Challenges faced by women ward councillors in South Africa

10 Oct 2019

The paper aims to identify barriers and challenges faced by women ward councillors in South Africa and how these challenges are addressed when reported. Considering the political history of South Africa, the paper explores whether women ward councillors have ever been discriminated against based on race and or gender while executing their duties. Women in politics face challenges when they have to be elected into positions especially at the local government level. Ward councillors are elected by local communities to represent their respective wards, to be accountable to the community that elected them and not their interests. Women, irrespective of race had to contest elections equally with men at the local government level after 1994 in South Africa. South Africa has been recognised worldwide for its advanced policy frameworks which have enhanced the condition and representation of women. However, statistics show that the number of women councillors has been fluctuating over the years. Most women are in the municipal councils as Proportional Representative (PR) councillors, and are struggling to attract more women into politics. The study is exploratory and qualitative in nature. It focuses on ward and PR councilors, males and females from six local municipalities of the KwaZuluNatal (78 out of 341) and Eastern Cape (26 out of 54) Provinces who were interviewed using an interview guide, face-to-face and telephone techniques. The findings of the study were analysed using content analysis and themes were generated from the interview data. The study revealed that although women are not discriminated against within the councils, race and gender are a challenge. Furthermore, there are no mechanisms to report or to ensure that discrimination issues are properly addressed. Politics in general, political parties, lack of municipal support, limited resources and community projects not completed, are some of the challenges identified in this study. Keywords: Gender, Local politics, Ward councillors, Participation, Representation