas of women’s agendas remain most neglected among government agendas?
  • Are quotas a way forward?
  • What is the relationship between the personal and the political? Why have women’s rights activists argued that the personal “is political?”
 Training exercises:
  • Review the progress of other countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development (2008), which legally binds them to achieving   gender parity in decision-making structures by 2015. Who’s in the lead and who’s being left behind?
  • Pick a gender-related issue and follow it in local media for two months. How often does it appear in coverage? How is it spoken about? Compare findings with others in your training group – what do your findings say about gender mainstreaming?
  • Does your country have a Ministry of Gender and Women? If so, ask the ministry for permission to interview staff about the work they do and the challenges involved.
Other Training Resources
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