Women's Political Participation and Economic Empowerment in Post-conflict Countries: Lessons From the Great Lakes Region in Africa

Published: July 2012

This report represents a synthesis of the key findings and recommendations of a regional research project on women's political participation and economic empowerment in countries emerging from conflicts in the Great Lakes region of Africa. The research focuses on four case studies and examines the nature and quality of women's political participation in the four countries to establish whether women's increased representation in decision making at the national and local governance level has translated into the adoption of gender equality policies and enhancement of women's socio-economic status at all levels of society. The research further analyses the economic dimension of women's political participation by linking women's economic empowerment and their representation in the political arena.

Key Findings

  • In the four studied countries, the war and the political transition periods allowed the emergence of women's organisations for peace and the promotion of women's rights at all levels of society.
  • The adoption of quotas played a key role in the substantial increase of women in decision-making bodies, including local governance.
  • In northern Uganda, women were able to take advantage of the changes in the sexual division of labour and in gender roles, which occurred over twenty years of war, in order to take a more central position in the region's monetary economy. However, these important changes have not had any significant influence on governmental development and reconstruction policies in northern Uganda, which continue to exclude women.
  • The result of nearly five years of the implementation of the quota system in decision-making bodies in Burundi, and the analysis of the impact of the integration of gender into the decentralisation process in Rwanda, show that, despite the increased presence of women in governing bodies thanks to quotas, their influence within them remains low.
  • Political participation is a gendered process and the challenge with which women are faced is to understand how to transform institutions and political and economic systems which remain deeply masculine in nature. This is one of the reasons why numerous gender equality policies, after being adopted, remain difficult to implement.
  • Some local players attribute the difficulties in implementing gender equality policies to the lack of political will of the ruling governments. International institutions tend to essentially promote the technical aspects of local governance, and are less prone to address issues related to power relations, therefore excluding women.
  • The political and security environment is not always conducive to the effective participation of women in political and public life. Genuine longlasting.
  • Gender equality policies can only be implemented in a context of democratic openness.

Populations Women

Complementary Outcomes Gender-based Violence, Political And Civic Participation, Women's Leadership, Women's Rights

Publishers International Alert, EASSI

Geographic Focus Africa (Central)-Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa (Central)-Rwanda, Africa (Eastern)-Burundi, Africa (Eastern)-Uganda

Funded by Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway, Social Science Research Council (SSRC)