The return to power of the African National Congress (ANC) party in South Africa on 7th May 2014 reflected a 63% majority with a 73% voter turnout. Significantly women achieved political representation of 50% - Important to note is that 59% of registered voters are women;
“The candidates submitted [Prior to the May 7th election) are … not less than 50% women … It's a matter of policy in the ANC. We don't have a 50/50 policy; we have a policy of not less than 50% being women.” - ANC secretary general, Gwede Mantashe
With a long standing involvement to the empowerment of women on all societal levels, I am surprised that my mention of the above over the past few months meets with little reaction and a decided lack of enthusiasm. This is surprising as many of the avenues of discussion have been with people who have dedicated huge chunks of their professional life to gender inclusivity and the political liberation of women.
What am I missing?
Does this not mean that South Africans have achieved gender parity on a national political level?
Surely this then is government consisting mainly of women, elected by women?
Is this not a heart stopping milestone and indeed a beacon of hope to those around the world engaged in seeking gender equality?
Rather than drawing comparisons with other countries, I ask you to reflect on the historical timeline progression of the ANC policies of across the board inclusivity that illustrates how South African Women have achieved equality in the political decision-making process, and by default, the role women have played in making this political phenomenon possible.
1912: Women were not permitted as full members of the ANC at the time of founding
1913: Bantu Women’s League founded to guarantee women’s input into the political process
1944: Group reformed as the ANC Women’s League; Women and men granted equal membership status in ANC
1954: A massive campaign lead to the founding of the Federation of South African Women, that transcended all racial barriers, culminating in the declaration of the Women’s Charter and several mass defiance campaigns;
1957: The ANC leadership officially recognizes the critical contribution of women to the cause of freedom
1960-1990: Women participate and assume leadership roles in:
- The armed struggle
- Underground/covert activity
- International lobbying/outreach
- The initiation /sustaining of what was to become the mass democratic movement
1990-1994: The formation of a Women’s National Coalition that drew on a united contribution of over 100 women’s organization that resulted in:
- Rational affirmative action policies
- A quota system, that would be a guideline rather than a legal imposition, to ensure the adequate representation of women in the new government (Inspired by the Norwegian model)
1994: Women achieve political representation of 25%; many leadership positions in the civil service awarded to deserving women;
1999: Women achieve political representation of 33%
2104: Women achieve political representation of 50%; 59% of registered voters are women; Turn-out of 73% of registered voters;
To my mind, this is a breathtaking example of how inclusivity should work. Not to be forgotten are male leaders such as the world’s beloved Madiba (Nelson Mandela), who understood and valued what women had not only contributed and sacrificed… but also the wisdom and energy required to build a new and inclusive society….
Rodger Harding was named as a 2012 TIAW World of Difference 100 Award recipient, in the Champion of Women's Economic Empowerment Category. The award was officially presented in Washington on 18th October 2012.