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Women in the South African Parliament

Women in the South African Parliament: From Resistance to Governance

Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Women in the South African Parliament
    Book Description:

    Although the international press closely chronicled the dismantling of South Africa's apartheid policies, it paid little attention to the unique role women from a variety of political parties played in establishing the new government. Utilizing interviews, participant observation, and archival research, Women in the South African Parliament tells an inspiring story of liberation, showing how these women achieved electoral success, learned to work with lifelong enemies, and began to transform Parliament by creating more space for women's voices during a critical time in the life of their democracy._x000B_Arguing from her detailed analysis of the strategies and political tactics used by these South African women, both individually and collectively, Hannah Britton contends that, contrary claims in earlier studies of the developing world, mobilization by women prior to a transition to democracy can lead to gains after the transition--including improvements in constitutional mandates, party politics, and representation. At the same time, Britton demonstrates that not even national leadership can ensure power for all women and that many who were elected to South Africa's first democratic parliament declined to run again, feeling they could have a greater impact working in their own communities. _x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09061-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-xx)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xxi-xxiv)
  6. 1. Women and the Struggle for Liberation
    (pp. 1-29)

    Through its history of identity politics, the legacy of apartheid, and the methods of its liberation struggle, South Africa demonstrates how processes of liberalization, negotiation, and consolidation can be manifested within a potentially explosive atmosphere. The 1994 elections saw South Africa make dramatic progress in terms of the percentage of women in national office, moving from 2.4 percent before the elections to over 26 percent. This impressive gain was further enhanced with the 1999 elections, bringing the percentage of women in office to 29.8 (Ballington 2002, 76). The South African case suggests that in societies moving to newly democratic governments,...

  7. 2. Party Politics in the Transition to Democracy
    (pp. 30-55)

    Nobanzi, a former activist and current MP, spoke with me about her first time inside the walls of Parliament, which she initially entered as an antiapartheid activist two years before the 1994 elections. During the constitutional negotiations she and other activists continued their public protest against the apartheid government:

    I remember on the morning of the twenty-sixth of June, which is Freedom Day, I and a number of us, about six of us all together on a nonracial basis, we jumped the walls of Parliament in the early hours of the morning. The regime was, I had told you, continuing...

  8. 3. Women’s Integration in Parliament
    (pp. 56-84)

    In the previous chapters I have discussed the roles women played in the antiapartheid struggle and the obstacles they faced—and to some extent surmounted—in achieving not only a voice but actual presence in their own parties and in Parliament. Most South African parties have by now expressed commitments to increasing the number of women in the parties themselves and in political offices, whether local, provincial, or national. But how will these commitments be manifested in post-1999 elections? As this book goes to press, the current election rules are up for review; they may be left alone, revised, or...

  9. 4. Class Structure, Role Differentiation, and Gender Identities
    (pp. 85-108)

    Gaining formal political representation for women may be seen as the most significant accomplishment of the women’s movement in South Africa to date. Utilizing collective bargaining and cross-party mobilization, women obtained a remarkable presence in national office. Yet the negotiation period and the transition phase were as rocky and disorienting as the struggle against apartheid had been. This challenging road to Parliament sent a clear message to women: they would have to continue to struggle if they were to become a viable, consistent voice for all South Africa. Gaining office was only the next step in their ongoing quest for...

  10. 5. Institutional and Legislative Transformation
    (pp. 109-127)

    The words of Ruth Mompati encapsulate the dichotomy facing women MPs. They clearly made tremendous inroads by gaining national political positions, yet many women were still limited by the inequities they faced in their home lives and their political lives. The goal quickly shifted from getting women into office to changing the system to accommodate and empower women at all levels. In this way the South African case constitutes a critical testing site for the liberal feminist argument that getting women into positions of power and leadership will by itself improve women’s lives, status, and opportunities. This argument assumes that...

  11. 6. Implementing Gender: The National Gender Machinery
    (pp. 128-143)

    Changing South Africa’s commitment to gender equality from a constitutional mandate to a social reality will take the combined efforts of both governmental and nongovernmental organizations. Activists and leading politicians recognized that getting women into office would be only one piece of the plan to secure their long-term empowerment. Learning to integrate women’s issues into legislative debates was yet another piece. The third and most lasting goal of leaders in both Parliament and the women’s movement was to create institutions of state feminism. State feminism involves utilizing governmental structures, resources, and institutions to advance and empower women, which contrasts with...

  12. 7. The Second Generation: The Future of Women in Parliament
    (pp. 144-158)

    The women who have remained in or entered Parliament with South Africa’s second democratic election, in 1999, are markedly distinct from the women who gained office in 1994. Simply stated, there has been a rapid “professionalization” within this “second generation.” Women who are being actively recruited into parties now have political, educational, and occupational profiles different from those of the earlier cohort. Similarly, the women who have stayed in office are among those who were most prepared for the institutional norms and professional expectations of formal parliamentary politics. There are many reasons for this professionalization, including the self-selection of those...

  13. Methodological Appendix
    (pp. 159-170)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 171-178)
  15. Works Cited
    (pp. 179-190)
  16. Index
    (pp. 191-198)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 199-200)