Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Political Participation of Female Social Workers in South Africa

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Political Participation of Female Social Workers in South Africa

Article excerpt


The multidimensional and multifaceted issue of political participation is quite critical for the political development and general existence of any state. Whether in terms of voting, serving on a special government committee, or participating in protest demonstration, citizens need to continually influence the politics of their country at all times, else, the state is dead. From what the name implies, political participation simply refers to the taking part in politics by a person or group. This is often done through registration of their opinions in all forms necessary, so, all things being equal, individual citizens and settlers, groups, associations and organizations within a state are expected to participate in politics so they can influence the outcomes of some political events. Aspects of political participation also include voting, campaigning, jury duties, public consultation and protest.

However, by virtue of their professions and other social engagements, certain individuals and groups are often critically excluded, sometimes almost completely, in some forms of political participation; and at some levels. In some countries the law deliberately excludes certain professionals such as the police, the military and officials of electoral organizations from voting. In other situations, people's social or professional engagements will just make it difficult for them to participate in politics. One of such professions is that of the social workers. According to Popple and Leighninger (2011), the social work profession draws from human development and the reconciliation of the complexity of interactions between human beings and their environment, and there are seven core functions that social workerts similarly perform all over the world: Emhahement, Assessment, Planning, Implementing, Monitoring/Evaluation, Supportivr Counscelling, and Graduated Disengagement.

This means that in such situations as post war peacemaking, peace building, reconstruction, refugees camping and management of post traumatic disorders amongst countries that have them, the social worker is always involved. While they engage in all these, they constantly move from place to place; sometimes completely out of their immediate political environments. Their deployments and redeployments can be both intra and international, depending on the organization that the social workers work with, and can take them away even during periods when they are expected to observe certain social and political responsibilities.

However, the immediate focus of this paper is the social worker in the Republic of South Africa, and emphasis in on the female. As South Africans, like some other nationalities, the female social workers are expected to consider the principles of human rights and social justice as fundamental to their profession. This was seen in action as the South African Black Social work Association and other social work structures participated in fighting apartheid system. The National Welfare, Social Services and Development Forum was established as a national organisation (mainly by social workers) in 1993 to participate in policy development, implementation and monitoring. This structure also played a critical role in monitoring implementation of the Copenhagen commitments. However, this very profession often takes social workers away from some forms of political participation.

This is the paradox that the current paper attempts to explore. Hypotheses are raised to address some questions: To what extent are South Africa's female social workers excluded from political participation? At what level of political participation are they most likely excluded? What are the implications of this exclusion on the female social workers' political behaviour, as well as on the dimension of political development of South Africa; especially in this era of gender equality? Answering these questions through the thematic operationalization of this paper is critical for South Africa as an emerging democracy which needs the highest level of political participation it can assess in a bid to build a strong and virile political culture that can make her democracy survive and subsequently advance. …

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