Piercing through the Political Quo to Effect Change

The representation of women in politics is still a debate that many are trying to solve. Recently, many veteran female politicians are joining hands to support and encourage other women to join. There is the continuous highlight of reasons women should be allowed to participate in politics, one of them being that it helps achieve the Sustainable Development Goals of 2030. But according to Data by the UN women, there is still an underrepresentation of women in politics.

Regardless of this underrepresentation, women are still making waves in the political world and trying their best to bring in other women and effect change. One of such women is Ms Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, a politician from South Africa.

Ms Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is the first female vice president of South Africa who served from 2005 to 2008. She also served as an Executive Director of the UN Women, under the rank of Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations.  She is duly remembered as the deputy president who fought against poverty in South Africa.

Growing into the decision

Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka’s educational roots include a bachelor’s degree in social science and education and a Master’s degree in philosophy, coupled with a doctorate from the University of Warwick. She also obtained an honorary doctorate from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in 2014.

Unlike what one would have thought, Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka previously worked as a teacher at KwaZulu-Natal, and from there, she went to Geneva to serve in the World Young Women’s Christian Association. She was also the first president of the Natal Organisation of Women as she founded the Young Women’s International Programme.

Ms Mlambo Ngcuka also served in several NGOs, churches and funding agencies. At UN Women, she once served as a World Bank Group’s (WBG) Advisory Council on Gender and Development from 2015 to 2017.  

She journeyed in politics by joining the parliament and leading the Public Service Portfolio Committee. She moved to become the deputy minister of the Department of Trade and Industry and founded the Guguletu Community Development Corporation. She further took up the role as a member of the national executive committee of the African National Congress (ANC) and the provincial vice-chairperson of the ANC Western Cape.

She filled the political positions, including serving as the Minister of Minerals & Energy and Minister of Arts, Culture, Science & Technology.

Eventually, in 2005, she was appointed to be the deputy president of South Africa by Thabo Mbeki.

Her deeds

As a politician, Ms Mlambo Ngcuka did make a lot of influence, and she was instrumental in creating New Order Mining Rights in the South African Mineral Reserves. With her power in the Southern African Development Community mission in 2005, Zimbabwe’s election was free and fair.

Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka was highly invested in promoting gender equality and women empowerment. With her influence, she follows up with advocacy with HeforShe movements, where she encourages men and boys to participate in gender equality.

In a bid to bring about the change, she was functional in raising 40 billion US dollars from Member states and other sectors in society to help empower women and ensure equality.

To further achieve her goals, she founded the Umlambo Foundation, and became a board member of the Global Partnership and Fund to End Violence Against Children. She was also a member of the Advisory Board of the African Leadership Academy, and she also sits on the board of Trustees of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation.

For Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka, for there to be lasting growth and change in Africa, women’s rights have to be readily accessible, and they have to experience balance in power. Hence, she is often seen calling for people to raise their voices together to ensure that these changes happen and last. Any position of opportunity where we find ourselves is an opportunity to make way for wrongs to become rights, for that is how to set the pace for a better world. 


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