Successful women leaders in Africa: a case of Student Representative Council (SRC) in South African Universities
Female students are among the most active and successful participants in representative politics in South African Universities today. Despite being hindered by traditional norms and values that come from gender stereotypes, they have continued to attain leadership positions in Student Representative Councils (SRC). Today, they occupy over 30% in SRC in universities across South Africa. In this article, we investigate the motivation behind this phenomenon. Using the case of successful female SRC leaders in three selected universities across the country, we analyze the successful attributes of such female actors. Drawing on ideas of political opportunity from the social movement scholarship, we profile socio-psychological attributes such as social confidence, team play, focus, determination, persuasion, power delegation, law-abiding, learning the habit, opinion seeking, and transparency, as propitious for encouraging participation and achievement of success in political leadership in university SRCs. A snowball sampling technique was used to select and interview 9 participants from the three selected South African universities. The interviews were transcribed and analyzed with the aid of Atlas ti, version 8. The result suggests that South African female students face very serious leadership challenges due to many social and traditional norms. However, despite these inhibitions, some who have attained leadership positions and have managed to succeed, have drawn from the afore-mentioned socio-psychological attributes to mobilise political activism and achieve success in their respective universities. Based on these findings, the study, therefore, recommends a strengthening of institutional specific frameworks that tackle challenges faced by students in SRC leadership in the different universities, as well as the introduction of programmes that educate other students on the challenges faced by female students.
Keywords: Female students, gender inequality, student representative council, leadership, South Africa, University