The substantive representation of women in parliament with specific reference to the provincial legislature of Gauteng, 2001-2004.
In this study, I examine the substantive representation of women in the Provincial Legislature of Gauteng. The general perception is that if there is a substantial numerical representation of women in parliaments, then women's concerns will be adequately represented. My purpose was to understand how women perceived political representation. I found that although all the women whom I interviewed were interested in women's matters, they did not wish to be confined to the role of representing women, but wished to involve themselves in a broader spectrum of concerns. Although in South Africa there is an increase in the representation of women in the legislature, this is not necessarily being translated into effective and gender-sensitive policy-making. The partylist system of proportional representation was found to impact negatively upon the ability of women to represent women's concerns as women were constrained by the male dominated party and senior party officials. A legislated quota system would ensure that women from all parties are represented and the inclusion of a constituency-based electoral could counterbalance the control of parties. Female representation is subjected to numerous challenges from men, and from political parties which may not wish to prioritise the concerns of women. The introduction of formal political institutions in parliament would be best placed to monitor the selection process in parliament as well as ensure fair practice. The gender impact of the political and policy process can only be recognised through institutional mechanisms rather than the presence of women alone. Women themselves are by no means unanimous concerning what is best for them as parliamentarians or how they should represent the concerns of women. Channels of communication should be opened for women to understand each others cultural constraints. Although mechanisms, like the Women's Parliamentary Caucus, do exist for women to carry out representation, the effectiveness and status of the Caucus is questionable due its institutional status. Formalising the WPC as a standing committee would create a platform from which women could act to represent the concerns of women.