Statistics show that 35.2% of South African cabinet ministers are women while 41.5% are parliamentarians. This means that of the 54 cabinet ministers, only 19 of them are women and out of a total of 400 parliamentarians, 166 are women. This is according to a United Nations report. But what is it really like to be a young female politician? We asked a few, young female MPs for their thoughts.
Liezl van der Merwe, Inkatha Freedom Party
Liezl van der Merwe is an activist with a passion for the rights of women, children and people with disabilities. She represents the IFP in the National Assembly and sits on the portfolio committee on Women as well as Social Development. She said that violence against women, access to education and basic sanitary needs, teen pregnancies, the economic gap between men and women, are some of the serious issues that need to be addressed. She added that equality was still a long way off because South Africa remained a patriarchal society. “In a patriarchal society, we can never claim that we are equal,” she said.
Phumzile van Damme, Democratic Alliance
DA national spokesperson and deputy shadow minister in the Presidency, Phumzile van Damme says she is grateful to politicians like Helen Suzman and Lilian Ngoyi for their hard work in uplifting women, especially in politics. “The voices of women are definitely much louder. We are loud and claiming our spaces, but need to be even louder. The struggle continues.” She explained that her passion is encouraging young girls to be more confident. “I think many girls in South Africa are brought up to be quiet and obedient. I’d like to contribute to building a generation of strong, status quo crushing, successful women.”
Natasha Louw, Economic Freedom Fighters
For Louw, being in the EFF means working in a party that does not treat women with “soft gloves” just because of their gender. “We are measured the same way as our male counterparts, which I love.” A member of the Standing Committee of Appropriations, Natasha says women like Winnie Mandela, Albertina Sisulu, Adelade Tambo and Ruth Mompati helped pave the way for women like her. She added that women still face many challenges in a society where some men still think a woman’s place is in the kitchen.
Tasneem Motara, African National Congress
Motara is the provincial whip of Gauteng in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) and a member of the South African delegation to the Southern African Development Community – Parliamentary Forum (SADC-PF). She said patriarchy was still a big hurdle for women in South Africa. “Women are still the primary, and in many instances, only caregiver of families, and face added burdens on themselves as individuals.” Despite this, she believes that opportunities for women to raise their voices are now more available than they were ten years ago.
Mbali Ntuli, Democratic Alliance
Ntuli is a member of the provincial legislature and the provincial youth chairperson for the DA in KwaZulu Natal. She says the best thing about being in politics is having a platform to raise contentious issues like the plight of women in rural areas as well as sex workers. She says politicians cannot rest while rape and domestic violence rage on. “I’m very happy to see so many young women finding their voices across spectrums, media, the arts, business and now even in politics. This generation is no holds barred and soon we will reach a tipping point which I’m excited to be a part of”.
What are your thoughts about women in politics or South Africa women in general?
Live from Parliament casts a youth lens on parliament and government, covering committees, policy-making, MPs, and the sitting of actual Parliament. Our team of youth journalists report Live from Parliament every week in partnership with the People’s Assembly and Making All Voices Count. The People’s Assembly connects people and their elected representatives. To stay in touch with your local MP, visit www.pa.org.za, follow them on Twitter @PeoplesAssem_SA or Facebook/PeoplesAssemblySA.