Electoral Politics – Making Quotas Work for Women By Hoodfar & Tajali

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Title: Electoral Politics: Making Quotas Work for Women
Pages: 246
Author: Homa Hoodfar and Mona Tajali
Publisher: Women Living Under Muslim Laws
Subject: CSS Gender Studies

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The goal of reducing gender inequalities in political representation has been elusive in many different kinds of political systems, even though women have made substantial progress in other areas, such as education, employment and healthcare. This wonderfully accessible book argues that gender quotas are an important strategy to improve women’s political representation in legislatures and political parties and it lays out the history of this approach across the globe. It suggests however, that gender quotas are themselves not an ‘easy fix’ to gender discrimination since similarly designed quotas have had different outcomes across cases. The book’s comparative approach untangles the various factors which need to be considered in designing, lobbying for, and implementing gender quotas so that they can be effective. This volume is tremendously useful and informative for activists and scholars across the globe and does a masterful job explaining divergent outcomes both within regions and across them. While teasing out some shared experiences, it encourages coalitions of activists to develop context-appropriate strategies to craft effective campaigns to end women’s exclusion from political decision-making. Hoodfar and Tajali argue that although increasing countries are successfully and creatively using gender quotas, some of the wealthiest long-standing democracies still continue to experience greater legislative gender inequalities.

Gender Studies

As an anthropologist, my inclination is always to start with the story of how a particular project started. The history of this book, which has been a long time in the making, stretches back some 15 years. It is a product of much research, several workshops, and many meetings with women activists across the globe. The initial idea was discussed among many of the Women Living Under Muslim Laws (WLUML) network members present at the 1995 Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women. After listening to Charlotte Bunch’s speech1 on women’s many advances since 1985, we mulled over our growing realization that despite considerable progress there was still much room for improvement, and that one very significant arena where women’s presence remained limited was in the governing bodies of our nation-states: parliaments, senates, constitutional courts, and other top-level decisionmaking bodies. Without women’s presence in such legislative bodies, the realization of women’s full and equal citizenship rights would remain lacking.

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