Robert Morrell on Helen Zille’s Cabinet and Gender Equality in South Africa
Robert Morrell is one of the editors of UKZN Press’ Towards Gender Equity: South African Schools during the HIV and AIDS Epidemic, a book whose “sombre conclusions, streaked with hope, should be read by everyone concerned with sexuality, gender equality and education” (Raewyn Connell, University of Sydney).
Morrell recently published an opinion piece analysing the furore around Western Cape premier Helen Zille’s all-male cabinet. “Putting women into leadership positions is symbolically important”, he writes:
Our sexist ways
In the last week national political developments have brought the question of gender equality to the fore. Western Cape Premier Helen Zille has been widely criticised for choosing an all-male cabinet, while, in turn, she has pointed out that President Jacob Zuma’s personal politics are not gender equitable nor is the Commission of Gender Equality’s record in promoting gender equality laudable.
Gender equality is a global goal enshrined in the Millennium Development Goals. It is argued that the world needs gender equality not just because it is the most vulnerable groups in society that suffer the burden of inequality, but because raising the living standards of these groups is to make a contribution to development, to better human relations and to a healthy planet.
In 1994, South Africa embraced the goal of gender equality, and formal expression to this is found in the Constitution and particularly in the Bill of Rights.
While a legal guarantee of gender equality is an important starting point, the acid test is to convert such guarantee into demonstrable change. There are a great many policy statements and international conventions designed to enshrine and promote gender equality, yet such inequalities continue to be widespread throughout the world. This means that we need to look beyond the Constitution for evidence of commitment to and progress towards gender equality.
- Towards Gender Equality: South African Schools during the HIV and AIDS Epidemic edited by Robert Morrell, Debbie Epstein, Elaine Unterhalter, Deevia Bhana, Relebohile Moletsane
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