In This Review

Gendered Institutions and Women’s Political Representation in Africa
Gendered Institutions and Women’s Political Representation in Africa
Edited by Diana Hojlund Madsen
Zed Books, 2020, 272 pp
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Over the course of the last three decades, many African countries have instituted quotas to increase the representation of women in their legislatures and in leadership positions in political parties. By most quantitative measures, such quotas have succeeded. But have they substantially altered public policies in a manner that benefits the welfare and rights of women? This collection of generally excellent essays offers convincing evidence from half a dozen African countries that the answer is mostly no. The case studies collected here suggest that the reform of formal institutions to increase women’s representation has often been undermined by various informal institutions that continue to enforce patriarchal norms in day-to-day politics. For instance, regardless of official party commitments to gender equality, the patron-client relationships that undergird much of African politics are still dominated by men, especially at the local level. Other factors have also limited progress. In South Africa and Tanzania, for example, female parliamentarians are constrained by conservative attitudes that still hold sway among party elites and that discourage them from proposing more progressive social policies.