Good governance, gender equality and women’s political representation: Ideas as points of disjuncture

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    Globally women’s representation within national parliaments is less than 20 per cent. Despite marked progress in the number of women in parliaments around the world over the past two decades, representation remains low. The continued low representation of women at the apex of national political architectures has significant implications for the laws and regulations that result. It also raises fundamental questions about the effectiveness of laws, policies and targets already enacted - globally and nationally - with the aim of promoting gender equity. Why is it that apparent global commitment through UN bodies, international treaties, global conferences and visionary declarations, such as the Beijing Platform for Action, have failed to deliver numerical equity in women’s parliamentary participation? This chapter argues that the answer can be found, in large part, through an examination of the role of ideas at global, national and local levels. Such an examination reveals several points of disjuncture, whereby tension between competing ideas about governance, gender equality and the role of women act as a counterweight to efforts to increase women’s parliamentary representation. This chapter has four broad sections. The first provides a brief introduction to the way in which ideas influence policies - and indeed underpin key aspects of governance. The second and third sections examine two key global agendas - that relating to good governance and that relating to gender equality - and the ideas that underpin each. The final section draws on the experience of Malawi to examine the ways in which ideas relating to women’s political participation play out within national and local contexts. In examining ideas that impact women’s parliamentary representation at global, national and local levels, I aim to illuminate disjuncture between various ideas - disjuncture that serves to undermine efforts to achieve greater numerical equality in parliaments around the world. Ideas as Points of Convergence and Disjuncture That ideas matter in shaping policies and policy outcomes is widely acknowledged; how they matter has increasingly been the subject of scholarly examination. As has been well demonstrated, ideas interact powerfully with institutions and dominant interests. Skogstad argues that ‘ideas are most important to policymaking when strategically-placed individuals or groups manipulate them to realise their interests’, while they ‘have an enduring impact when embedded in institutions’.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe Public Law of Gender: From the Local to the Global
    Editors Kim Rubenstein, Katharine G. Young
    Place of PublicationCambridge, United Kingdom
    PublisherCambridge University Press
    ISBN (Print)9781107138575
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


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