Theoretical Perspectives on the Participation of Women in Electoral and Governance Processes

Theoretical Perspectives on the Participation of Women in Electoral and Governance Processes

Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/IJPAE.2021100103
(Individual Articles)
No Current Special Offers


This study provides a theoretical perspective on the participation of women in electoral and governance processes. The first part of the article focuses on the various definitions of participation as given by different scholars. The second part focuses on the reasons for women's participation. There are a number of reasons that have been given to justify the inclusion of women in governance and electoral processes. These range from instrumentalist to intrinsic arguments. Women constitute more than 52% of the world's population, and therefore, their participation in electoral and governance processes should also reflect this percentage.
Article Preview


Defining and measuring political participation is by no means straightforward. Yet, how one defines political participation has important consequences for the conclusions drawn about the extent and nature of women’s participation. Early studies tended to adopt narrow definitions (Childs, 2004). There is need to define genuine participation because it would be useful in distinguishing between mere mobilisation of people to implement what the government has predetermined will take place and the actual participation and decision-making by the people themselves. The concept of participation is becoming less concerned with participation in projects and programmes and beginning to focus more on participation in policy processes. Participation can be defined as taking part as an individual and as a community in decision-making in each step of the development process. As a term it is also used to refer to semi-autonomous statutory authorities who are elected by the local people and are legally responsible for the planning and implementation of specific functions.

Otzen (1999) defines participation as a process through which stakeholders influence and share control over development initiatives and the decisions and resources which affect them. Similarly, “Community, public or citizen participation is the act of allowing individual citizens within a community to take part in the formulation of policies and proposals on issues that affect the whole community” (Onibokun and Faniran, 1995: 9). More radical definitions of participation, however, not only emphasise community involvement in the processes of local development, but also demand that social development lead to empowerment of community members. This involves social change to bring about improved living conditions within a community and is especially significant to women. Therefore emphasis on participation is crucial in that the formerly disadvantaged must be the central targets. Liebenberg (1999: 6) supports the above assertion by defining participation as “the organised efforts to increase the control over and access to resources and regulative institutions in society, on the part of individual citizens, groups, movements of those hitherto excluded from such control aimed at the socio-economic development of the whole community.”

The term participation is also defined by Theron (2005: 114) as an activity “where specified groups, sharing the same interests or living in a defined geographic area, actively pursue the identification of their needs and establish mechanisms to make their choice effective.” According to Theron (2005: 117), “the strong interpretation of participation equates participation with empowerment”. In this case empowerment is associated with community or public self-mobilisation, decentralised decision-making, participatory role of civil society in development, and a “call for a bottom-up approach in which power is given to civil society” (Theron, 2005: 117). Participation therefore, refers to public participation as the creation or empowerment of local forums, community organisations, as well as joint planning efforts and activities involving the public. The non-existence, decline or non-empowerment of such activities implies a lack of citizen participation. Evidence of the desire as well as the actions taken for a community initiative and collective efforts are a manifestation of community participation.

Complete Article List

Search this Journal:
Volume 10: 1 Issue (2023)
Volume 9: 4 Issues (2022): 1 Released, 3 Forthcoming
Volume 8: 4 Issues (2021)
Volume 7: 4 Issues (2020)
Volume 6: 4 Issues (2019)
View Complete Journal Contents Listing