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date: 25 April 2019

gender quotas

A Dictionary of African Politics

Nicholas Cheeseman

gender quotas 

Institutional measures to boost female political representation, typically in the legislature. Many African states feature low levels of female political representation in the political system, reflecting the pattern of a number of Western democracies such as the United Kingdom and United States. In 2015, only 7 per cent of members of the House of Representatives in Nigeria were women, and the figure was similarly low in Botswana (8 per cent), Kenya (10 per cent), and Ghana (11 per cent). In response, some states have introduced gender quotas to boost the number of women, most notably Burundi, where 30 per cent of the lower house must be women, and Rwanda, where the system employs a similar minimum figure which is then topped up through twenty-four additional appointments. Partly as a result, Rwanda leads the world in female representation in parliament (56 per cent in 2015). However, it is unclear whether the greater presence of women in legislative chambers always translates into ‘pro-women’ policies on issues such as the inheritance of land and gender-based violence. Indeed, the fact that some of the countries that have been most effective at promoting female representation are also some of the continent’s most authoritarian states has led to concerns that gender quotas are being used to improve the international image of undemocratic governments and do not reflect a genuine commitment to building a more equal society.