The Impact of Women's Political Leadership on Democracy and Development

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Women’s minimal leadership role in national and local political spheres remains a serious concern worldwide. The Commonwealth Gender Plan of Action for Gender Equality 2005–2015 calls on governments to introduce measures to promote at least 30 per cent representation of women in parliament, government and business.

The Impact of Women’s Political Leadership on Democracy and Development describes the barriers to women’s political participation and explains why the contribution of women is so crucial to democracy. It identifies established strategies – electoral reform (New Zealand), party voluntary quotas (South Africa), and legislative quotas (Bangladesh and India) – that have helped these Commonwealth countries to meet the global target of 30 per cent and thus to effectively advance the participation of women in decision-making at all levels.



The Impact of Women's Political Leadership on Democracy and Development in South Africa

In less than 20 years South African women leaders have contributed to radical changes in laws, policies and service delivery that have resulted in far greater gender awareness and responsiveness in South Africa’s governance than ever before. These changes reflect in new institutional norms and discourse; sea changes in the lives of women previously excluded from the corridors of power; and in the ‘new men’ emerging to champion gender causes. They also reflect in the lives of ‘ordinary women’ now claiming access to land, mineral resources, finance and other means of production with which to enhance their livelihoods and those of their families. Even so, women remain the majority of the poor, the dispossessed, those living with HIV and AIDS, and daily violated as a result of high levels of gender violence. Women’s names do not feature in ongoing power struggles for the top leadership of the African National Congress (ANC), although the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) has three women at the helm. In the countdown to 2015 – the deadline for the 28 targets of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Protocol on Gender and Development and of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 3: promoting gender equality and empowering women – South Africa needs to redouble its efforts to ensure the achievement of gender parity in all areas of decision-making. South Africa also needs to ensure that this translates into real changes in the lives of the majority of women.


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