Building Constituencies - Projects
Taking the ‘voice’ entry point into exploring the politics of changing policies, and development and political institutions, to lend greater support to women’s empowerment that can promote greater justice, equality and wellbeing for all.
Projects under this theme include:
- Brazilian Feminisms in the United Nations Arenas
- Building Constituencies for Political Reform: Quotas as an Instrument of Change
- Review of Strategic Approaches to Building Constituencies by Women's Organisations
- Dialogue with Selected Women District Assembly Members in Ghana
- Feminisms and Women's Movements in Brazil: Issues and Challenges
- Reforming Egyptian Personal Status Laws: A Study of Legal Changes since 2000, Court Room Practices, and Gender Justice
- Feminist Activists in Global Policy Organisations
- Local Governments between Building the Islamic Nation and Women's Empowerment
- Measuring the Implementation of UN Resolution 1325
- Mobilising Resources for Women's Organisations
- Making Private Harms into Matters of Public Concern: Women's Struggles and Achievements for Combating Domestic Violence in Brazil
- Poor Women's Agency in Gaza: Between 'Doing' and 'Being'
- Sustainable Security and Peacebuilding as Pathways of Women's Empowerment
- Women and Local Governance in Sierra Leone
- Women in Local Government in Bangladesh
- Women in Local Government in Pakistan
- Women in Local Power in Bahia - the City Council Women
- Women in the 'Right'?: Women in Religious Political Groups in Bangladesh
- Women in the Writing of the 1988 Constitution
- Women's Political Participation in Egypt
Lead Researcher: Cecilia Sardenberg
Project Description: This research has the objective of investigating and
analysing strategies of articulation – from local to global
and back – of Brazilian feminisms, and the ensuing
challenges, with a special focus on the global spaces
created by the United Nations Organisations. This
includes not only the influence of Brazilian feminisms
and the participation of activists in international conferences, but also in specific commissions and committees, such as CSW (Commission on the Status of Women) and CEDAW (Commission on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women). As part of this project, Cecilia Sardenberg has participated in the 52nd, 53rd, 54th and 55th CSW meetings.
Lead Researcher: Ana Alice Costa
Project Description: Brazil has the greatest experience in the weakness of quotas. There are no obligations for the parties to use them, and no one is held to account for not doing it. An international workshop was held to intervene in ongoing demands for political reform in Brazil to redress the low representation of women in national government, by drawing together lessons from successful efforts to bring women into office through quota systems.
Ana Alice has three PhD students working on her team - one looking at women's empowerment in the homeless movement, another at the history of women in women's constitutions, including the feminist direct action successes through the 'lipstick lobby' in 1998, and the third at youth in school and government.
Women and Politics: The Brazil Paradox, Ana Alice Costa, Open Democracy
Seminar on 20 Years of the Lipstick Lobby [Português]
'Quotas: A Pathway of Political Empowerment?', IDS Bulletin, 41.2: 18-27, Ana Alice Costa
Quotas: Add Women and Stir?, IDS Bulletin 41.5, Eds. Mariz Tadros and Ana Alice Costa
Building Constituencies for Political Reform: Quotas as an Instrument of Change, Pathways Latin America Case Study
Lead Researchers: Maheen Sultan and Sohela Nazneen
Project Description: The research project seeks to document and analyse strategies and approaches used by selected women’s organisations in Bangladesh to mobilise and advocate for women’s rights and raise demands to the State and other rights holders.
The research selects a few key movements to analyse and will feed back the findings and analysis to the groups being studied so that they can use that to further reflect on their practice and identify what changes they would like to make to be more effective in the future.
'Reciprocity, Distancing, and Opportunistic Overtures: Women's Organisations Negotiating Legitimacy and Space in Bangladesh', Sohela Nazneen and Maheen Sultan, IDS Bulletin, 41.2: 70-78
'Taking the Bull By the Horns: Contemporary Feminist Politics in Bangladesh', Sohela Nazneen and Maheen Sultan, in S. Roy (ed.) New South Asian Feminisms, London: Zed Books
Researchers: Ghana Team
Project Description: The assembly is a sort of District Council. Its members are 70 per cent elected and 30 per cent - of which half must be women - appointed. The research asks:
- How did the women get into office?
- How was getting into office a catalyst for participation?
- What results did they gain in office for themselves and their communities?
The research has found that a lot of the women had been in political and mostly religious associations, mostly involved in community work. Their families nudged them along, and their social networks suggested to them that this might be a path they would want to follow. Factors to winning elections included being involved in and recognised by the community. Education was not as important; after the women became involved in politics, they decided education was important and wanted to go back to school. But education did not affect their getting into politics.
Project Description: This is an ongoing study which has been carried out by NEIM since the 1980s, focusing on feminisms and women’s movements in Brazil. It is the study that
underpins our programme, in that the feminist
movement has set the stage for the specific struggles and
campaigns examined in the other projects. Indeed, it is
from a feminist perspective that our research is being conducted, sustaining a “liberating empowerment” approach and, as such, our primary focus is on collective
action as a pathway of women’s empowerment.
See: C. Sardenberg, 2009, 'Liberal vs Liberating Empowerment: Latin America' Pathways Working Paper 7 (pdf 2 MB)
'Annual Encampment of Women Rural Workers in Bahia, Brazil', Claire Cesareo-Silva
Reforming Egyptian Personal Status Laws: A Study of Legal Changes since 2000, Court Room Practices, and Gender Justice
Lead Researcher: Mulki Al Sharmani
Project Description: We are researching the reforms that have been taking place in Egyptian personal status laws since 2000. We aim to examine this unfolding reform story and what it has entailed in terms of successes and challenges for women's rights activists in their pursuit of justice and equality in marriage and divorce rights, and for Egyptian women at large who seek legal redress in family courts. The focus of the study is on two aspects of the reform story: 1) the process of mobilising for the new laws, building alliances, choosing strategies, and making concessions, and 2) the implementation of the legal reforms in the new family courts that were introduced in 2004.
This project is taking place at an opportune time when efforts are being undertaken by women's rights groups and the government to legislate a comprehensive family code that is gender-sensitive and in tune with the realities and needs of Egyptian families. Thus, one of the important goals of this project has been to seek new insights from our empirical research that we could share with policy makers, women's rights advocates, and all those concerned with the push for legal reform. For instance, the findings of our ethnographic research on the newly established family courts identified a number of gaps in this legal system, which were disseminated to those involved in their structuring. Some of these findings have informed current efforts on the part of the government to address some of the gaps in the new family court system. Through participation in local workshops and communication with printed media, we have also been seeking to inform the debates and efforts that are underway to legislate a new substantive family law.
'Family Law Reforms and Women's Empowerment: Family Courts in Egypt', Mulki Al-Sharmani, draft paper
'Egypt's Family Courts: Route to Empowerment?', Mulki Al-Sharmani, Open Democracy, 2007
Report from the American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting in Washington, 2007
Reforming Egyptian Personal Status Laws and Women's Empowerment, report from the 'Reforming Family Laws in the Middle East' and 'Guidelines for Islamic Family Law: Women’s Equality, Male Guardianship, and Legal Objectives' workshops, January 2009.
Listen to Mulki talk about the project at: http://www.yada-yada.co.uk/podcasts/ids/mulki-al-sharmani-rpc.mp3 (4 mins)
'Legal Reform, Women's Empowerment, and Social Change: The Case of Egypt', Mulki Al-Sharmani, IDS Bulletin 41.2: 10-17, 2010
Background to the Family Courts in Egypt research, review of Pathways 2010
Egyptian Personal Status Laws: A Study of the Reforms since 2000, Pathways Middle East Case Study
Lead Researcher: Rosalind Eyben
Project Description: This project identifies and works with feminist activists working within international development organisations that are shaping discourse and policy action – it explores their strategies and strengthens capacity to bring about change.
Rosalind and Hazel Reeves comments from the Commonwealth Women's Affairs Ministers Meeting - June 2007
Rosalind Eyben's Report to the Global Hub Advisory Group - Feb 2007-Jan 2008
'Subversively Accommodating: Feminist Bureaucrats and Gender Mainstreaming', Rosalind Eyben, IDS Bulletin 41.2: 54-61
'What if the Girls don't want to be Businesswomen?: Discursive Dissonance in a Global Policy Space', Rosalind Eyben, Development 53.2: 274-279
A Feminist Bureaucrat at the OECD, Rosalind Eyben interviewing Patti O'Neill (Pathways Youtube Channel)
J. Sandler and A. Rao, 2012, 'Strategies of Feminist Bureaucrats: United Nations Experiences', IDS Working Paper 397, Brighton: IDS
I. Smyth and L. Turquet, 2012, 'Strategies of Feminist Bureaucrats: Perspectives from International NGOs', IDS Working Paper 396, Brighton: IDS
Lead Researcher: Islah Jad
Project Description: In this research, Islah examines the role of the newly elected local councils in the West Bank and Gaza Strip elected in 2005-2006. The Islamic Resistance Movement – HAMAS participated in this election for the first time with the aim of serving the people while 'Islamising the nation'. Big numbers of women voted for Islamist candidates and, for the first time, many others were elected. Classic literature perceives local governments as an important path for decentralising the often centralised state power, thus involving people at the grassroots level to share power. Women, in this context, are perceived as better served and more empowered. Islah aims to explore this equation and will attempt to examine whether local governments in general and those controlled by Islamists in particular can constitute a constituency for women's empowerment?
'Palestinian Women Contesting Power in Chaos', Islah Jad, IDS Bulletin 41.5: 81-88
Lead Researcher: Hussainatu Abdullah
Project Description: This research is aimed at monitoring and evaluating progress made so far on the implementation of UN Resolution 1325. So far the efforts undertaken by various organisations at implementing the Resolution have been geared towards popularising, sensitising and building human and institutional capacity on the resolution, but not a critical assessment of the gap between policy formulation and programme implementation.
'Women, Peace and Security: Actualising UN Security Council Resolution 1325 in Sierra Leone', Pathways of Women's Empowerment Ghana, May 2009
Gender and Peacebuilding Workshop, Pathways West Africa Project News
Lead Researchers: Rosalind Eyben (IDS), Maheen Sultan (BRAC), Sohela Nazneen (BRAC), Dzodzi Tsikata (CEGENSA), Agnes Apusigah (University for Development Studies, Ghana) and Maitrayee Mukhopadhyay (KIT Netherlands)
Project Description: This project concerns the significance and impact of official external financing for women’s organising at global, regional and national levels. It uses participatory methods of critical reflection involving both donor staff and representatives of women’s rights organisations and networks in Bangladesh and Ghana as well as at regional and global levels. Project findings will be widely disseminated both through publications and at relevant international meetings and conferences.
'Mobilising for Women's Rights and the Role of Resources: Synthesis Report - Bangladesh', February 2011, Pathways of Women's Empowerment (South Asia) Hub and BRAC Development Institute (pdf file 2 MB)
'Women's Rights Organizations and Funding Regimes in Ghana', Agnes Atia Apusigah, Dzodzi Tsikata and Maitrayee Mukhopadhyay, CEGENSA Technical Publication No. 1, 2011, Pathways of Women's Empowerment (West Africa) Hub and Centre for Gender Equality and Advocacy (pdf file 1 MB)
'Rights and Resources: The Effects of External Financing on Organising for Women's Rights', Maitrayee Mukhopadhyay and Rosalind Eyben with Sohela Nazneen, Maheen Sultan, Agnes Apusigah and Dzodzi Tsikata
Making Private Harms into Matters of Public Concern: Women's Struggles and Achievements for Combating Domestic Violence in Brazil
Researchers: Cecilia Sardenberg (coordinator), Silvia de Aquino, Márcia
Gomes, Márcia Tavares, Cândida Ribeiro Santos
Project Description: The Maria da Penha Law was passed in Brazil on 22 September 2006 and was the first federal Brazilian Law addressing violence against women. It owes its name to a woman who was repeatedly assaulted by her husband throughout their marriage, culminating in a number of attempts on her life.
Maria's case languished in the court and appeals system for 23 years, before she, together with the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) and the Latin American and Caribbean Committee for the Defense of Women’s Rights (CLADEM), took the issue before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights asserting the Brazilian State’s obligation to respect the rights set forth in the American Convention on Human Rights, the right to a fair trial, the right to equal protection and the right to judicial protection, respectively.
The Maria da Penha Law classifies domestic violence as one of the forms of
human rights violations. It alters the Penal Code and makes it possible to arrest aggressors in the act, or to have them arrested preventively when they threaten the woman’s physical integrity. It also provides for new measures of protection for women whose lives are threatened, such as removal of the aggressor from the home and
prohibiting him from physically coming close to the victim and her children.
This project investigates women's struggles and pathways for the implementation and monitoring of public policies addressing violence against women. The project was launched with the creation of the Maria da Penha Law Observatory Consortium (LMP Consortium), under the national coordination of NEIM (Cecilia Sardenberg as National Coordinator and Silvia de Aquino as Regional Coordinator), with the support of AGENDE and CEPIA, two of the major feminist NGOs in Brazil.
The Observatory will monitor the implementation of the Maria da Penha Law in all 27 Brazilian states. In addition to the funding from the National Government, additional funding has been provided by DFID, NOVIB, OXFAM and UNFPA.
The Passage of Domestic Violence Legislation in Ghana, Takyiwaa Manuh
'African Women and Domestic Violence', Takyiwaa Manuh for openDemocracy, 26 November 2007
The Maria da Penha Law Observatory website [Português]
Monitoramento da Lei Maria da Penha ‑ Relatório Preliminar de Pesquisa, M. Gomes, C. R. Santos, Z. A. Silva and C. Sardenberg
Domestic Violence and Women's Access to Justice in Brazil, C. Sardenberg, M. Gomes, M. Tavares and W. Pasinato
Atendimento às Mulheres Vítimas de Violência Doméstica, [Português], film featuring interview with Cecilia Sardenberg on the Maria da Penha Observatory
Lead Researcher: Aitemad Muhanna
Project Description: This research examines the complexity of gendered subjectivity in the Gaza Strip and how it is reshaped in a contradictory manner in the context of livelihood crisis and insecurity caused by the full siege imposed on the Gaza Strip by the Israeli occupation and the international community. The research is unique because it attempts to deal with the reality of women’s everyday life and avoids any standardised framework of gender analysis. It focuses on the contextualisation of the concept of women’s agency based on the narration of women’s stories and life experiences. The documentation of poor women’s interpretation of their daily life is the basis for creating new knowledge and new theories. The research is inductive and not built on presuppositions, so the empirical analysis led to the theorisation of the research.
Lead Researcher: Amena Mohsin
Project Description: The discourse on empowerment is closely entwined with the notion of security. The latter as it appears in the traditional and dominant discourse of politics is heavily entrenched within the realist paradigm, i.e., the insecurity of one results in the security of the other. Politics and society in general have often been governed by this major contradiction. Pathways' research on local government identified insecurities at different levels – familial, societal, religious, cultural, and economic – to be the major obstacles to women’s empowerment. The study further revealed that women’s notion of empowerment is closely linked to collective empowerment, sharing and cooperative behaviour. This understanding and their focus on societal and human security arguably are critical paths for building sustainable security and peace.
This becomes more pertinent in post conflict societies. The Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), Bangladesh is an instance of the above. A full blown armed insurgency started in the region in 1975 and ended through the signing of a peace accord between the Government of Bangladesh (GOB) and the insurgents on December 2, 1997. The accord ended the armed hostilities but peace remains elusive. While women belonging to the eleven Hill communities had played a major role in the armed struggle for autonomy of the region, they remained outside the margins throughout the ‘peace’ process. The peace accord itself is highly gendered with no compensation or recognition for the women victims. Women have also been kept outside the arenas of political institutions that have evolved following the accord. The Hill society has become highly polarised between the pro and anti accord groups. The issues of justice and rights for women remain subsumed under nationalist politics following the realist paradigm. Within this arithmetic human security and peace are the first casualty.
With this backdrop the major objective of this research is to investigate:
- Hill women’s conception of security, peace and empowerment
- Their actual and perceived role in security and peace building
- The role of Hill women’s organisations and movements in the above
- Major obstacles faced by them
- Strategies of overcoming these obstacles.
Lead Researcher: Hussaintu Abdullah
Project Description: This study aims to illuminate the pathways of women's political empowerment, the relationship between political participation and change and interrogate the effectiveness of the decentralisation commission in empowering women.
Newly independent in 1961, Sierra Leone by 1978 was a one-party state. The civil ward started in 1991. In 2004 local government elections were held after a gap of 32 years as part of decentralisation and political restructuring after the war. In that election, 10 per cent were women and 10 per cent elected counsellors. Half of the members of development committees had to be women.
Hussainatu is studying these women - where they come from, what they are doing, whether they are in line with their party. How do women mobilise and learn what is happening - do women even know what is happening at the local level? What different pathways do women take in a post-war situation?
'Forging Ahead without an Affirmative Action Policy: Female Politicians in Sierra Leone's Post-War Electoral Process', Hussaina Abdullah, IDS Bulletin 41.5: 62-71
'Women's Voices, Work and Bodily Integrity in Pre-Conflict, Conflict and Post-Conflict Reconstruction Processes in Sierra Leone', Hussaina Abdullah, Aisha Ibrahim and Jamesina King, IDS Bulletin, 41.2: 37-45
Researchers: Zarina Rahman Khan, Sohela Nazneen and Sakiba Tasneem
Project Description: In this project we investigate the enabling conditions for women’s participation in local governance and its influence on women’s empowerment. Our objectives for this study are to explore the challenges faced by women councillors, how they negotiate these challenges, their own interpretation of their engagement patterns and processes, and whether new gender norms and roles are
being created for women in the public domain.
There is a history of rural local government in Bangladesh, but women's entry to this in their own right is recent. In the first round of voting after laws were modified in 1997 to ensure that 3 out of 12 seats were kept for women there was tremendous enthusiasm, with 40,000 contesting for a total of 50,000 seats. The long history of NGO activism both in microcredit and social welfare and the ministry's mobilisation of women all seem to have contributed to that.
To enter the existing system, you need to have money and muscle power, but also (informally) the political parties have a hand. Since it is not specified in the law, counsellors refused to give women any role. In the five-year terms to which women were elected, there were reports of chairs preventing women from coming to meetings by various means such as violence, not notifying them of meetings or holding meetings at odd hours and in inaccessible venues.
Through a UNDP project, women in government were encouraged to network. Sixteen circulars were issued in about 6 months, giving women a more effective role, for instance by saying that one-third of meetings should be chaired by women, but male administrators kept them uninformed of these circulars. Other similar networking and mobilising projects were initiated, but since the networks are often project-based they stop functioning when the project ends.
Turnouts were much lower in the second elections. Only 2.5% of general seats were won by women. The quota system should not be there forever; it should help women develop skills and then be removed, as women generate their own skills. Many women in local government are ready to run for general seats.
'A Silver Lining: Women in Reserved Seats in Local Government in Bangladesh', Sohela Nazneen and Sakiba Tasneem, IDS Bulletin, 41.5: 35-42
Women's Empowerment through Local Governance, Pathways Review of 2008/09
Lead Researcher: Saba Gul Khattak
Project Description: Through this study we investigate the ‘criss-cross’ processes
through which women in Pakistan become empowered, focusing on how the larger institutional set-up (whether military or non-military) helps women achieve their goals.
We explore how some of the major initiatives from civil society have contributed to women’s voices at the local government level, and also look at individual case studies
of women when they either surmount or fail to surmount societal pressures in their individual lives.
Thirty-three (originally 50) per cent of seats are reserved for women. Candidates run against each other and are elected at local government level. But at the district and sub-district levels, one must be nominated to run and must have more access to funds. As in Bangladesh, there are project-driven activities, but not a lot of debate or engagement with theoretical issues. One project cycle finishes and women are left where they are. Political parties network along gender lines and put up all-women panels. A zigzag pattern emerges, with more or fewer women contesting seats. In 2005, the government reduced the number of seats reserved for women from 33 to 28 per cent; a positive sign was that 60,000 women still contested.
The research involves mapping out NGO initiatives, tracing how women's voices have arisen and how demands have affected policy. Saba is also doing qualitative interviews at all three tiers of government. There is a whole debate on the subject of elites and of the nazim, the district head. Five women are district heads, but they come from political families.
'Women in Local Government: The Pakistan Experience', Saba Gul Khattak, IDS Bulletin, 41.5: 52-61
Lead Researcher: Ana Alice Costa
Project Description: This sub-project focused on women in local power, working with women mayors and those in elected seats in city councils in the State of Bahia. It involved both a survey of these women, as well as training workshops and seminars on women’s issues.
Project Description: This research aims to explore how and why women organise in religious groups and its political implications. In recent years, women’s propensity towards religious groups and the consequent religious engagement has become a prominent phenomenon - not just vis a vis Islam, but with respect to other religions and continents. Pathways' research on religion in Bangladesh has shown that women in these groups offer their own, fairly well thought out visions of empowerment, by which they are able to attract others into their fold. The research also indicates that feminist ideas and claims are reinterpreted and reclaimed by these groups.
Pathways' research into women’s political engagement in Bangladesh, Brazil, Ghana, Egypt and Palestine reveal women’s increasing engagement in church and mosque based groups, for mobilising in the political arena. Interestingly, many of these church and mosque based groups claim to be apolitical focusing on what is popularly known as an ‘authentic’ form or ‘pure’ form of religion. However, the research indicates that these ‘apolitical’ groups may influence women’s engagement and mobilisation with formal politics. How far these groups influence women’s political behaviour, the mobilisation strategies used by these groups, require further and deeper analysis.
In order to explore these issues we will ask the following questions:
- Is there a connection between women participating in religious groups and their political awareness and participation in mainstream political processes
- What type of strategies do women in religion based groups use to mobilise for promoting their interests and socio-political purposes?
- How does the experience of mobilisation influence women’s agency and how it manifests itself through skills, leadership and capabilities of participants and leaders of these groups?
- How do the women in these religion based groups interpret empowerment and feminism? What are the terms they use to refer to these concepts? Are they claiming/co-opting ideas from the feminist movement and discourse?
Project Description: This study investigates and analyses women’s participation
in the processes involved in the development of Brazil’s
1988 federal constitution that followed the end of the
military regime and the re-democratisation of the country
in the 1980s. Women were involved both in the National Congress, particularly in what has become known as the “Lipstick Lobby”, as well as in organising to collect signatures in support of popular amendments that fostered women’s rights. This project also receives financial support from the National Research Council (CNPq) and
Secretariat for Public Policies for Women (SPM).
Lead Researcher: Mariz Tadros
Project Description: In June 2009, the Egyptian parliament passed a new quota law adding 64 additional seats, for which only women can compete in the 454-seat parliament. This project looks at the various instruments to support women's political participation in Egypt, including the National Council for Women’s political empowerment training programme, and asks how effective have these been in challenging power hierarchies and empowering women politically?
'Quotas: A Highway to Power in Egypt...But for which Women?', Mariz Tadros, IDS Bulletin 41.5: 89-99, 2010