Women in power illustration © ALIGN
Women in power illustration © ALIGN

Political representation, voice and mobilisation

Gender norms shape the ways in which people engage in political activity as well as the nature of elections and governance, social movements, and political leadership. Because formal politics represents one of the key arenas where power is exercised, political institutions have been designed based on men’s lived experiences. They are infused with norms that uphold men and the masculine. As a result, formal politics is riddled with various forms of violence against women – from psychological abuse online through sexual harassment to attacks on their lives. Ultimately, violence and the threat of it limits women’s ability to exercise their political voice. 

To achieve gender equality, it is necessary to address norm-based barriers which drive inequalities in the political sphere. These barriers, for example, are formal and informal rules that guide political parties’ recruitment and promotion of women across all levels of governance – from local community councils to the national elected assemblies. 

Some strategies to challenge and change gendered inequalities have been well researched, for example instituting and implementing certain types of gender quotas. These have emerged in response to and with the support of feminist and social movements working nationally and internationally to establish women’s political representation as a norm.

Other strategies include enhancing women’s political voice and leadership. Yet the effectiveness of many strategies remain unexplored, especially within the challenging context of anti-feminist backlash and attacks on democratic rights of women, LGBTQI+ people, people with migration experiences and others. 

This section collates resources on the topic to examine these questions across a range of political, geographic and social contexts. These include reports from studies conducted by ALIGN grants-based partnerships. 

View upcoming research 

Upcoming research

Gender norms and political parties at the grassroots

Women’s experiences show that informal patriarchal norms and violence in political parties are among the leading factors that push women away from formal politics. Yet, in many countries women still choose to join, work for or volunteer for political parties, including socially conservative ones. This contradiction underscores the need to better understand women's motivations for joining political parties, and their experiences of engaging with them as members or supporters. ALIGN is working with a partner organisation to conduct a qualitative research study on political parties at the local, grassroots level to provide insights into how to make political parties more inclusive and ultimately enhance the resilience and sustainability of democracies.