This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is “balance for better” but will the South African government ensure there’s balance and equality in senior government positions after May’s elections?
According to statistics that were released by Statistics South Africa in 2017, 51% of our population are women. This percentage is not reflecting in influential public sector’s positions because women are heavily underrepresented and are not in decision-making positions. This inequality in decision-making positions is illegal and unconstitutional. The Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill in particular calls for 50% representivity in decision-making positions.
According to Stats SA, 44% of skilled posts were filled by women and 56% by men in 2017. After so many years of democracy, one would think such statistics would be a thing of the past and women would be recognised equally as society recognise men.
The government is not doing enough to make sure women are occupying influential positions. The progress being made is just not good enough, if you look at government positions, you see will how much sexist exists within our very own government.
In 2017, Stats SA said Western Cape had the lowest posts filled by women in municipal mayoral positions.
In the Western Cape 24% of these positions were filled by women followed by KwaZulu-Natal on 25%. Averagely in South Africa as a whole, only 39% of women fill posts of municipal mayoral positions. Once again, this absolutely unconstitutional, unethical and it undermines the role women played in making sure South Africa is a democratic country. Above it all, this does not recognise efforts being made by women in our society.
The only way to make sure we end sexist in government positions and ensure we balance for better in influential positions is through zebra listing. Zebra listing ensures that there is a female candidate either in the first or the second position on every list of candidates standing for an influential post and this strategy will put women closer to the highest office in the land, which is the presidency. This method must be implemented right after the elections, we must implement strategies that will drive equality in our country right now.
International Women’s Day happens only on March 8 but the theme of “balance for better” is a yearlong campaign. The winning party after elections must make sure it starts its new path in a society that embraces equality, where women are not an afterthought but a priority in influential positions.
• Nomkhitha Gysman is a gender specialist who works as SADC Parliamentary Forum gender programme manager.