Women's representation and participation in the era of decentralisation.
Majola, Brian Kwazi.
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The issue of women has been very complex when it comes to representation and decentralisation of power by governments in democratically organised societies. Decentralisation has been associated with good governance, as it brings government closer to the people; about half of whom are women. Studies have shown that women participate in greater numbers in local government to fight against under-representation in decision-making processes. This study focused on South African local government and investigated women’s representation and participation in the era of decentralisation. The main aim of the study was to investigate the extent to which women are represented and participating at local government level. The further objectives of the study were to establish the impact of women's representation and participation in decision-making processes at local government level, and to explore successful factors contributing to increased representation and participation of women at local government level. A qualitative approach was adopted and more than one hundred councillors were interviewed from the targeted population. The researcher interviewed councillors from different political parties in different municipalities as well as independent ward councillors. The findings have shown that although women are the majority at local government level, the number of women ward councillors was low. The study noted that politics is still male dominated. This is exacerbated by the historical background of the two provinces, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. Very little has been done by the political parties and other stakeholders in terms of supporting women councillors. The findings showed that no training or strategies are in place to empower women and political parties are not grooming women for representation and participation at local government level. It was also noted that women councillors are treated the same and no gender issues were entertained separately by the council. Findings indicated that the public perception concerning the role of councillors has been a challenge together with high unemployment and poverty level.