The Impact of Women's Political Leadership on Democracy and Development

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Women’s minimal leadership role in national and local political spheres remains a serious concern worldwide. The Commonwealth Gender Plan of Action for Gender Equality 2005–2015 calls on governments to introduce measures to promote at least 30 per cent representation of women in parliament, government and business.

The Impact of Women’s Political Leadership on Democracy and Development describes the barriers to women’s political participation and explains why the contribution of women is so crucial to democracy. It identifies established strategies – electoral reform (New Zealand), party voluntary quotas (South Africa), and legislative quotas (Bangladesh and India) – that have helped these Commonwealth countries to meet the global target of 30 per cent and thus to effectively advance the participation of women in decision-making at all levels.



Women's Participation in Local Governments in Bangladesh and India

Women are beginning to stand for elections and have won seats or held political office at different tiers of government in India and Bangladesh, but the numbers are still very low. These two countries have excelled in mainstreaming women in local governance structures. Following constitutional amendments to reserve one-third of all local government seats for women in India after the 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution in 1992, more than one million women were elected to local government positions. Similarly, institutional reforms to reserve seats for women’s active participation in local governance in Bangladesh in 1997 resulted in many women councillors being elected. Despite various problems faced by women in both India and Bangladesh, reservation of seats for women in local bodies increased women’s visibility in public life and provided them with social legitimacy. Reservation of seats for women in local bodies has shown that women are increasingly playing an important role in social, economic, environmental, dispute resolution, legal and political areas. These in turn have an impact on democracy and development, which is the crux of this research study.


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