Localization and decentralization are frequently presented as good for women. However, the reality is not so clear-cut. Local government is the tier that is closest to people but relationships, structures and processes of local governance can both limit the space for women’s participation and the policy potential for addressing gender issues. The experience of democratic reform in South Africa is invariably held up as an example of good practice in advancing gender equity in governance. Critically drawing on this experience, the article points up some of the paradoxes for women and gender equity of decentralisation strategies and governance at the local level
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