Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Lecturer, Political Studies, University of the Witwatersrand

Award Information

Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa: Doctoral Dissertation Completion Fellowship 2014
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Political Studies, University of the Witwatersrand

My research comparatively interrogates the representative politics of women in the sub-Saharan African parliaments of post-conflict Rwanda and South Africa and is firmly located as a gendered analysis of dominant party post-transitional contexts. As a heuristic device to analyse the interaction between women MPs and parliament, I examine the relationship between the high presence of women and feminisation of the parliamentary space in post-transitional Rwandan and South African parliament and parliamentary outcomes that address gender inequality, specifically family law, in both societies. Contrasting Rwanda and South Africa represents a unique opportunity to compare the gender politics of two states that have achieved a rare occurrence in feminist politics, namely, attaining a critical mass of women in parliament, with 56.3% and 42.7% respectively. Based on these progressive gender equality indicators and the argument that female representation in formal decision-making structures should lead to policy outcomes that improve women's status in their societies, it would be logical to assume that most women in Rwanda and South Africa enjoy formal and substantive gender equality. Looking at the lived realities of women in these countries however, one can observe that the high female presence in executive government has not translated into substantive gains for women in other social arenas. Women MPs in both countries are empowered but hold very little power and are often used to mask and legitimise undemocratic practices by ruling party elites. My doctoral study argues that the substance of women's parliamentary representation and its legislative outcomes, specifically those concerning customary law within each setting, cannot be understood separately from the political consensuses reach through gendered political transitions, ruling political party ideology and the salience of traditional authority.