Gender, Numbers, and Substance: Women Parliamentarians and the ‘Politics of Presence’ in KwaZulu-Natal

Citation:

Francis, Suzanne. 2009. “Gender, Numbers, and Substance: Women Parliamentarians and the ‘Politics of Presence’ in KwaZulu-Natal." Transformation: Critical Perspectives on Southern Africa 70 (1): 119–41.

Author: Suzanne Francis

Abstract:

This article investigates four dimensions of the political institutional representation of women by women parliamentarians in KwaZulu-Natal. It begins by exploring whether or not women Members of the Provincial Parliament (MPPs) actively seek to substantively represent women, and how they do this. Secondly, it probes the perceptions they hold of their impact in this area. Third, the question of whether and how contested conceptions of political representation impact on attempts to feminise the agenda, is raised. Lastly, the article explores the impact of women MPPs via the institutional mechanism of the Women’s Parliamentary Caucus (WPC). The results show that the majority of parliamentary women do seek to represent women and claim effectiveness in doing so. Challenges to this agenda however include party identity, and racial and cultural conceptions of representation that divide women and strengthen resistance to change. It was also found that while the WPC provides an arena for women to elucidate their specific concerns and partly circumvent the constraints of party and racial and cultural representation, its institutional inadequacies were found to impact negatively upon the women’s agenda – a factor recognised only by a minority of women MPPs.

Topics: Gender, Women, Governance, Political Participation, Race Regions: Africa, Southern Africa Countries: South Africa

Year: 2009

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