Next year is an election year. For some readers this might mean nothing more than a bonus day off from work, and a mark on the party they have always voted for. Some of you might spoil your ballot.

Others might choose not to vote at all.

Women’s issues and women’s rights have never really been a lobbying point for political parties.

Parties have historically focused on economics, education, health and the corruption of others parties (and the lack of corruption in their own).

When it comes to women’s rights they focus on representation – put lots of women in publicly visible spaces and hopefully that will mean women will vote for their party. And we have.

Our choices are not to vote, or to vote for a party that might at some point represent us.

But is representation enough? Would a woman president necessarily mean a positive change for women, or the furtherance of women’s needs in Government spaces?

There have been a number of articles written in the past that suggest that women in politically charged spaces such as government are often required to subdue any overtly women-orientated (or, gasp, feminist) ideas in pursuit of pushing party agendas.

Essentially, if they don’t make the decisions their party wants them to make (even if these are not in the interest of women’s rights) they risk their own careers and positions. Basically, until we make them think about our rights, they won’t philanthropically do it themselves.

For most people, the vote is the only time that they engage with political spaces. Sure we might read the news, or shake our heads when things go wrong, but how many of us actually attend ward meetings or know who our ward councillors are?

But it’s a mission isn’t it – trying to find out what parties actually stand for, who they stand for, who will be ignored.

Whilst women have benefited from a number of policies and laws post 1994, they have never been a group that political parties have felt they need to target.

‘Woman’ has not been considered as anyone’s primary identity.

There is no doubt that safety in South Africa should be considered as a women’s issue. Women here face street harassment and violence both within and outside the home.

Health is also a women’s issue – we need HIV treatment, contraception, the right to have an abortion, and maternal facilities that are safe for ourselves and our babies.

Education is a women’s issue – if women are not educated equally they cannot go on to lead in the economic sphere.

Land and housing are women’s issue – women have less access to land than men, struggle to access housing and shelter after leaving abusive relationships.

The environment is a women’s issue because as resources become more scarce violence against women increases.

The economy is a women’s issue – women need maternity care, men need paternity care, in order to remain part of the economy. The burden of poverty should not sit with women. I am sick of being an afterthought.

A feminist analysis of political parties has been sorely lacking. Myself and a team at have begun to assess political parties from a feminist perspective – we’re asking what they say and do for women. I hope you ask the same question next election.

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