Does women participation in politics strengthen women’s voice?

Due to restrictive laws, cultural practices, institutional barriers and disproportionate access to quality education, health care and resources, women around the world continue to be marginalized from sphere. However, it is not impossible to reverse these discriminatory practices. This thesis examines various solutions that empower women and increase their voice in decision-making processes. Interventions below range from raising the awareness of girls and women – especially the most marginalized – to their national power structures, to foster inclusion in leadership roles.

Women’s individual and collective action, whether in formal politics, civic society or the economy, provide opportunities for women to voice their needs and demands. Women often organise around their practical interests, particularly in the case of social and economic mobilisation. But women, usually from the elite, also come together to lobby for gender equality and to advance their strategic interests.

Does women participation in politics strengthen women’s voice?

1. The “voice of women” as an abstraction risks masking the socio-political and economic divides that separate women and underestimate their various ideological or normative interests, identities and preferences.

These cleavages include class, religion, ethnicity, caste, age and sexuality. Women’s choices and preferences are limited by individual and collective experiences and awareness of gender roles and injustice. The voice of women is itself protest site shaped by power dynamics, and certain groups of women – individually or collectively – are better equipped than others to exercise their influence. At the same time, women (and also men) from different backgrounds life has formed alliances around common interests, and these broader coalitions have been essential to the substance political change processes, such as challenging autocratic regimes or gender inequality.

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2. The vast majority of women still have limited access to managerial positions.

Although there has been progress in many countries to increase the number of women in elected positions, both locally and nationally, women are less likely to hold executive or key cabinet positions. Likewise, while women hold leadership positions in most remain underrepresented in organizations that do not focus on women and gender issues. And, in the private sector, women around the world remain woefully underrepresented in business management, business decision-making and professional associations.

3. Promising new research examines the processes by which women leaders influence or occupy decision-making roles.

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Regarding political life, this explores how women and gender activists navigate gender characteristics of political institutions and formal and informal social structures to acquire decision-making roles. Key factors include the interaction of political or formal features, including the difference electoral systems intersect with the internal dynamics of political parties and the way informal rules, such as personalism and patronage, and access to informal decision-making forums affect women’s political careers.

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