Participation of women in municipal decision-making positions: a case study of the Mtubatuba Local Municipality, KwaZulu-Natal Province.
Manqele, Sipho Eric.
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Gender equality is intrinsically linked to sustainable development and is globally accepted as a necessary aspect of human rights. In the context of local government, gender equality is vital because women and men face different challenges (The Hague Academy for Local Governance, 2015). Women’s experiences in relation to full participation, representation and decent work opportunities are not the same as that of men in similar positions and, therefore,“equitable access to resources and basic services are necessary to obtain inclusive and gender-responsive governance” (ibid). Since 1994, South Africa has been a constitutional democracy based on progressive values that include freedom, human dignity, equality, non-racialism and non-sexism. However, this research indicates that patriarchy still remains deeply entrenched in local government decision-making processes. This research further revealed that at the Mtubatuba Local Municipality, although aspects of the leadership roles and functions of female and male councillors are the same, there is still an under-representation of women (27 males and 13 females). Additionally, there is a gender gap that exists in terms of council leadership and the portfolios that men and women hold on the council executive. A consideration of the qualitative evidence collected show notable differences in how female and male councillors perceive their leadership roles and styles, and the implications thereof for the substantive representation of women in local government. Furthermore, this study shows how more women in senior administrative leadership positions at the Mtubatuba Local Municipality translates into positive returns for the bottom line, increased financial viability, improved performance, better delivery of services, and better outcomes in general. Considerable evidence exists showing that having more women in municipalities and in the public administration improves service delivery for all (including men), and promotes better governance and inclusive development (Lateef, 2014). Recent research reveals that gender diversity in leadership has advantages for local government’s quality in delivery as well as integrity. The findings are in line with this. As Lateef (2014) explains, “Leveraging women’s talents and leadership, while harnessing the diversity of perspectives, will generate better and more inclusive outcomes and more equitable access to economic and social opportunities.” This research also shows that striving for gender equity in local government will support increased attention to gender equality and women’s empowerment issues in general.