Accepted Paper:

"Some women can shoot better than men": the search for gender equality in Namibia  


Ian Cooper (University of Cambridge)

Paper short abstract:

This paper seeks to why political parties might choose to introduce a gender quota, and whether increasing the number of women in parliament necessarily facilitates better representation of women's issues.

Paper long abstract:

In Africa, fewer than one-quarter of all legislators are women. This aggregate figure, however, obscures considerable cross-national variation. In 2008, Rwanda became the first country in the world to achieve a majority female legislature. Seven years later South Africa, the Seychelles and Senegal featured alongside Rwanda in the Interparliamentary Union's top ten countries by level of female representation. In each of these four cases, a gender quota had been used to overcome decades of male hegemony.

The literature suggests that gender quotas are most likely to be introduced during moments of post-conflict reconstruction, social mobilisation, or international pressure. None of these explanations seem however relevant to Namibia, where the ruling South West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO) introduced a voluntary gender quota - to great effect - in 2013. My paper seeks therefore (a) to explain how and why SWAPO's quota was introduced; and (b) whether a resulting increase in the number of female MPs has led to better representation of women. It argues that scholars have tended to underestimate the opportunities for working alongside party women's leagues in the pursuit of change, but also that proportional representation (PR) constitutes a double-edged sword, encouraging women to enter parliament whilst hampering their ability to articulate women's interests.

Panel P056
Party Politics under Authoritarian Rule