Unmaking Political Patriarchy Through Gender Quotas?


In this action research project, experiences with quota designs, challenges and achievements of quota parliamentarians, in terms of substantive representation, is reviewed in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The focus lies on the concept of political patriarchy, that is, an androcentric to sometimes even misogynist political configuration in relation to (i) power relations, (ii) socio-political culture and gender roles prescriptions, (iii) institutional setups, practices and discourses. This assemblage draws heavily on the subsequent structural constraints through gatekeepers and peers, recruitment and decision-making processes, institutional structures of voice and agency, that shape gender quota parliamentarians’ forms and impact, to affect substantive political representation, as well as political effectiveness.

In both the case studies, conducted in Afghanistan and Pakistan, we highlight the national level parliaments and critically review quota designs, practices and experiences of women parliamentarians on both quota seats, as well as general seats. In doing so, we explore the confluencing roles of: individual and collective civil society representatives which liaise and lobby with the parliament and legislators, for example, women’s organizations, human rights activists or electoral watchdogs; peers within the assemblies comprising heads of parliamentary groups, chairs of parliamentary committees / commissions; and gatekeepers and (potential) veto actors / spoilers, such as, political party leaders, ministerial bureaucrats, influential parliamentarians or government members inter alia. Guiding exploratory questions used to obtain information include: What quality, transversality, along with volatility characterizes gender quota mandates in Afghanistan and Pakistan? What kind of ‘imagined constituency’ do gender quota parliamentarians conceptualize and aim to establish, including ensuring their own political mainstreaming and effectiveness beyond a quota regime? Do gender quota politicians advance a pro-women agenda? To what extent is this structured by a specific power configuration within formal and informal institutions, as well as by (in-) formal stakeholders within society and politics? What changes are required for institutional configurations, engagement with key stakeholders, as well as the quota system and electoral system design as such?

Logically contouring through the complex phenomenon, and for clarity, we will first review the perceived erformance and impact of gender quota parliamentarians, within the ambit of: legislation; government oversight; and representation of constituents, in particular women (albeit neither a homogenous social group nor a coherent constituency). This is followed by investigating the constraints and barriers to gender quota parliamentarians’ political mainstreaming and effectiveness by gatekeepers shaping the candidacy pool along with transversality of legislative mandates, recruitment-/decision making and agenda-setting processes within political parties and/or parliamentary groups, and political networks/coalitions. Not to mention that these foci are overbearingly influenced and determined by external actors and their transnational / global policies and interventions, influencing both Afghanistan and Pakistan at the level of a state-sponsored political patriarchy.

However, given the limited resources of the project, the focus of the analysis is confined to the internal dimensions of institutional constraints and the direct experiences of parliamentarians of both genders, with the gender quota system in place since the early 2000s, in both the countries. Secondly, both countries studied are marked by a high level of political violence and can be termed as conflict (or even intervention) societies, creating particular vulnerabilities for politically active women, who engage in public affairs marked by women’s widespread invisibility in the public sphere. However, again, the focus lies not on the nexus of insecurity, politics and gender, but is rather understood as a potentially intervening variable.




Product details
Date of Publication
November, 2015
Heinrich Böll Stiftung
Number of Pages
Language of publication
Table of contents

Introduction                                                                                                                   7

It’s all in the Rules of the Game -

Theorising Women’s Substantive Political Representation                                  13


It’s Performance that Counts -

Exercising a Mandate as Quota Parliamentarian                                                  16

Entering the Political Mainstream -

Building Constituencies                                                                                            20

Unmaking Political Patriarchy? -

Engaging with Gatekeepers and Institutional Constraints                                   23


Beyond Vulnerabilities and Volatilities Towards

Women’s Substantive Political Representation -

Some Tentative Conclusions                                                                                     27


Bibliography                                                                                                                 29


Your shopping Cart is loading …