1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Gender Equality: Striving for Justice in an Unequal World (Arabic edition)


From Chapter 10 – Women mobilizing to reshape democracy

Women’s activism in civil society is the main force behind women-friendly legislative change, and underpins the efforts of feminists in public office. A strong and autonomous women’s movement can greatly magnify the influence of a women’s caucus, providing “an external base of support and legitimacy to counterbalance internal government resistance to the enactment and implementation of feminist policies”. Politicians committed to gender equality need to take their cue from domestic women’s movements. Their work would be much simpler if women’s movements were united around a common agenda, or if political parties had greater incentives to respond to women’s needs. Instead, gender concerns compete with many other priorities for women around the world, and may be subsumed by the requirement that they adhere to national or cultural codes whose versions of gender relations are decidedly inequitable.

Women are regarded as having low political efficacy because of their poor endowment in resources such as the time and money needed to create social and political influence, and because their interests diverge according to all manner of social cleavages. Yet women are well mobilized in civil society associations and social movements almost everywhere. The globalization of communications has created new opportunities, enabling women to experiment with new means for bringing key players—governments, corporations and international organizations—to account. Global summits and conferences on a wide range of topics including trade, health and human rights have enabled women to network across countries and regions, and have conferred legitimacy on their own national and international movements as key participants in global policy debates.

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