Southern African Women Require Greater Political Representation
Political and economic development has, in some case, not been joined by a push toward gender equality
UN Women Executive Director Michele Bachelet discusses the current status of women in politics
Southern Africa is the home to some of the world’s most vibrant developing countries. South Africa has grown by leaps and bounds since scraping its destructive apartheid policies. Zambia is beginning to reap the benefits of massive mineral deposits and international investment. And Botswana, long the poster-child of successful development, continues to blend natural wealth with good governance in a way that inspires envy across much of the rest of the continent.
For all of the advances made in politics and economics, these countries, and the others in Southern Africa, remain in need of continued work to achieve Millennium Development Goal 3: gender equality and the empowerment of women. This is especially true in the political arena.
“As a sub-region, we certainly have a long way to go,” said Nomcebo Manzini, the UN Women regional director for Southern Africa and the Indian Ocean Islands, in a recent interview with AllAfrica. “Women's political representation is absolutely important because participation is a basic human right. Women bring their experiences, knowledge and capacities, which are different from those that men bring.”
Women’s representation in government in Southern Africa remains low, despite concerted efforts by UN Women and other likeminded organizations. This fact was illustrated in the recent UN Women Annual report, which called for greater government participation by women in Southern Africa and elsewhere, especially in high decision making positions.
UN Women Executive Director Michele Bachelet made this case earlier this month, when the international community celebrated international women’s day. She pointed out that while sub-Saraharan Africa has experienced a 3 percent jump in women ministers since 2005 (from 17 percent to 20 percent), women remain deeply underrepresented in the region and in need of greater support.
“First,women’s participation in politics and the economy reinforces women’s civil, political and economic rights,” she said.“Secondly, women’s participation strengthens democracy, equality and the economy.”
As countries like South Africa, Zambia, and Botswana continue to grow and develop economically and politically, they still need to ensure that their women receive the attention and leadership positions that they deserve.