Emkhambathini municipality mayor Thobekile Maphumulo is on a serious empowerment mission.
She has called on rural women to take advantage of empowerment programmes available to them and avoid being used as "fronts" by men.
Maphumulo was speaking at a women's leadership and development conference in Durban yesterday.
She said women councillors and ordinary women were often "used by their male colleagues to securemultimillion-rand tenders".
She said this was because women councillors operating from rural communities were usually perceived as "weak" by their male counterparts and therefore regarded as followers, not leaders.
"When a woman stands firm and takes a man head-on, then they start proposing love just to tame her," she said.
She said the negative perception about women's ability to take up leadership positions was another challenge.
Rural women, she said, were most often found at home doing house chores while their husbands attended meetings and empowerment workshops.
"There is a great need for empowerment in rural communities. Our women cannot even address a meeting because they are intimidated by men, including amakhosi and izinduna," she said.
She said while local government had programmes in place aimed at developing and empowering women in the rural communities, lack of education had had a negative effect on the implementation of such programmes.
"This problem of illiteracy has placed some of the women in very compromising positions where they find themselves having endorsed documents they have not even read because they can't read and are also under pressure from men," she said.
"We need to form forums where women can get together and empower each other."