Political parties are too generic on issues affecting women — expert

24 May 2024 - 08:49
By Andisiwe Makinana
Political parties are too generic on issues affecting women, says an expert. File photo.
Image: Esa Alexander Political parties are too generic on issues affecting women, says an expert. File photo.

Women comprise most of South Africa’s population and almost 55% of registered voters for next week’s watershed general elections. Historically they have been discriminated against and remain at the bottom of society’s food chain.

TimesLIVE asked a few political parties why women should vote for them.


DA national spokesperson Solly Malatsi said because the party is founded on liberal principles, its inclusive policies are designed to promote equal opportunities and address systemic inequalities, including those based on gender.

Malatsi cited equal pay and workplace equality, childcare support and combating gender-based violence (GBV) among the initiatives and policies the DA has advocated for.

“This includes supporting legislation and measures to address pay gaps between men and women performing, such as the amendment to the Companies Act aimed at addressing gender pay disparity in the workplace,” he said.

Having recognised the link between GBV and women's economic empowerment, the party developed policies aimed at addressing and preventing violence against women.

If elected to government, the DA pledges to:  

  • establish specialised courts to deal with crimes committed against women and children, including abuse, kidnapping, trafficking and murder;
  • set up specialised units within the police service to focus on crimes affecting women, children and minors, bolstering investigative and forensic capacity to target the surge in kidnappings, trafficking and murder; and
  • urgently establish dedicated capacity and resources within the National Prosecuting Authority to prioritise and fast-track the prosecution of those facing charges of gender-based violence, child abuse, trafficking and murder.


EFF spokesperson Sixolise Gcilishe said the party has consistently prioritised issues affecting women.

“This ranges from representation to creating an environment that prioritises the confrontation of issues that face women. For example, EFF GBV and labour desks where we provide support and legal counsel to women dealing with cases of intimate partner violence and workplace disputes,” she said.

“This is important to note because those are the primary manifestations of the challenges women face, namely violence, exploitation and poverty.”

Gcilishe said the party will continue to fight for consequential management with regard to gender and the wage gap, and create more employment opportunities for women as they remain underrepresented in the labour market across all age groups.


According to Malebo Kobe, ActionSA is one of the most inclusive parties where women are given a voice in decision-making tables.

“Our presence as young women is often easily overlooked in rooms of influence, but in ActionSA our presence has significance and impact. I sit on the highest decision-making structure at provincial level and I can say that young as I am, my voice matters,” she said.

Kobe is No 5 on the ActionSA candidate list for parliament.

“We are capacitated and supported by the organisation. We enjoy the same support our male counterparts receive from the organisation and are given the space to operate at our highest level of competence.

“Not only are most of our women at the forefront of issue driving, our party lists reflect  women are placed n winnable positions, not merely placed as window dressers to meet quotas.”

Nkobe urged women who want to see their voices affect real policies to vote for the party as it has given women a voice.

Rise Mzansi

Thirty years into the democratic dispensation, the face of poverty remains that of a black woman, said Rise Mzansi’s Gugu Ndima.

“The face of victims of violent crimes such as GBV, femicide and socio-economic injustice is a black African woman,” she said.

Ndima said one of the reasons she joined the party was because it had ensured women find space and expression in its early developmental phases.

“Rise Mzansi has advocated for women not only to participate in politics but to occupy strategic positions of power and drive their own narrative in the policy formulation discourse. Going into its first election, the party has forwarded seasoned, patriotic, capable women as premier candidates in the most contested provinces in Vuyiswa Ramakgopa in Gauteng and Nonkululeko Hlongwane-Mhlongo in KwaZulu-Natal.”

Women who have never been able to find expression in the broader political dispensation in South African politics have made the party their political home, she said.

'You can't see women in this election'

According to Nomboniso Gasa, a feminist researcher, one of the important things in judging where a party stands is where women feature in leadership positions.

“That’s more like a mechanical thing, and I think a lot of specially new political parties are not having women headlining, not just the ballot but a lot of issues.

“We are not seeing a lot of young women in particular who are articulating party positions.”

You are not hearing anything specifically dealing with some of the issues that hold women back
Nomboniso Gasa, feminist researcher 

Gasa mentioned Ramokgopa, Rise Mzansi’s Gauteng premier candidate, and Build One SA’s Ayanda Allie as exceptions. “But you are not hearing anything specifically dealing with some of the issues that hold women back.”

A lot of political parties are generic when they talk about their positions, and specially when they talk about women, Gasa said.

“There would be a nod to GBV and femicide because this is South Africa.”

However, when they talk about other issues such as transport, there isn't a conscious analysis, for example that the transport system is messed up.

“High fares is one aspect and the way in which the cost of living generally is unaffordable for a lot of people, but the cost of living for women who are raising children on their own is even more burdensome and we need to talk about that because a lot of women don’t fall in the category of grants and South Africa continues to be a society where most men abandon their children.

“When you talk about transport, you also have to talk about the safety of  transport, the safety of women moving from their place of work to their homes.”

Gasa said considering the country’s spatial design, many people fell under the category of the working poor as they live far from work and have to travel in the dark.

“There are safety issues and there is very little to suggest a lot of the issues have gone through a gender funnel.

“If trains are not running, this has an impact on women. Problems with taxis, again an impact on women. When we call for a safer and easier way of transiting between home and work. These are the issues we need to talk about.”

Gasa noted a regression in terms of women's representation and prominence.

“You can't see women in this election. Not only are they not on the ballot that is predominantly male, only two or three parties are led by women, but you also don’t see women in terms of the articulation of the position of political parties.

Gasa said in response to the “mess” the ANC has created, South Africa has moved into a rescuer syndrome, and in terms of socialisation men tend to find it easier to raise their hands as rescuers.

“Women are the fixers of things but in a quiet way.”