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Back | Programme Area: Gender and Development (2000 - 2009), Special Events (2000 - 2009) | Event: Ford Foundation Launch - UNRISD Report on Gender Equality: Striving for Justice in an Unequal World

Ford Foundation Launch - UNRISD Report on Gender Equality: Striving for Justice in an Unequal World

  • Date: 7 Mar 2005
  • Location: Auditorium, Ford Foundation Building, 320 E. 43rd St., New York, USA
  • Speakers: Amina Mama, Diane Elson, Anne Marie Goetz, Pregs Govender, Amrita Basu, Deniz Kandiyoti, Ching Kwan Lee, Frances Lund, Thandika Mkandawire , Shahra Razavi, Stephanie Seguino, Onalenna Doo Selolwane, Rosalba Todaro
  • Project Title: Policy Report on Gender and Development: 10 Years after Beijing

Speech by Onalenna Selolwane

From Onalenna Selolwane's speech...

"In this particular theme on politics we are looking at a very broad theme covering all the continents of the world in terms of experiences of women in political parties. Therefore the examples we are giving today are just little windows into a very big and very broad program of study and analysis. My presentation focuses on the example of Southern Africa and the experience of political parties and women’s agency in defining the structure and content of equal political participation. The focus on women’s agency is informed by an old adage among my people that says it is the wearer of the shoe who can feel its pinch. In other words I am exploring what it was that women in southern Africa felt was pinching, and therefore what they sought to do and accomplish in dealing with the pinch.

Specifically I am looking at the contribution of women as political agents in terms of re-mapping and reorganizing political space. My starting point is that we cannot assess progress since Beijing by assuming that all it takes to achieve equality in decision-making and political power is to add women into political institutions. Head counting women in the legislatures and political parties as is often done when measuring progress is not enough. In the context of sub-Saharan Africa where political space has been a very hostile and dangerous arena, the burning issue is whether and to what extent that space has been reorganized to allow safe as well as fair contestation for power. This question is critical because people have actually lost their lives in struggles for the right to participate in government decision-making in the making of the post colony. And so we have to ask ourselves just how much women’s agency has contributed to the development of safe politics and democratic governance. To what extent has their struggle for inclusion added to the creation of a political arena which does not lead literally to deadly contestation?"