A strong advocate of women’s human rights issues, School of Law lecturer and UKZN Gender-based Violence Committee Chairperson, Ms Janine Hicks recently participated in a panel discussion and dialogue on women’s political participation and representation.
Convened by ASRI, a socio-economic research institute, the dialogue focused on the impact of gender, race and class on women’s political participation in post-apartheid South Africa, challenges facing women’s effective and full participation.
In her presentation titled Promoting Inclusion: Political Parties, Gender Equality and Women’s Political Participation, Hicks highlighted international and legislative frameworks regarding women’s political participation and representation, as well as implementation challenges revealed through a study undertaken by the Commission on Gender Equality.
Hicks outlined best practice relating to the implementation of legislated quota on 50/50 and practical challenges experienced by women in political parties.
Participants in the conversation engaged with studies and expertise in relation to the myriad challenges and obstacles to women’s equal participation and representation. They noted that men and women do not have an equal opportunity to participate in politics in South Africa in a context of patriarchy, misogyny and gender-based violence. Best practice and recommendations beyond legislative mechanisms to strengthen women’s participation, such as a quota mechanism, indicate that change perceptions and behaviour relating to gender norms and stereotypes beginning with parenting, the education system and policies addressing and responding to gender-based violence are needed.
Furthermore, participants noted that platforms and structures for women’s empowerment, such as women’s forums, Women’s Parliament and even women’s political structures within parties need to be empowered so that they can make decisions that will result in transformation.
‘We can’t assume that having more women in these spaces will result in more feminist policies. Institutions themselves need to be transformed to produce feminist praxis and policies. We do need women in numbers in terms of their representation in political parties and institutions of government, but we also need to change the politics which requires a wholesale change of society,’ Hicks said.