Inclusive Peace & Transition Initiative
Publication date: 

Case Study 


South Africa’s democratic transition, which involved the negotiation of a political settlement (1990−94) and an interim goverance process (1994−98), ended the brutal repression, excessive political violence, and regional wars fueled by the authoritarian white minority regime. After several rounds of negotiation and national dialogue, the racist legal system of apartheid was replaced with a constitution that protects the human rights of all South Africans irrespective of ethnicity or gender and establishes a liberal democratic system of governance.

Women recognized and seized the opportunity to advance gender equality as part of the anti-apartheid movement and the democratic transition. They formed a powerful multiracial coalition across political divides to secure a place at the negotiation table, observe the talks, consult women at the grassroots, mobilize support in a referendum, and stage protests. The Women’s National Coalition comprised strong feminist leaders and, despite resistance, ensured that their demand for gender equality was enshrined in the constitution. By insisting on a gender quota for candidates fielded by the African National Congress (ANC), which won the first democratic election in 1994, women achieved a high level of representation in the first parliament. 


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> This case study is also available in French and Arabic