Bloemfontein - Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Sicelo Shiceka has called for more women to become involved in local government, especially at ward level.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the Women in Provincial and Local Government Summit, the minister said the department had recently approved a working formula regarding the process of electing ward councilors which will see an increase in the number of women councilors.
This is expected to be implemented ahead of the local government elections in 2011.
"Since 2006, women councilors have been increased from 29 to 40 percent. I do not see why this cannot be increased to 50 percent in our forthcoming elections," said the minister.
He explained that at a grassroots level, ward committees were structures set up to advise councilors on critical issues affecting communities and were the most basic unit of governance in society.
"Ward committees are the face for cooperative governance and could be used as an effective tool to eradicate poverty, as through it, we are able to identify a household in the street which is in poverty."
Minister Shicelo said the department must be able to turn the situation around and focus on women whose voice is not heard in rural areas.
He added that it was up to the stakeholders gathered at the summit to ensure that women in rural areas benefit from government services just as those in urban areas.
"The resolutions made must be of great benefit to women in rural areas. Whether the woman is in a rural or urban area, the benefits should be the same," he said, adding that measuring tools should be put in place to assess the benefit gained by rural women in five years time.
The three-day summit is aimed at reviewing the progress made in the mainstreaming of gender issues in local government and form a credible and sustainable structure for women in local and provincial government.