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Jo-Ansie van Wyk


In 2014, Sweden became the first country to adopt a feminist foreign policy. Although a new Swedish government abandoned the country’s feminist foreign policy in October 2022, Sweden has inspired many other states to adopt such a foreign policy to advance the status of women and girls. These developments have not gone unnoticed in South Africa, where historical relations between Sweden
and the country’s liberation movements endure in post-apartheid South Africa. Unlike Sweden, South Africa never adopted or declared a feminist foreign policy due to historical and cultural reasons, and different conceptualisations of women, gender, and feminism. Instead, under the leadership of the African National Congress (ANC) since 1994, South Africa has diplomatically capitalised on its liberation struggle and human rights credentials; the latter which, to some extent, have for some time superseded a more focused emphasis on women’s rights. A more nuanced foreign policy focus on improving the status of women and gender equality emerged
partly due to international developments regarding women, peace, and security. Hence, the contribution explores feminist and/or gendered aspects of South Africa’s foreign policy of ubuntu (human-ness and humanity) and diplomatic practice, and the implications thereof. It has shown that South Africa’s growing embrace of elements associated with a feminist foreign policy includes memorialisation and symbolism (i.e. linking the liberation struggle and female stalwarts to foreign policy), positioning women in progressive internationalism, and integrating women in the definition of South Africa’s national interests.

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