Women constitute 40% of new cabinet - CGE

Commission says goal of 50/50 gender parity now within reach

President Zuma's balancing act encouraging

26 May 2014

On Sunday evening (25 May) President Jacob Zuma made his much-awaited public announcement of new national cabinet ministers to lead the business of government in the various portfolios for the next five years.

The Commission for Gender Equality (CGE) believes although 50/50 gender parity has not been reached, it is within reach and should be possible to reach in the next election. The new cabinet comprises 15 female Ministers out of a total cabinet of 37 (including the President and his Deputy). This means that women ministers constitute about 40% of the membership of the new cabinet while male members of the cabinet constitute 60%.

Given that in the previous cabinet women Ministers constituted about a third of the members of the national cabinet, the CGE is pleased to note this as a significant step in the right direction. The CGE is also pleased to note the increase in the number of female deputy ministers compared to the previous cabinet.

The CGE does acknowledge the heavy political pressures and the weight of expectations bearing upon the President not only from within the party but also from other sectors of society in general to reflect the gender, racial, regional, age, political and other diversities of the country in the choice of cabinet members. Yet the CGE believes strongly that it has to take firm leadership and political willingness to mediate these pressures to ensure that gender equality is promoted, protected and advanced in the face of competing priorities.

South Africa is a signatory to numerous regional and international protocols, covenants and conventions aimed at achieving gender parity in various sectors of society, including within organs of state. The willingness and ability of the state and the ruling party to meet these obligations will be determined in terms of how important decisions such as appointments of senior leaders in government measure up to these important commitments and obligations.

The CGE takes the location of the new ministry in the Presidency as an important indicator of the seriousness with which women's issues will be handled. The political clout that comes with the office of the President should be an important resource for the new ministry. However CGE would have preferred the location of all vulnerable groups like (Women, children, Youth and Children) under presidency to ensure coordination and implementation of programmes by various Ministries.

However, given the previous location of the former Office on the Status of Women (OSW), which was also located within the Presidency, and yet faced enormous institutional and resource constraints, the CGE can only hope that this new institutional development comes with renewed political commitment and willingness to use the positive lessons derived from the experiences of the former OSW to ensure that a more effective ministry with the space to make a difference in terms of leading gender transformation in the country.

The Commission for Gender Equality will continue to exercise its constitutional mandate to monitor the performance and effectiveness of the new institutional changes, particularly the commitment of the new administration to meet its national, regional and international commitments to promote gender transformation through its decision-making and implementation processes.

Statement issued by Javu Baloyi, Commission for Gender Equality, May 26 2014

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