n Journal of African Elections - 'Why participate in elections if we're not properly represented?' Women's political participation and representation in SADC countries

Volume 12, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1609-4700



Increased democratisation in Southern Africa might suggest that gender equality no longer matters in the politics of countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. Yet the political participation and representation of women remains controversial owing to gender stereotypes, rhetoric, tokenism and patriarchy. Critically examining the political processes in the SADC region, specifically elections, gender and women's role in a democracy, the article acknowledges progressive legislation and some 'successes' in a few countries in the region, but contends that the situation of women in the politics of these countries remains unsatisfactory and that it requires political will and collective action to ensure substantive participation and representation in governance processes. Based on a literature review, data analysis and theoretical postulations about women's political participation and representation, the article argues that much more needs to be done in this regard. To understand the hurdles women face in politics in the SADC region, especially political party rhetoric and patriarchy, the author explores a few theories, including the Ubuntu philosophy, and revisits the debates over women's quotas in political parties to improve participation and representation. The conclusion suggests measures for empowering women candidates and political party members, while urging women to show more interest in politics, particularly elections.

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