Political Science, Department of
How Civil Society Represents Women: Feminists, Catholics, and Mobilization Strategies in Africa
Date of this Version
Published in Representation: The Case of Women, ed. Maria C. Escobar-Lemmon and Michelle M. Taylor-Robinson (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014), pp. 137–157.
In recent years, civil society has risen to speak on behalf of underrepresented groups in Africa. In particular, civil society has advocated for the representation of women’s interests (Tripp et al. 2008). Yet, relatively little is known about the full range of actors who seek the representation of women’s interests, mobilize around women’s issues, and articulate specific preferences.1 Some of these actors include not only feminists, but also religious activists who may clash over women’s issues. This gap in knowledge, moreover, extends to non-democratic countries. Who in civil society seeks to influence the representation of women’s interests and how, in both democratic and authoritarian regimes? What impact do civil society groups have on specific policy outcomes? This chapter contributes to the volume by addressing the who and how questions of women’s representation. It identifies who in civil society can potentially mobilize for and against women’s interests and how they try to hasten, or delay, policy outcomes. Focusing on the African Union’s Maputo Protocol on the Rights of Women, I find that feminist groups and Catholic groups were central actors. These groups employed multilevel strategies to gain the government’s attention. Both groups engaged in international networking and domestic lobbying, protesting, and consciousness-raising activities, though the strategies varied across democracies and autocracies. I then find that women’s mobilization helped countries ratify the Protocol more quickly, in both democracies and autocracies, but find limited evidence that anti-Protocol mobilization slowed down the pace of ratification.
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