Not yet “Uhuru” for women of South Africa, but progress is significant
Since the historic and eventful day in March 1956 when women from all walks of life marched to the Union Buildings for freedom, women became partners in the struggle for a non-racial and non-sexist South Africa. Since then, and significantly post 1994, significant strides have been made in women empowerment in South Africa.
- The representation of women in Parliament has increased from a mere 2,7% it was prior to 1994. The increase has been incremental and varied over the years but has exceeded 40%.
- The representative of women in Cabinet has increased. The number of women ministers and deputy ministers has also exceeded 40%.
- Government policies and programmes have enabled improvements. In 1997 the Office on the Status of Women (OSW) was established to champion Women Empowerment and Gender Equality. This was followed in 2009 by the establishment of a Ministry of Women, Children and People with Disabilities (DWCPD). To elevate women issues, this evolved to a dedicated Ministry for Women in the Presidency.
- Many women have taken up leadership positions in areas previously dominated by men. Women are now represented in political and decision-making positions. Significant portfolios that have been led by women include: Commissioner of Police, the Public Protector, the Independent Electoral Commission, Governor of the Reserve Bank, the South African Law Reform Commission, and currently the Auditor-General.
- South African women global successes include women appointments at the African Union Commission, UN Women, African Development Bank, and International Criminal Court (ICC).
- Notable successes have been made in the judiciary. From a one woman Judge prior to 1994, the increase in women judges has exceeded 28% of the Judiciary.
- Significant strides have been made in the public service. Women are reported to comprise the majority of the public service, a significant part of senior management, heads of departments, chairpersons of boards, chancellors of universities and principals of schools.
South African women have recorded these significant achievements while continuing to be caretakers and providers of their immediate and extended families, sometimes single-handedly.
While some studies have noted a regression in some areas of women employment and regrettably gender-based violence is stubbornly persistent, it is important to recognize and acknowledge significant progress as it provides benchmarks and encouragement for further improvement.
Article by ‘Maletlatsa Monica Ledingwane.
Ms Ledingwane is the Chief Operations Officer at the Companies Tribunal.
Note: the article is based on the information from South African website: www.gov.za
* Image source: GCIS