Gender politics

Authored by: Martha C. Johnson , Melanie L. Phillips

Routledge Handbook of Democratization in Africa

Print publication date:  July  2019
Online publication date:  July  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138081246
eBook ISBN: 9781315112978
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter considers the relationship between democracy and women’s political representation in sub-Saharan Africa. Drawing on existing studies, it demonstrates that political openings facilitated autonomous women’s mobilization in Africa, which helped improve women’s representation in legislative and executive office. However, this pattern occurred primarily in countries that adopted quotas, even if they remained relatively authoritarian or embraced an illiberal form of democracy. While women’s mobilization, particularly in post-conflict situations, contributed to quota adoption, elections were not required. By contrast, although the chapter emphasizes quotas’ limitations, in their absence, elections may not suffice to ensure women’s representation. Women in African politics face biases among party leaders that make it difficult to secure party nominations and support, socioeconomic limitations that make it difficult for them to qualify for public office and finance their campaigns, and cultural discrimination that makes campaigning difficult, even risky. Ensuring women’s success in competitive elections requires attention to all three constraints. Finally, the chapter calls for additional research on the substantive impact of women’s presence in political office, as well as the role of women in local elected bodies, the bureaucracy, and the judiciary.

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