African women in political leadership : a comparative study of cameroon (1192-2011) and South Africa (1994-2011)
The main aim of the study was to compare the state of women's political representation in the leadership structures of South Africa and Cameroon after almost two decades of multi-party politics in these two African states. The objectives were: to examine the structures and mechanisms that have been put in place in both countries to promote and advance gender equality and women's empowerment; to find out the obstacles which inhibit women's political representation or their advancement; and to explore whether improved women's representation could change Africa's political culture. The study has been conceptualized within the theories of leadership, liberal feminism, patriarchy and social dominance. The unit of analysis was women in leadership structures of parliament, political parties and government. The study used a qualitative research approach, and designs used were comparative case-study, phenomenology and historical designs. A stratified purposive sampling approach was used in the selection of 120 participants from political parties, NGOs and academia. There were 75 participants in South Africa and 45 in Cameroon, inclusive of males and females. A collective case or triangulation method of data collection was also utilized which consisted of interviews, a focus group discussion, an open-ended questionnaire, observation and secondary data. The study found that comparatively, there were many more women represented in political leadership in South Africa than in Cameroon. In addition, many structures and mechanisms have been put in place in South Africa to cater for gender equality and women's empowerment. However, even with a high number of women at the helm of government, this has not made the South African society less patriarchal. Indeed, women in both countries still face many obstacles in their quest for advancement in the political arena. Ultimately, the study found that, evidence from South Africa, Rwanda and Liberia showed that increased women's representation in political leadership positions could obviously change Africa's political culture. Indicators raised were that, women in politics would be involved in development and peace issues, gender-sensitive policies, women's empowerment and there would be participatory democracy. The study recommends among other things that, though gender equity is commendable, women's voices and grassroots opinions of both women and men should guide processes of putting women in leadership positions. Moreover, gender equality and women's empowerment at the community level is still a struggle. Hence the need for educational and consciousness-raising programmes aimed at communities which still regard women as incompetent and unable to contribute positively to their societies.
- Humanities