Commission on gender equality : drawback or progress for rural disadvantaged women in South Africa.
Waiganjo, Gathambiri Anthony.
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The issue relating to women‘s empowerment has received increased attention from scholars in recent years. The recent studies seem to be favouring policies which appear attractive only on papers with less attention on how these policies translate into reality. This study is a critical analysis of the South African Commission on Gender Equality (CGE) which in its papers claims to empower rural women but in reality continues to encounter a series of setbacks. The study argues that CGE cannot claim to be successful to rural women if its link with other sister machineries nationally is tenuous, for instance its collaboration with other civil society organisations such as the Women Society Organisation (WSO), Women Empowerment Unit (WEU), and National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL) among others. The study has adopted the theories of state feminism and theory of gender interests as the analytical engine used to scrutinise the impact of CGE in fulfilling its mandate to rural women as delegated by the Constitution towards enhancing and the realisation of equality in the current democracy. The study used non-empirical qualitative methods as it critically examined the CGE operational documents ranging from its modus operandi, minute books, policy papers and meeting agendas, monetary and evaluation reports, and the constitutional provisions. The CGE is charged with the mandate of monitoring government and the private sectors institutions and the public education of society (SA.info 2014). However, the researcher has identified that the link between the CGE and the other gender machineries has indeed been declared tenuous according to recent reports. The researcher thus maintains that representation of women by the CGE has rather been politically inclined than developing the disadvantaged people in the society especially the rural women citizenry. The study hence considers various strategic interventions that the commission has undertaken towards emancipating the rural women, in spite of the lack of proper consultations and contribution from the rural women. Thus, the presumption that rural women do not know what they need and /or how to go about it in the context familiar to them could be the cause of procedural hegemony that arises in CGE pattern where the ―elitist women‖ develops the rural women. The study as such recommends that, in order to directly relate to local or rural women the rural women must be consulted from grassroots. The members of CGE and sister commissions and machineries should elect some representatives from rural women that better understands the interests of rural women. Also CGE needs to intensify monetary and evaluation aspect of their operations with rural women and with other sister machineries and commissions in South Africa.