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In 2019, half of the countries in the Southern Africa region are conducting elections both at local and national levels. These countries include Botswana, Comoros, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa.

Women’s equal political rights, and the right to full participation in public life has been recognized internationally through the ratification of several international and regional frameworks that provide for the advancement of women in politics and decision making. These include the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Beijing Declaration and its Platform for Action, The Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, SADC Gender Protocol, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) among others. The UN General Assembly in 2011 adopted resolution 66/130 on women and political participation, in which it stressed that the “active participation of women, on equal terms with men, at all levels of decision-making is essential to the achievement of equality, sustainable development, peace and democracy” and calls upon Member States to “eliminate laws, regulations and practices that, in a discriminatory manner, prevent or restrict women’s participation in the political process”.

Each year Gender Links and its Alliance partners produce the SADC Gender Protocol Barometer that tracks progress to equality. While there are a myriad of formal and informal barriers to women’s participation in politics, there is a clear correlation between electoral systems, “special measures” and rapid increases in the level of women’s representation. The updated SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, Article 12. 1, states that: “State parties shall ensure equal and effective representation by women in decision-making in the political, public and private sectors, including the use of special measures.” Through its core gender, governance and media programmes, GL has worked with partners to develop a holistic model for “getting the balance right” that involves evidence led campaigns; capacity building; the media; and gender audits of elections using the Gender and Elections Checklist that has since been adopted by the Commonwealth Secretariat.








South Africa




Electoral systems, quotas and women’s political representation in SADC
In 2018, the status on SADC country electoral systems and women’s political representation was as follows:

Country Electoral system National Quota national % women national Electoral system Local Quota local % women local
South Africa PR Voluntary 46% Mixed Voluntary 41%
Mozambique PR Voluntary 40% PR Voluntary 36%
Tanzania Mixed Constitutional 30% 37% Mixed Constitutional 30% 34%
Namibia PR Voluntary 36% PR Law -30% 48%
Zimbabwe Mixed Constitutional- 30% 31% FPTP No 14%
Angola PR Voluntary 30% PR Voluntary NA
Lesotho Mixed Law-30% PR seats 23% Mixed Law -30% 40%
Seychelles FPTP No 21% FPTP No N/A
Madagascar FPTP No 20% FPTP No 8%
Zambia FPTP Voluntary 18% FPTP Voluntary 9%
Malawi FPTP No 17% FPTP No 12%
eSwatini FPTP Yes – Constitutional 15% FPTP Yes- Constitutional 14%

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