The engagement of women in the student government of the University of KwaZulu-Natal with the organizational mandate so as to transform the politics in terms of policy.
Although the political participation and representation of women has been increasing in South Africa, in other political sectors, this is debatable. In other words, the transformed nature of South African government institutions suggests that in politics, gender transformation has been achieved. While this may be true of the national government, the same is the contested terrain in as far as other levels of political activism are concerned. For example, a look at student politics raises questions on the idea that there is gender equality in South Africa political sphere. Furthermore, there is an assumption that when women are in governance, they use their positions to influence policies to be responsive to issues that affect women. Even this is a highly contested debate, particularly in the context of student politics. In the context of South African institutions of higher learning, Student Representative Council (SRC) is a body through which students are represented in governance of such institutions. In most institutions of higher learning, SRCs have been dominated by male students. However, there has been development which has seen more women getting into SRCs, and this development is credited to policies of individual institutions as well as that of the student political movements which provide for gender transformation. The genesis of gender transformation in student politics has been on the question of presence. In other words, the focus has been on ensuring that women are part of the composition of the SRCs (descriptive representation). And when descriptive representation has been achieved, the focus will extend to the notion of substantive representation. It was therefore important for this study to use a specific institution, University of Kwa Zulu Natal (UKZN) and explore the composition of its SRC with the aim establishing whether the representation of women is descriptive or substantive in nature or even both. The point of entry was to acknowledge the presence of women in the SRC. In exploring the nature of their representation, the researcher focused on how they engage their political movements and the mandates thereof in order to advocate for the feminization of policies. The findings of this study firstly reveal that the SRC of UKZN has not achieved the descriptive representation of women, let alone the substantive one. This needs to be elucidated on. While there are some women in the SRC, their number is too small which is 10 out of 60 and that equals to 16.6%. Politics being the game of numbers, this would naturally make it hard for women to exert a lot of influence. Furthermore, this is a lot less than the target of the vanguard political movements. Secondly, of all the women that are in the SRC, only a small number of women indicated to be contributing a lot of substance in promoting the gender transformation agenda. What separates these women from others is political experience and will power which may translate into capacity. However, the same cannot be said of the other women.
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