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Women of Africa making presence felt


While a lot of progress has been made to achieve gender equality, males remain the most preferred when it comes to top and senior management job opportunities in local government. This concerning reality is revealed in the latest report released by the South African Department of Labour’s Commission for Employment Equity for the 2014/ 15 financial year.

According to the report, women who occupied top management positions in local government accounted for 27.7% compared to their male counterparts, who constitute 71.8%. About 29.3% of women within the local government sphere occupied senior management positions, while 70.4% male employees held similar positions. At a political level in South Africa, the representation of women who sit in local councils improved after the 2011 Local Government Elections, increasing from 28.2% in 2000 to 38.4% in a decade.

“The steady progress that has been made regarding the representation of women in local governments shows that there is a political will to change the status quo. “As we continue to celebrate Women’s Month in honour of the selfless women leaders of the 1956 Women’s March, local governments cannot afford to take their feet off the pedal in our quest to achieve gender parity of 50% women representation as envisaged by Agenda 2063 of the African Union,” says Johannesburg’s Executive Mayor, Cllr. Parks Tau.

Despite the steady increase of women’s representation at a local government level, the Commission for Employment Equity recently pointed out in its report that gender transformation appears to be moving at a snail’s pace, especially in the private sector. In a global context, according to the United Cities and Local Governments’ (UCLG) Standing Committee on Gender Equality, 16% of the mayors in capital cities around the world are women, while women hold 7.8% of all government leadership positions.

In an African context, while these figures are fairly low when compared to the goals set out in Agenda 2063, overall data shows there is light at the end of the tunnel. The Inter-Parliamentary Union’s Women in Parliament Review Report 2014, which has tracked progress of women representation globally since 1995, shows that the representation of women in parliaments has nearly doubled in the last decade.

The report notes that four countries in Sub-Saharan Africa are part of the top 10 countries where gender representation has improved notably. This includes Rwanda, which has 63.8% in women representation, Seychelles with 43.8%, Senegal with 42.7%, and South Africa with 41.5% overall. Other African countries that make up the top 20 include Namibia with 41.3%, Mozambique with 39.6%, and Angola with 36.8%.

In January 2015, South Africa was ranked at number 11 by the Women in Politics 2015 report, produced by United Nation (UN) Women and the Inter-Parliamentary Union. Despite the progress made, there have been a number of stumbling blocks making it difficult for women to enter politics, remain in the profession, as well as achieve growth in their positions.

These include, among others, patriarchy; poverty; power sharing and decision-making; violence against women; access to land and economic empowerment; HIV, Aids, Tuberculosis and other chronic diseases; funding of institutions promoting gender equality; service delivery; gender equality culture; cultural traditions and the constitution; and their involvement of their male counterparts in gender equality matters.

“The limited voice of women in decision-making, especially in key local government positions, is the missing link in the development of Africa as they remain the most affected by a lack of education, poverty and unemployment. In the United Nation’s 2009 World Survey on the Role of Women in Development it is noted that ‘women’s equal access to and control over economic and financial resources is critical for the achievement of gender equality and empowerment of women, and for equitable and sustainable economic growth and development’.

Therefore, the barriers that affect the political development of women should be addressed by enhancing their political participation so that they can mature into the demanding male-dominated environment,” said Tau. To address these barriers, the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) Women’s Commission has been established to give women a voice and to advocate for strategies that can feed into regional and continental processes.

To learn more about what can be achieved in this arena in the lead up to 2063, representatives from local governments across Africa are encouraged to attend the 7th Africities Summit, being hosted by the City of Johannesburg from 29 November to 3 December 2015. The summit that takes place every three years is organised by the United Cities and Local Governments of Africa (UCLG Africa), an organisation that represents and defends the various global interests of local government.

For more information or to register, visit www.africites2015.org. Follow @africites on twitter

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