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Women’s Representation in the Middle East and North Africa



Women across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are relative newcomers to the political decision-making process. Despite the fact that women were granted the right to vote and participate in elections in most MENA countries since the mid-20th century, the region for decades continued to have one of the lowest percentages of female representation in national legislatures worldwide. As a result, research on the dynamics of female participation in the political (i.e., electoral) realm had been scarce and our knowledge continues to be limited. Only a few studies tackled the issue of women’s presence in formal politics (i.e., legislatures), and they mostly have focused on explicating the sociocultural, structural, and institutional explanations/impediments for women’s access to politics. Thanks to the substantial increase in women’s representation in the legislatures of Arab countries in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings, the past decade has witnessed increased scholarly attention to the dynamics of women’s political representation. It is worth noting that it was not until the onset of the uprisings that women’s political participation in national legislatures exceeded the 10 percent mark. Currently, women constitute, on average, 17 percent of the membership in the parliaments in the region, compared to 40 percent in Nordic countries and 27 percent in both Europe and the Americas. This growth can be attributed to the expansion of quota adoption—especially post–Arab Spring—that has ushered in a new era of increased female representation in some of the region’s most influential legislative bodies.
Women’s Representation in the Middle East
and North Africa
Marwa M. Shalaby
DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199756223-0252
Women across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region are relative newcomers to the political decision-making process.
Despite the fact that women were granted the right to vote and participate in elections in most MENA countries since the mid-20th
century, the region for decades continued to have one of the lowest percentages of female representation in national legislatures
worldwide. As a result, research on the dynamics of female participation in the political (i.e., electoral) realm had been scarce and our
knowledge continues to be limited. Only a few studies tackled the issue of women’s presence in formal politics (i.e., legislatures), and
they mostly have focused on explicating the sociocultural, structural, and institutional explanations/impediments for women’s access to
politics. Thanks to the substantial increase in women’s representation in the legislatures of Arab countries in the aftermath of the Arab
uprisings, the past decade has witnessed increased scholarly attention to the dynamics of women’s political representation. It is worth
noting that it was not until the onset of the uprisings that women’s political participation in national legislatures exceeded the 10 percent
mark. Currently, women constitute, on average, 17 percent of the membership in the parliaments in the region, compared to 40 percent
in Nordic countries and 27 percent in both Europe and the Americas. This growth can be attributed to the expansion of quota adoption
—especially post–Arab Spring—that has ushered in a new era of increased female representation in some of the region’s most
influential legislative bodies. Research has paid much attention to women’s numerical representation in the MENA, female
representation in subnational politics and the relationship between political parties and female politicians as well as women’s voting
behavior. A plethora of studies has also focused on the intersection of formal and informal politics and the role women played during the
Arab uprisings. Despite the remarkable advances in the study of gender and politics over the past decade, numerous knowledge gaps
call for further research. For instance, scholarship on women’s policy priorities (i.e., substantive representation) and how they impact
the electoral realm continues to be largely underdeveloped. Furthermore, very little is still known about the link between women’s
representation in local and national politics, female candidate selection, the relationship between female candidates and/or legislators
and political parties, and the symbolic effect of women’s representation both within MENA legislatures as well as in the broader society.
Female Political Representation: A Conceptual Framework
Pitkin 1967, a seminal work on representation, continues to shape the field of electoral studies. Pitkin’s classifications of representation
—formalistic, descriptive, substantive, and symbolic—are still highly relevant and applicable to the study of representation around the
world. Formalistic representation deals with the formal laws governing women’s access to power. While descriptive representation
refers to the numerical presence of women in representative assemblies, substantive representation deals with the policy outcomes of
legislators’ presence in power and the degree to which representatives seek to advance the interests and preferences of the groups
they represent. Finally, symbolic representation refers to the effect of women’s presence in the political realm on public attitudes.
Scholars emphasize the link between these different forms of representation. Childs 2004 asserts that increasing the number of women
in legislative assemblies is crucial for fostering greater responsiveness to citizen needs—in particular, the needs of women, families,
and ethnic and racial minorities. Relatedly, Mansbridge 2005 states that descriptive representation by gender improves substantive
Rice University
outcomes for women. Recent research shows that women’s presence in the political realm is not merely an issue of fairness; it is, more
importantly, an issue of political efficacy and societal development. Pande 2003 shows that males and females differ fundamentally in
their policy preferences. Paxton and Hughes 2014 maintain that while male politicians may be responsive to women’s issues, they are
less likely to pass legislation that serves the interests of women and children. Female politicians also act as role models across age
groups, motivating young women, in particular, to become more politically active and engaged citizens. Interestingly, Wolbrecht and
Campbell 2007 find that women’s involvement in politics leads to an increase in political engagement, even among young men.
Furthermore, research in Duflo and Topalova 2004 uncovers a link between women’s presence in elected offices and improvements in
the overall effectiveness of government. Finally, Beaman, et al. 2009 present strong evidence that when women serve as political
leaders, countries experience higher standards of living and positive developments in education, infrastructure, and health.
Beaman, Lori, Raghabendra Chattopadhyay, Esther Duflo, Rohini Pande, and Petia Topalova. “Powerful Women: Does
Exposure Reduce Bias?” Quarterly Journal of Economics 124.4 (2009): 1497–1540.
Examine constituents’ perceptions toward female leaders on quota seats in India’s village councils. Find that constituents from villages
that have not had a women leader favor male leaders and believe that women are not as efficient in government. Argue that biases are
based on engrained “social norms,” especially with men. However, this effect decreases over time, concluding that quota arrangements
can contribute toward decreasing negative perceptions.
Childs, Sarah. New Labour‘s Women MPs: Women Representing Women. New York: Routledge, 2004.
Conducts interviews with 34 of the 101 Labour Party female representatives voted into the 1997 British House of Commons to better
understand the roles of women in representing female constituents. Examines women’s roles through descriptive, symbolic, and
substantive representation and assesses the substantive roles of women in more depth, considering their influence on the
parliamentary agenda and how women representatives differ from men.
Duflo, Esther, and Petia Topalova. “Unappreciated Service: Performance, Perceptions, and Women Leaders in India.” Framed
Field Experiments, The Field Experiments Website. October 2004.
Examine the roles of female leaders on reserved seats in India’s village councils and the efficacy of service delivery in these
jurisdictions. The authors find that constituencies led by women provide more services and have lower levels of corruption. Despite this,
constituents in these villages have negative perceptions about services, which may indicate the reason for their reluctance to vote for
Mansbridge, Jane. “Quota Problems: Combating the Dangers of Essentialism.” Politics and Gender 1.4 (2005): 622–637.
Highlights the important role that women’s descriptive representation plays in enhancing substantive representation while asserting that
increased numerical presence is contingent upon the implementation of quota mechanisms. However, Mansbridge argues that
essentialism and biases may accompany quota mechanisms. Thus, the need exists to establish arrangements to alleviate this impact.
One way is through making quota arrangements malleable to allow for adjustments as circumstances progress for female
Pande, Rohini. “Can Mandated Political Representation Provide Disadvantaged Minorities Policy Influence? Evidence from
India.” American Economic Review 93.4 (2003): 1132–1151.
Focuses on India’s reserved seats’ system to determine whether it can have a positive impact on the policymaking authority of
disadvantaged groups, namely castes and tribes. The reservation system is based on census reports on caste and tribe populations in
each state. Finds evidence that it can assist in enhancing policymaking authority, pointing to the improvements in “targeted
redistribution” policies toward caste and tribe members in the past few decades.
Paxton, Pamela, and Melanie Hughes. Women, Politics, and Power: A Global Perspective. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2014.
Comprehensive assessment of female political representation, beginning with a brief history on women’s participation in political
systems generally and noting their gradual involvement in legislative and executive positions. The authors demonstrate variations in
women’s representation in different contexts, pointing to supply and demand-side factors as well as the role of the media, international
actors, culture, and others in influencing female representation.
Pitkin, Hannah F. The Concept of Representation. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1967.
Conceptualizes representation through four approaches: formalistic, symbolic, descriptive, and substantive. Formalistic representation
points to “authorization” through institutions before the initiation of representation. Symbolic and descriptive representation refer to
“standing for” a constituency. The former describes resembling this group, while the latter addresses numerical representation of a
group. Finally, substantive representation highlights “acting for” a constituency that someone represents.
Wolbrecht, Christina, and David E. Campbell. “Leading by Example: Female Members of Parliament as Political Role Models.”
American Journal of Political Science 51.4 (2007): 921–939.
Examine the impact that female representatives have on influencing the political interest and participation of other women, both adults
and adolescents. Using data from Europe and the United States, the authors determine that there is a “role model effect,” and that the
greater number of women representatives in legislative institutions encourages adolescent girls and women in general to become more
politically engaged.
The Dynamics of Female Political Representation in MENA
Research exploring the determinants of women’s presence in the public sphere across the MENA region has yielded mixed results.
Scholars have attributed female underrepresentation in the political sphere to structural, sociocultural, and institutional factors. On the
one hand, Ross 2008 argues that the discovery of oil in many Arab countries has contributed to gender inequality in both the economic
and the political realms. On the other hand, Inglehart and Norris 2003 emphasize the role of religion and cultural norms on women’s
status in Muslim countries. Sabbagh 2005 argues that patriarchy continues to manifest itself in many Arab states through the tribal
system that governs social relations. In a similar vein, Charrad 2001 argues that a long history of “kin-based solidarities” in the political
realm among male elites can be blamed for women’s political underrepresentation, rather than Islam or oil production. Al-Rasheed 2013
warns that views about women’s status in Saudi Arabia should move beyond religion and include the myriad institutional, historical, and
political factors that have contributed to this reality. Scholars have also paid much attention to the impact of institutional factors on
women’s political leadership. Brand 1998 examines the effect of the political liberalization processes on women’s rights—mainly state-
sponsored feminism—led by the regimes in Morocco, Tunisia, and Jordan. Combining cultural and institutional explanations, Fish 2002
shows that Islamic traditions and authoritarianism tend to suppress women’s rights in Muslim-majority countries. Donno and Russett
2004 challenge Fish’s findings and present evidence that the suppression of women’s rights is more likely to occur in Arab rather than
Muslim-majority states. This finding is confirmed in Rizzo, et al. 2007, a study that finds that attitudes toward gender equality are much
lower in Arab nations compared to Muslim-majority countries. Finally, Chaturvedi and Montoya 2013 demonstrate in this cross-national
comparative analysis that states that control the incursion of religion into the political sphere tend to fare better in promoting women’s
Al-Rasheed, Madawi. A Most Masculine State: Gender, Politics, and Religion in Saudi Arabia. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge
University Press, 2013.
Asserts that the relegation of women in Saudi Arabian society must be viewed beyond existing “ahistorical” explanations, which focus
on religion. Rather, argues that the dominance of “religious nationalism” based on the ultra-conservative Wahhabi doctrine is
responsible for the current status of women. Also contends that women’s roles in Saudi Arabian society must be contextualized in terms
of historical, religious, and political influences.
Brand, Laurie. Women, the State, and Political Liberalization. New York: Columbia University Press, 1998.
Presents a comparative study on the impact of political liberalization on women in Jordan, Tunisia, and Morocco. Brand asserts that
reforms were motivated by internal efforts in Tunisia, and they were promoted by external actors, in Jordan and Morocco. However,
women in the three contexts were faced with challenges due to the relationship between conservative forces and the state and the lack
of cohesion among women’s organizations
Charrad, Mounira M. States and Women’s Rights: The Making of Postcolonial Tunisia and Morocco. Berkeley: University of
California Press, 2001.
Explores state-building processes in Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia following independence from France, with emphasis on women’s
rights. Contrasts Morocco’s family laws, which are associated with Islamic legal principles, and Algeria’s conservative approach, with
the Tunisian experience, which departs from religious interpretations. Argues that despite common cultural, geographic, and historical
experiences, variations in the roles of tribal groups, and their influences on state-building processes, impacted women’s rights
differently in each country.
Chaturvedi, Neilan S., and Orlando Montoya. “Democracy, Oil, or Religion? Expanding Women’s Rights in the Muslim World.”
Religion and Politics 6.3 (2013): 596–617.
Assert that many Muslim majority countries still lag in women’s rights. The authors find that Muslim countries that limit the influence of
religious forces in politics are more successful at enhancing the rights of women.
Donno, Daniela, and Bruce Russett. “Islam, Authoritarianism and Female Empowerment: What Are the Linkages?” World
Politics 56.4 (2004): 582–607.
Build on Fish 2002 regarding the likelihood of Islamic countries to be autocratic and to suppress women’s rights. Find that Islamic
countries tend to be more authoritarian and oppressive of female rights, but that these factors are more common in Arab countries. Do
not support the claim that infringement on the rights of women is characteristic of autocratic countries or that women’s rights will be
more conducive to democracy.
Fish, M. Steven. “Islam and Authoritarianism.” World Politics 55.1 (2002): 4–37.
Argues that Muslim countries are more likely to be authoritarian based on a cross-national analysis of the political systems of Muslim-
majority countries. Asserts that this may be the case because of the repression of women in Islamic countries and suggests that it is
unlikely for these countries to successfully transition to democracy given the status of women.
Inglehart, Ronald, and Pippa Norris. Rising Tide: Gender Equality and Cultural Change. New York: Cambridge University
Press, 2003.
A cross-national study examining how modernization and the role of cultural and religious considerations within a society impact
opinions and progress on gender equality. Highlights how increased gender equity influences political processes by examining voting
patterns, female political activism, women’s roles in leadership positions, and influence on broader attitudes.
Rizzo, Helen, Abdel-Hamid Abdel-Latif, and Katherine Meyer. “The Relationship between Gender Equality and Democracy: A
Comparison of Arab versus Non-Arab Muslim Societies.” Sociology 41.6 (2007): 1151–1170.
Aim to reevaluate the conclusions of Inglehart and Norris 2003 by using the World Values Survey of 2000 to determine the differences
in attitudes among Muslims in Arab and non-Arab countries toward democratization, gender equity, and religious identification.
Respondents in non-Arab countries voiced greater support for gender equity and were more likely to endorse democracy, while those in
Arab countries voiced their backing for democracy, but not for women’s equality.
Ross, Michael. “Oil, Islam, and Women.” American Political Science Review 102.1 (2008): 107–123.
Argues that oil, not Islam, is to blame for female oppression in the Middle East because it decreases women’s participation in the labor
force and politics. This enhances patriarchal norms; thus, oil-rich countries are impacted through the resource curse in social settings.
Compares the examples of Algeria, an oil-producing country, versus Tunisia and Morocco, which are oil-poor states.
Sabbagh, Amal. “The Arab States: Enhancing Women’s Political Participation.” In Women in Parliament: Beyond Numbers.
Edited by Julie Ballington and Azza M. Karam, 52–71. Stockholm: International IDEA, 2005.
Provides an overview of the development of women’s political participation in the Arab world, while highlighting the variations that
define the region. Despite some overlaps in political experiences among Arab states, wide variations are found among countries in
terms of the government’s role and contextual factors associated with female representation. Analyzes the challenges facing Arab
women, focusing on Jordan, Lebanon, and Yemen, and presents potential solutions.
Descriptive Representation
Scholars have devoted much work to women’s numerical presence (i.e., descriptive representation) in MENA legislatures. In particular,
studies on the impact of women’s organizations, new and existing electoral laws, constitutional amendments, and other legal
mechanisms for increasing women’s presence in the political sphere have flourished. Berkovitch and Moghadam 1999 discuss the role
of women’s associations across MENA in challenging patriarchal and long-standing political structures. Arat 1989, a seminal work on
women’s presence in Turkish politics, is instrumental for understanding the dynamics of female political representation with the existing
deep ideological schisms between the secular and Islamist political forces. Koolaee 2014 sheds light on contributions by female
parliamentary members to the reformist movement, which was ushered in by the victory of President Mohammad Khatami in 1997.
Focusing on the Arab world, Sadiqi and Ennaji 2006 highlight the role of women’s organizations in Morocco on promoting women’s
presence in the public sphere. Bush and Jamal 2015 examine the determinants of mass support for female political representation in
Jordan. Olimat 2009 highlights the challenges female politicians in Kuwait faced in accessing political power in two consecutive
elections—2006 and 2008—despite being granted the right to vote and run for office in 2005. Research in Norris 2007 analyzes the
effect of legal mechanisms, such as reserved seats and statutory gender quotas, on promoting women’s representation in Iraq and
Afghanistan. Darhour and Dahlerup 2013 examine the effect of gender quotas on creating sustainable female political representation in
Morocco. Sater 2007 explores the political parties’ strategies to strengthen their respective influence in the legislature following the
introduction of informal gender quotas in Morocco in 2002. Shalaby 2016 assesses the status of women’s representation in the Tunisian
parliament after the inclusion of the parity clause in the 2014 constitution. The study also highlights the importance of the design of
electoral laws for achieving the desired outcomes of the constitutional mechanisms related to women’s political empowerment.
Arat, Yesim. The Patriarchal Paradox: Women Politicians in Turkey. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1989.
Asserts that female representatives in Turkey were brought into the political realm by men and Atatürk’s modernization policies, thus
explores women’s political roles through a patriarchal lens. Conducts interviews with twenty-eight female representatives from the
parliament and municipal councils and ten male parliamentarians who served from 1950 to 1980. Finds that women developed more
interest in politics over time while they continued to be expected to fulfill their roles as housewives.
Berkovitch, Nitza, and Valentine M. Moghadam. “Middle East Politics and Women’s Collective Action: Challenging the Status
Quo.” Social Politics: International Studies in Gender, State, and Society 6.3 (1999): 273–291.
Shed light on the contribution of women’s organizations toward challenging the political and cultural realities in their societies. The
authors propose five main propositions to further advance research on gender and politics in the MENA region.
Bush, Sarah Sunn, and Amaney A. Jamal. “Anti-Americanism, Authoritarian Politics, and Attitudes about Women’s
Representation: Evidence from a Survey Experiment in Jordan.” International Studies Quarterly 59.1 (2015): 34–45.
Investigate whether American support for increased women’s representation impacts public support in Jordan. The authors hypothesize
that the backing by the United States of increased female representation will negatively impact mass support for female politicians.
However, findings indicate that attitudes toward women’s representation are not affected by American backing for gender equality nor
are they impacted by the support of religious imams, who are typically thought to back the monarchy and US-driven policies.
Darhour, Hanane, and Drude Dahlerup. “Sustainable Representation of Women through Gender Quotas: A Decade’s
Experience in Morocco.” Women’s Studies International Forum 41.2 (2013): 132–142.
Examine the number of women in the Moroccan legislature following the implementation of the quota system, which allocated thirty
seats for women in 2002 and 2007 and sixty seats in 2011. The 2011 formal quota replaced the previous “honorary agreement” among
parties for inclusion of women on electoral lists passed in 2002. Also discuss women representatives in national versus district
elections, that latter of which have a disproportionately low number of women running for office.
Koolaee, Elaheh. “The Prospects for Democracy: Women Reformists in the Iranian Parliament.” In On Shifting Ground:
Muslim Women in the Global Era. 2d ed. Edited by Fereshteh Nouraie-Simone, 297–310. New York: Feminist Press at the City
University of New York, 2014.
Written by a former member of parliament (MP), who details the efforts of the Women’s Faction in the 2000 Iranian parliament that had
a reformist majority. Highlights endeavors to adopt the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
(CEDAW) and reform laws that restricted women’s freedoms in the areas of marriage, inheritance, education, and others. Discusses the
difficulties of implementing reforms in a context dominated by conservatives.
Norris, Pippa. “Opening the Door: Women Leaders and Constitution-Building in Iraq and Afghanistan.” In Women and
Leadership: The State of Play and Strategies for Change. Edited by Barbara Kellerman and Deborah L. Rhode, 197–226. New
York: Jossey-Bass, 2007.
Explores the effect of quotas in Iraq and Afghanistan on increasing the number of elected female candidates. Specific attention given to
the reserved seat mechanism, as in the example of Afghanistan, and statutory gender quotas, which were used in the Iraqi assembly.
Finds that both mechanisms increased the election of female candidates, which points to the importance of using “fast-track” strategies
to increase female presence in legislative assemblies.
Olimat, Muhamad S. “Women and Politics in Kuwait.” Journal of International Women’s Studies 11.2 (2009): 199–212.
Discusses the reasons for the lack of female representation in the 2006 and 2008 Kuwaiti parliamentary elections, despite women
gaining the right to vote in 2005. Traces the history of obstacles to female political participation in Kuwait, specifically analyzing the
issues that prevented women from gaining any seats in either election, including lack of support from constituents, a high degree of
competition among female candidates, and influences of tribes and Islamists in the elections.
Sadiqi, Fatima, and Moha Ennaji. “The Feminization of Public Space: Women’s Activism, the Family Law, and Social Change
in Morocco.” Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies 2.2 (2006): 86–114.
Argue that the feminist movement in Morocco has made significant strides toward empowering women in the public sphere over the
past few decades. The authors specifically focus on the consequences of the implementation of the Family Law reforms on challenging
the status quo and on democratizing the public sphere.
Sater, James N. “Changing Politics from Below? Women Parliamentarians in Morocco.” Democratization 14.4 (2007): 723–742.
Highlights the strategies of the parties to fill their lists with women in 2002 following the enforcement of the informal quota agreement to
access patronage and increase the influence of women in the parliament.
Shalaby, Marwa. “Challenges Facing Women’s Political Participation Post Arab Spring: The Cases of Egypt and Tunisia.” In
Empowering Women after the Arab Spring. Edited by Marwa Shalaby and Valentine Moghadam, 171–191. New York: Palgrave
Macmillan, 2016.
Offers a critical analysis of women’s gains in Egypt and Tunisia’s post-revolutionary constitutions. Shalaby argues that while both
countries have introduced a number of amendments in their newly drafted constitutions to guarantee women more political rights, it is
imperative that these articles are supplemented by adequate electoral mechanisms and laws to achieve their desired outcomes.
Quota Systems and Female Descriptive Representation
The proliferation of research on quota mechanisms has yielded mixed results, not only in the Arab world, but also globally. The majority
of scholars agree that quota systems can play an integral role not only in empowering women in legislatures, but also in changing
perceptions within society at large and promoting higher acceptance of women’s presence in leadership positions. In the case of the
Arab world, Abou Zeid 2006 offers a comprehensive overview of the different political, social, and legal factors that have led to the
adoption of gender quotas across the region. Dahlerup 2009 observes that the reserved seats system is the most common quota
mechanism employed, and the author raises questions regarding the inclusion of women in politics and democratization in the Arab
world. Kang 2009 counters the assumption in Ross 2008 (cited under the Dynamics of Female Political Representation in MENA) on
the effect of oil on women’s representation and argues that quotas can indeed increase the presence of women in politics and trump
the suppressive effect of oil. Other scholars are less optimistic about the effect of quota introduction in the Arab context. Goulding 2009,
for instance, states that the effectiveness of the quota system in Tunisia, which began in 2004, had been severely limited by the
authoritarian context under which it was introduced. Sater 2012 shares a similar view for the Moroccan case and argues that quota
mechanisms are indeed “embedded” in the fabric of the existing authoritarian structures, with very limited impact on producing genuine
change. Welborne 2010 discusses the strategic use of gender quotas in the region in response to pressure from international
organizations and aid donors. Relatedly, Bush and Gao 2017 find that tribes in Jordan, especially the small ones, use the female quota
seats strategically, as they tend to nominate women in districts where they are less likely to win seats.
Abou Zeid, Gihan. “The Arab Region: Women’s Access to the Decision-Making Process across the Arab Nation.” In Women,
Quotas, and Politics. Edited by Drude Dahlerup, 168–193. New York: Routledge, 2006.
Discusses the factors leading to the adoption of quota systems in the Arab world. Traces the reasons for quota implementation in the
region, pointing to global and regional factors, structural adjustment, and women’s activism. Also expands on the types of gender
quotas adopted, with reserved seats being the most common, and highlights other forms of female political participation as well as
challenges encountered by women in the Arab world.
Bush, Sarah S., and Eleanor X. Gao. “Small Tribes, Big Gains: The Strategic Uses of Gender Quotas in the Middle East.”
Comparative Politics 49.2 (2017): 149–167.
Argue that gender quotas are used by small tribes in Jordan to gain more power, particularly in districts where they have small chances
to win votes with male candidates.
Dahlerup, Drude. “Women in Arab Parliaments: Can Gender Quotas Contribute to Democratization?” Al-Raida 126–27 (2009):
Explores the use of quota mechanisms in the Arab world with a specific focus on the types of quotas implemented in the region.
Dahlerup finds that the majority of countries have implemented a reserved seat system. She comments on the lack of mechanisms
governing the placement of female names on electoral lists, thus further disadvantaging female candidates.
Goulding, Kristine. “Unjustifiable Means to Unjustifiable Ends: Delegitimizing Parliamentary Gender Quotas in Tunisia.” Al-
Raida 126–127 (2009): 71–78.
Highlights the role of state-sponsored feminism in Tunisia under the Ben ‘Ali regime and argues that it hindered the potential for real
change. Further argues that the quota makes the regime look better by integrating women into the political system, though it does not
promote real women’s leadership.
Kang, Alice. “Studying Oil, Islam, and Women as if Political Institutions Mattered.” Politics and Gender 5.4 (2009): 560–568.
Builds on the argument in Ross 2008 (cited under the Dynamics of Female Political Representation in MENA) that oil, rather than Islam,
is the reason why gender equality is lagging in the Middle East. Using a cross-national study and controls for effect of oil rents on
female participation, Kang finds that institutions, namely, quota mechanisms, can enhance women’s participation and mitigate the
negative impacts of oil on women’s political participation.
Sater, James N. “Reserved Seats, Patriarchy, and Patronage in Morocco.” In The Impact of Gender Quotas. Edited by Susan
Franceschet, Mona L. Krook, and Jennifer M. Piscopo, 72–86. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
Scrutinizes the role of female representatives in the aftermath of the passage of the 2002 informal quota mandating that thirty seats be
reserved for females in the Moroccan parliament. Though women deputies share many characteristics in terms of education and
professional background, rigid party loyalties, particularly to party leadership, prevented greater collaboration.
Welborne, Bozena C. “The Strategic Use of Gender Quotas in the Arab World.” William and Kathy Hybl Democracy Studies
Fellowship Paper. Washington, DC: International Foundation for Electoral Systems, 2010.
Examines the determinants of quota implementation across twenty-two countries in the Arab world from 1990 to 2009. Finds that
international aid increases the likelihood for countries to adopt gender quotas.
Substantive Representation
While a considerable number of studies are published on the dynamics of women’s descriptive representation in the MENA region, very
little is still known about the legislative priorities of female legislators and/or the policy outcomes of their presence in national
assemblies. This shortcoming can be partially attributed to the relatively short period of time that female politicians have spent in these
assemblies and the lack of reliable data on the topic. Two of the main studies dealing with women’s substantive representation in
Turkey and Iran are Ayata and Tütüncü 2008 and Moghadam and Haghighatjoo 2016, respectively. Ayata and Tütüncü 2008 examine
the role of female members in the Turkish parliament in promoting legislation critical to women’s rights in the country. Moghadam and
Haghighatjoo 2016 present findings on women’s roles in the Iranian Sixth Parliament and how vigorously women pushed for gender-
related reforms despite their minority status. Using parliamentary data, mainly legislative bills and questions, the author of Shalaby
2016 offers first insights on the gendered differences in legislative priorities in three Arab parliaments: Jordan, Morocco, and Kuwait.
Olimat 2011 sheds light on the accomplishments of the four women in the Kuwaiti parliament in 2009, the first female members to serve
in the parliament’s history. Benstead 2016 demonstrates in this study on Morocco and Algeria that female legislators who won quota
seats are more likely to be responsive to their female constituents in Morocco compared to the Algerian context. Finally, Shalaby and
Elimam 2017 present compelling evidence that women’s political tenure and expertise as well as the duration of quota systems are
potent factors in determining their membership in influential legislative committees in Morocco, Jordan, and Algeria.
Ayata, Ayse Gunes, and Fatma Tütüncü. “Critical Acts without a Critical Mass: The Substantive Representation of Women in
the Turkish Parliament.” Parliamentary Affairs 61.3 (2008): 461–475.
Based on interviews with twenty female parliamentarians, the authors examine the role of female representatives in the Turkish
parliament during revisions of the civil and penal codes in 2002 and 2004, respectively. They assert that despite the lack of a critical
mass and significant party discipline, female representatives, along with male deputies from leftist and centrist parties, were able to
push for greater gender equality in the codes.
Benstead, Lindsay. “Why Quotas Are Needed to Improve Women’s Access to Services in Clientelistic Regimes.” Governance:
An International Journal of Policy, Administration, and Institutions 29.2 (2016): 185–205.
Examines the connections among gender, quota mechanisms, and service delivery in two clientelistic settings: Morocco and Algeria.
Finds that female representatives, particularly those elected through quotas, are more receptive to female constituents in Morocco, but
not in Algeria. Attributes the variations between the two countries to the differences in the quota structures within their political systems.
Moghadam, Valentine M., and Fatemeh Haghighatjoo. “Women and Political Leadership in an Authoritarian Context: A Case
Study of the Sixth Parliament in the Islamic Republic of Iran.” Politics and Gender 12.1 (2016): 168–197.
Shed light on the performance of female legislators in 2000 in pushing for women’s rights in Iran. Female representatives were
successful in forming the women’s caucus and concentrating their efforts on reforming the provisions of the civil code, pushing for
increased representation of women in leadership positions, and holding government leaders responsible for their actions.
Olimat, Muhamad S. “Women and the Kuwaiti National Assembly.” Journal of International Women’s Studies 12.3 (2011): 76–
Examines female political participation in the Kuwaiti legislature following the unprecedented election of four women to the 2009
National Assembly.
Shalaby, Marwa. “Women’s Political Representation and Authoritarianism in the Arab World.” Project on Middle East Political
Science. Washington, DC: Elliott School of International Affairs, 2016.
Argues that women deputies are restricted by the authoritarian nature of legislatures in the MENA region. Examines substantive
representation in Morocco, Kuwait, and Jordan through exploring the topics addressed in the legislative questions posed by female
parliamentarians. Finds that women prioritize topics related to social issues, but they do not ask questions related to women, children,
and the family.
Shalaby, Marwa, and Laila Elimam. “Women in Legislative Committees in Arab Parliaments.” Carnegie Sada Middle East
Analysis. 26 April 2017.
Analyze the substantive representation of women in the legislative committees of the Algerian, Moroccan, and Tunisian parliaments.
The authors categorize committees into four groups—power, economic and foreign affairs, social issues, and women’s issues—and find
that women are overrepresented in committees on social issues, particularly in Algeria and Morocco. In Tunisia, women’s committee
membership is more in line with their overall representation in the assembly.
Female Politicians in Subnational Politics
Research on the determinants and status of women’s representation in local politics and government—in both developed and
developing democracies—is scarce. This shortcoming is unwarranted given the fact that most of the policymaking and service provision
processes take place on the local level. Participation in local governance may also provide female politicians with critical political
expertise and prepare them for higher level positions. Though conventional wisdom suggests that lower-level offices are more open and
accessible to women and other underrepresented groups compared to higher-level offices, this assumption has remained largely
unexplored. The authors of Aydogan, et al. 2016 test this argument using time-series data from national and local elections in Turkey.
They found that the percentage of female candidates and winners was systematically lower in local legislative offices compared to
those in national elections over the past decade. Using qualitative interview data with thirty-four female mayors elected in 2004 and
2009, the authors of Koyuncu and Sumbas 2016 explore the effect of women’s political representation on Turkey’s local politics and find
that female mayorship is critical for advancing women’s issues. Assef and Nanes 2011 explicate the international and local conditions
surrounding the introduction of the 20 percent women quota in the Jordanian municipal councils. Nanes 2015 highlights the importance
of quotas on promoting women’s presence in local politics in Jordan. Similarly, Berriane 2015 explores the effect of 2009 quota
legislation in Morocco on women’s political representation at the local level. Kassem 2012 scrutinizes the role of women in Lebanon’s
municipal councils and argues that women’s presence in subnational politics may lead to higher levels of political leadership.
Assef, David, and Stefanie Nanes. “The Women’s Quota in Jordan’s Municipal Councils: International and Domestic
Dimensions.” Journal of Women, Politics, and Policy 32.4 (2011): 275–304.
Trace the adoption of quota mechanisms in municipal councils in Jordan, with a focus on the impact of international actors on the
monarchy and the influence of national forces on the quota. Point to the negative connotations that surround quotas given the
perception of international pressure and varying local opinions and outcomes among female candidates.
Aydogan, Abdullah, Marwa Shalaby, and Melissa Marschall. “Women’s Representation across National and Local Office in
Turkey.” Project on Middle East Political Science. Washington, DC: Elliott School of International Affairs, 2016.
Compare women’s access to political office on the local versus national levels in Turkey. Aim to empirically test the assumption that
female politicians are overrepresented in local offices due to their accessibility. Find that women are actually underrepresented in local
offices and are elected in greater numbers in district councils, which are mid-level positions, compared to lower- or higher-level
Berriane, Yasmine. “The Micro-politics of Reform: Gender Quota, Grassroots Associations and the Renewal of Local Elites in
Morocco.” Journal of North African Studies 20.3 (2015): 432–449.
Assesses the roles of three female candidates in the 2009 local elections in Morocco through interviews with the candidates.
Determines that the involvement of women at the local level as well as having a leadership role in an association increases their
Kassem, Fatima S. “Can Women Break Through? Women in Municipalities: Lebanon in Comparative Perspective.” Women’s
Studies International Forum 35.4 (2012): 233–255.
Examines the opportunities for women in municipal councils versus parliament in Lebanon. Specifically focuses on the extent to which a
party adopts a religious direction within its political program and how this influences support of women. Finds that parties across the
religiosity spectrum support the nomination of female candidates in municipal councils, though not in parliaments, because of the
availability of seats, the role of women in local communities, and accessibility.
Koyuncu, L. Berrin, and Ahu Sumbas. “Discussing Women’s Representation in Local Politics in Turkey: The Case of Female
Mayorship.” Women’s Studies International Forum 58 (2016): 41–50.
The authors interview thirty-four female mayors in Turkey to determine the effect of the election of women on symbolic, descriptive, and
substantive representation. They assert that mayorship enhances women’s representation in all three domains, which influence each
other. For example, descriptive representation reflects on symbolic representation, given that female mayors are seen as role models.
Nanes, Stefanie. “‘The Quota Encouraged Me to Run’: Evaluating Jordan’s Municipal Quota for Women.” Journal of Women’s
Middle East Studies 11.3 (2015): 261–282.
Nanes interviews twenty-six women elected in the Jordanian municipal elections after the implementation of the gender quota in 2007.
Finds that women were highly motivated to stand for elections because of the implementation of the quota. Concludes that quota
mechanisms can assist women in getting to power even in non-democratic settings.
Female Politicians and Political Parties
Parties play an integral role in selecting, nominating, and recruiting female candidates, yet research on the relationship between
political parties and women’s political representation in MENA countries still lags behind. Most studies have focused on the strategies of
the Islamist/religious parties toward women’s inclusion in their rank and file. A cross-national study, Lu 2013 finds that female politicians
generally fare better in non-Muslim-majority countries. Ait-Zai 2014 stresses the importance of political parties’ commitments to
promoting women’s female political representation. The author focuses on the Algerian experience and highlights the significance of the
recent electoral law reforms (mainly the quotas and enforcement mechanisms) that led to a watershed in female access to power in the
2012 elections. Ben Shitrit 2016 discusses the transformation in campaign rhetoric and policies by religious parties following the
introduction of quota systems in Palestine, Egypt, and Israel. Clark and Schwedler 2003 investigate the reasons behind the increase in
women’s political participation in Islamist parties in Jordan and Yemen. Alatiyat and Barari 2010 further examine the relationship
between Jordan’s Islamic Action Front (IAF), women’s movements, and the Islamist discourse regarding women’s rights over the past
two decades. Çitak and Tür 2008 explicate the discourse and practices of the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) with
regard to women’s issues in Turkey. Relatedly, Ayata and Tütüncü 2008 highlight how the presence of female politicians in the AKP
affects the party’s policies toward women and gender equality. Taj al i 2 01 7 sheds light on efforts by high-ranking women within Islamist
parties in Iran and Turkey to address the underrepresentation of women in politics.
Ait-Zai, Nadia. “Political Parties in Algeria: The Position of Women in Operation and Representation.” In A New Paradigm:
Perspectives on the Changing Mediterranean. Edited by Sasha Toperich and Andy Mullins, 233–243. Washington, DC: Center
for Transatlantic Relations, 2014.
Traces the evolution of the Algerian party system and the country’s transition from a single-party to multiparty system in 1989.
Highlights the resistance of the parties to the 2002 quota and female political participation. Calls for implementation of more gender-
friendly policies that encourage women’s participation, such as consolidating women’s sections within parties and making childcare
Alatiyat, Ibtesam, and Hassan Barari. “Liberating Women with Islam? The Islamists and Women’s Issues in Jordan.”
Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions 11.3–4 (2010): 359–378.
Study the ways the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which was supported by
the regime in Jordan, was received by Islamist parties and their positions toward women’s rights. Despite improvements in women’s
rights due to female activists and successful political inclusion of Islamists, Islamist parties continue to pursue traditionalist discourses
toward women’s issues.
Ayata, Ayşe Gunes, and Fatma Tütüncü. “Party Politics of the AKP (2002–2007) and the Predicaments of Women at the
Intersection of the Westernist, Islamist and Feminist Discourses in Turkey.” British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 35.3
(2008): 363–384.
Highlight the roles of female politicians in influencing the policies of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Turkey between 2002
and 2007. Based on interviews with female politicians, the authors assert that, despite increased roles for women in the political sphere,
the AKP has not advocated for more gender-friendly policies.
Ben Shitrit, Lihi. “Authenticating Representation: Women’s Quotas and Islamist Parties.” Politics and Gender 12.4 (2016):
Compares the way female representation and gender quotas were received by Hamas in the Palestinian Authority, the Muslim
Brotherhood in Egypt, and the Islamic Movement in Israel. Finds that Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, unlike the Islamic Movement
in Israel, adhered to gender quotas on the parliamentary level and framed their cooperation in terms of Islamic principles.
Çitak, Zana, and Özlem Tür. “Women between Tradition and Change: The Justice and Development Party Experience in
Turkey.” Middle Eastern Studies 44.3 (2008): 455–469.
Assess the rhetoric and policies of the Turkish Justice and Development Party (AKP) toward women. Despite making advances for
women through supporting the notion of gender equality, establishing women’s groups within the party, and pushing for policies that
improve the status of women, the AKP lacks a clear vision regarding female participation.
Clark, Janine A., and Jillian Schwedler. “Who Opened the Window? Women’s Activism in Islamist Parties.” Comparative
Politics 35.3 (2003): 293–312.
Seek to explain the sudden increase in female participation in the Islamist Islamic Action Front (IAF) and Islah parties in Jordan and
Yemen, respectively, despite the lack of articulated feminist strategies in either party. Find that party members did not support women’s
inclusion in civil society outside the party nor internally. Conclude that female participation increased because women took advantage of
internal disagreements in each party’s ideology and strategy.
Lu, Sophia Francesca Del Prado. “Women’s Electoral Participation in Muslim Majority and Non-Muslim Majority Countries.”
Journal of International Women’s Studies 14.3 (2013): 137–147.
Studies the activities of women in parliament, party nominations, and voting in twenty Muslim and six non-Muslim majority countries to
determine the impact of Islam on female political participation. Concludes that female constituents are less active in Muslim majority
countries, attributing this to traditional perspectives on women’s roles that prevents them from increased political participation.
Tajali, Mona. “Protesting Gender Discrimination from Within: Women’s Political Representation on Behalf of Islamic Parties.”
British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 44.2 (2017): 176–193.
Studies the puzzle of female involvement with Islamist parties in Turkey and Iran, despite the seemingly disadvantageous gender
policies that Islamist parties support. Argues that women in Islamist parties are instrumental in using “internal criticism” to drive reforms
for greater female representation and highlights the role of public debates in pushing for increased women’s involvement in leadership
Women as Political Candidates
Kasapoglu and Özerkmen 2011 aim to understand the low levels of women’s political participation in Turkey. Liddell 2009 comments on
the inability of political parties in Morocco to employ transparent and clear rules for women’s inclusion on national lists. Amawi 2007
sheds light on the challenges female politicians in Jordan faced in gaining parliamentary seats prior to the introduction of the gender
quota system in 2003. Using experimental design, the authors of Benstead, et al. 2015 focus on the Tunisian context and examine
voters’ perceptions of female candidates. Similarly, relying on experimental evidence in Turkey, the authors of Matland and Tezcür 2011
show that voters’ decisions are based on female candidates’ party and policy stances rather than the women’s individual characteristics
and/or perceptions of their competence in specific policy areas.
Amawi, Abla. “Against All Odds: Women Candidates in Jordanian Elections.” In From Patriarchy to Empowerment. Edited by
Valentine Moghadam, 40–57. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2007.
Examines the outcome of the 1997 Jordanian legislative elections, in which sixteen women ran but none were elected. Discusses the
obstacles facing women’s involvement in the political sphere such as the impact of tribalism, patriarchy, and the role of the family.
Concludes by highlighting the implementation process of the 2003 quota.
Benstead, Lindsay J., Amaney A. Jamal, and Ellen Lust. “Is It Gender, Religiosity or Both? A Role Congruity Theory of
Candidate Electability in Transitional Tunisia.” Perspectives on Politics 13.1 (2015): 74–94.
Analyze the perceptions of voters in Tunisia toward potential leaders by showing them images of secular and religious male and female
candidates and asking them to share their voting preferences. Find that respondents prefer the secular male candidate because he
most closely resembles voters’ understanding of a leader, based on past experience, namely figures in the Ben ‘Ali regime.
Kasapoglu, Aytül, and Necmettin Özerkmen. “Gender Imbalance: The Case of Women’s Political Participation in Turkey.”
Journal of International Women’s Studies 12.4 (2011): 97–107.
Explore determinants of low female political participation in Turkey through surveying 408 women. Find that women’s political
participation is highly influenced by family, who hold traditional views and whose political opinions usually determine the opinions of
women. Call for the need for gender quotas and greater women’s participation in parties, civil society, and media reporting.
Liddell, James. “Gender Quotas in Clientelist Systems: The Case of Morocco’s National List.” Al-Raida 126–127 (2009): 79–86.
Studies the implementation of Morocco’s informal quota in 2002. Though it increased women’s numerical representation, it did not
result in improving the patriarchal nature of Moroccan politics. Attributes this to the fact that female candidates are operating in a
clientelistic setting where they are expected to be loyal to the party and male family/party members who nominate them, thus, limiting
their decision-making power.
Matland, Richard E., and Günes Murat Tezcür. “Women as Candidates: An Experimental Study in Turkey.” Politics and Gender
7.3 (2011): 365–390.
Present Turkish students with speeches of hypothetical male and female candidates from the Justice and Development Party (AKP)
and the Republican People’s Party (CHP) to determine how gender influences their voting preferences and perceptions. Students do
not prefer either candidate in voting, but they view female candidates as more competent in certain policy areas. Concludes that voters
are more interested in the party platforms of representatives than their gender.
Woman as Voters/Constituents
Studies exploring the dynamics of women’s voting behavior in the MENA region have yielded mixed results over the past decade.
Blaydes and El Tarouty 2009 analyze how ideology and economic status impacted Egyptian women’s voting behavior during former
president Hosni Mubarak’s rule. Al Subhi and Smith 2017 present evidence that women in Oman are more supportive of female
politicians than their male counterparts. Benstead 2017 finds that female constituents are more likely to be cognizant of female
deputies, especially those from Islamist parties. Blaydes 2014 examines the effect of informal Islamist governance on female
constituents. Abdo-Katsipis 2017 argues that women in Tunisia have lower levels of political awareness, which may be attributed to the
fact that women tend to have lower levels of education, income, and political interest.
Abdo, Carla B. “The Future of Female Mobilization in Lebanon, Morocco, and Yemen after the Arab Spring.” Project on Middle
East Political Science. Washington, DC: Elliott School of International Affairs, 2016.
Examines patterns of female voting in Lebanon, Morocco, and Yemen based on survey data prior to the Arab uprisings. Finds that
women’s political participation was lower than their male counterparts and attributes the lack of engagement to restrictions imposed
upon them by family members. Concludes that the changes that accompanied the Arab uprisings will not be effective as long as Arab
women are not fully participating in elections.
Abdo-Katsipis, Carla B. “Women, Political Participation, and the Arab Spring: Political Awareness and Participation in
Democratizing Tunisia.” Journal of Women, Politics, and Policy 38.4 (2017): 413–429.
Examines respondents’ levels of political awareness in Tunisia in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Finds that women are less politically
aware than their male counterparts and that respondents with higher levels of education, income, political interest, and information
about politics are more politically aware. Also finds that the effect is compounded for women who live farther away from urban centers.
Al Subhi, Ahlam K., and Amy Erica Smith. “Electing Women to New Arab Assemblies: The Roles of Gender Ideology, Islam,
and Tribalism in Oman.” International Political Science Review, online first (2017): 1–18.
Determine the extent of backing for female representation in Oman’s legislative assembly—Majlis al-Shura—through conducting public
opinion surveys with 500 adults in 2015 prior to the elections. Find that opinions regarding women’s participation is for the most part
uniform across society, though women and older men are more supportive of female representation than younger men. Attributes the
lack of support to the prevalence of tribalism and religiosity.
Benstead, Lindsay. “When Islamist Parties (and Women) Govern: Strategy, Authenticity and Women’s Representation.”
Project on Middle East Political Science. Washington, DC: Elliott School of International Affairs, 2017.
Surveys citizens to determine their familiarity with representatives. Finds that female constituents are more likely to be familiar with their
representative in constituencies where there are more women elected and more so in districts with more Islamist female deputies. This
is due to the clear mandate of Islamist parties in terms of service provision and use of Islamist female representatives to reach women.
Blaydes, Lisa. “How Does Islamist Local Governance Affect the Lives of Women?” Governance 27.3 (2014): 489–509.
Explores the way local informal governance structures influence the health of women in two neighborhoods in Greater Cairo, one run by
an Islamist group and the other run by a non-Islamist group. Matches the women in the two neighborhoods and finds that women in the
Islamist-run neighborhood have better health conditions, likely due to the better service provision of Islamist groups, particularly in the
absence of the state.
Blaydes, Lisa, and Safinaz El Tarouty. “Women’s Electoral Participation in Egypt: The Implications of Gender for Voter
Recruitment and Mobilization.” Middle East Journal 63.3 (2009): 364–380.
Argue that female constituents in Egypt were driven to participate in the 2005 elections either for economic gains or on the basis of
ideological stands. In the first case, the authors highlight clientelist recruitment patterns targeting disadvantaged women, since voters
receive payment for votes. For the Muslim Brotherhood, the major opposition group at the time, female supporters were highly trained
and motivated by their ideological beliefs to recruit voters.
On the Intersection of Informal and Formal Politics in the MENA Region
Studies have examined the intersection of formal and informal politics in the region. Research has focused on the role of grassroots
mobilization and informal organizations on promoting women’s presence in the public sphere, in general, and in politics, specifically.
Welborne 2016 evaluates the role of women’s organizations in promoting women’s rights in Morocco, Bahrain, and Jordan. Ennaji 2015
sheds light on the social and political achievements of women’s movements in Morocco and their role on promoting women’s political
representation. Gilman 2007 discusses the limited role of women’s organizations in Tunisia as a result of state hegemony and control.
Al-Mughni 2001 reviews the inability of women’s organizations in Kuwait to advance women’s rights due to their deep ideological rifts.
Moghissi 1993 depicts a similar pattern in post-revolutionary Iran, where leftist women’s movements failed to promote women’s rights.
Peteet 2001 shows that despite the strength of Palestinian women’s organizations in Lebanon, their focus on the country’s nationalist
agenda has limited their ability to push for increased women’s rights. Gerner 2007 observes a similar pattern and argues that the focus
by women’s organizations on the nationalist project has severely hindered their ability to participate in formal politics. In a similar vein,
Jad 2011 argues that the restrictions imposed by Israeli authorities since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority have limited the
roles of women’s organizations in Palestine.
Al-Mughni, Haya. “Women’s Organizations in Kuwait.” In Women and Power in the Middle East. Edited by Suad Joseph and
Susan Slyomovics, 176–182. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001.
Studies women’s movements in Kuwait and concludes that they are hesitant to rock the boat, instead exacerbating existing patriarchal
structures. The author contrasts the efforts of the Arab Women’s Development Society (AWDS), which advocated for women’s rights in
the legislature and was eventually shut down, with the Women’s Cultural and Social Society (WCSS) and Girls’ Club, both of which
have changed in their priorities and activities.
Ennaji, Moha. “Women and Political Participation in Morocco and North Africa States.” In Gender and Power: Towards
Equality and Democratic Governance. Edited by Mino Vianello and Mary Hawkesworth, 35–52. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave
Macmillan, 2015.
Traces the history of women’s political participation in Morocco through a perspective of intersectionality, asserting the presence of
many dynamics in pushing for increased women’s rights. Discusses the impact of state policy, women’s low labor force participation,
female activism, and the Arab Spring on women’s roles in politics. Concludes that although more effort is needed to promote women’s
representation, Morocco fares better than most of its regional counterparts.
Gerner, Deborah. “Mobilizing Women for Nationalist Agendas: Palestinian Women, Civil Society, and the State-Building
Process.” In From Patriarchy to Empowerment: Women’s Participation, Movements, and Rights in the Middle East, North
Africa, and South Asia. Edited by Valentine M. Moghadam, 17–39. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2007.
Traces the history of women’s political participation in Palestine from the late 19th century to the 1996 elections. Explains that the
limited role of women in politics is due to the fact that women frequently encounter tensions between the goal of nationalism and the
pursuit of women’s rights, with the latter being secondary to the nationalist project. Other explanations include the lack of an
institutionalized political system and religious attitudes.
Gilman, Sarah. “Feminist Organizing in Tunisia: Negotiating Transnational Linkages and the State.” In From Patriarchy to
Empowerment: Women’s Participation, Movements, and Rights in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. Edited by
Valentine M. Moghadam, 97–119. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2007.
Discusses the nature of women’s movements in Tunisia, with specific attention to their participation in transnational activities and their
precarious relationship with the state. Contends that women’s rights were bestowed upon them early on with the regime’s passage of
the Personal Status Code following independence. Examines the need for the largest women’s organization, the Femmes Démocrates,
to seek regional organizations with which to collaborate to avoid state “hegemony” and cooption attempts.
Jad, Islah. “Palestinian Women’s Movements and Activism.” In Women in the Middle East and North Africa: Agents of Change.
Edited by Fatima Sadiqi and Moha Ennaji, 89–101. London: Routledge, 2011.
Traces the evolution of women’s organizations in Palestine. Argues that following the Oslo Accords and establishment of the
Palestinian Authority (PA), the formalization of civil society organizations hindered the abilities of women’s groups to maintain their
activities free of persecution from Israeli authorities. PA elites involved secular women in bureaucratic roles, which limited their
activities, thus, giving Islamists greater legitimacy.
Moghissi, Haideh. “Women in the Resistance Movement in Iran.” In Women in the Middle East: Perceptions, Realities, and
Struggles for Liberation. Edited by Haleh Afshar, 158–171. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 1993.
Assesses the performance of leftist women’s organizations in Iran following the 1979 revolution, arguing that the efforts of the two
prominent organizations at the time were not enough to push for women’s rights and, in fact, helped bring about their own demise
through internal conflict. Attributes their lack of action to the dominance of socialist ideas, which did not prioritize feminist issues.
Peteet, Julie. “Women and the Palestinian Movement: No Going Back?” In Women and Power in the Middle East. Edited by
Suad Joseph and Susan Slyomovics, 135–149. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001.
Traces the history of the Palestinian women’s movement in Lebanon from the 1960s to the 1980s and argues that the alignment of the
women’s movement with the nationalist cause helped the movement to establish credibility, despite doing little to advance women’s
rights. Highlights the formation of the General Union of Palestinian Women (GUPW) under the auspices of the Palestine Liberation
Organization (PLO) in the 1960s as a turning point, given its formalization of female activism.
Welborne, Bozena C. “No Agency without Grassroots Autonomy: A Framework for Evaluating Women’s Political Inclusion in
Jordan, Bahrain, and Morocco.” In Empowering Women after the Arab Spring. Edited by Marwa Shalaby and Valentine
Moghadam, 65–90. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.
Assesses whether the increase in female representation in the Middle East has translated to substantive representation and genuine
participation by examining the experiences of Bahrain, Jordan, and Morocco. Determines that progress in women’s rights in Bahrain
and Jordan was initiated by the state, while in Morocco, women’s organizations played a more prominent role, owing to their historical
involvement in the independence movement.
Arab Women and the Arab Spring
Moghadam 2014 discusses the impact of the preexisting legal and social structures on the democratization process in Tunisia, Egypt,
Morocco, Algeria, and Libya since the Arab uprisings. Sjoberg and Whooley 2015 examine the media narratives surrounding the Arab
Spring through a gender lens. The authors discern how these narratives have measured the success of such events based on the
extent to which women were granted more rights. Focusing on the Egyptian context, Allam 2018 aims to shed light on the landscape of
gender during and after the Egyptian revolution to better understand women’s gains. Khalil 2014 traces the ideological shift of the
women’s movement in Tunisia from state-sponsored feminism to gender activism throughout the transitional phase following the
Jasmine revolution. Relatedly, Charrad and Zarrugh 2014 analyze efforts orchestrated by women’s organizations and activists
throughout the drafting of Tunisia’s constitution in 2014 against the “complementarity” clause that stirred much debate during the
drafting process. Contrastingly, Sinha 2012 explains the absence of women’s voices in Algeria as the Arab uprisings were sweeping
most parts of the region. Olimat 2012 also points to the weak gains for women in Kuwait following the waves of uprisings. This is
evident in women’s inability to win seats in the 2012 elections despite their electoral wins in the 2009 elections. Finally, Karolak 2012
highlights the role of Bahraini women in the uprisings and the multiple gains they have made.
Allam, Nermin. Women and the Egyptian Revolution: Engagement and Activism during the 2011 Arab Uprisings. Cambridge,
UK: Cambridge University Press, 2018.
Aims to explain why female protestors did not explicitly voice women’s rights and gender equality demands in the 2011 Egyptian
revolution. Seeks to address this question by shedding light on the significance and limitations of the collective action framework
adopted by female activists during the eighteen-day uprising that led to the ousting of President Mubarak.
Charrad, Mounira M., and Amina Zarrugh. “Equal or Complementary? Women in the New Tunisian Constitution after the Arab
Spring.” Journal of North African Studies 19.2 (2014): 230–243.
Assess the response of women in politics and civil society to the proposed Article 28 in Tunisia’s post-revolutionary constitution
stipulating that females are “complementary,” not equal, to men. Highlight the new forces influencing women’s rights; in contrast to the
former regime, change after the Arab Spring was “bottom-up” (civil society) rather than “top-down” (state).
Karolak, Magdalena. “Bahraini Women in the 21st Century: Disputed Legacy of the Unfinished Revolution.” Journal of
International Women’s Studies 13.5 (2012): 5–16.
Points to female participation in the Bahraini uprisings, both in opposition to and in support of the government. Asserts that progress on
women’s rights has been mixed—women’s groups participated in the National Dialogue established by the monarchy following the
protests and made proposals addressing women’s rights. Three female candidates were also elected in legislative by-elections.
Khalil, Andrea. “Tunisia’s Women: Partners in Revolution.” Journal of North African Studies 19.2 (2014): 186–199.
Discusses the roles of women in Tunisia during and following the Arab Spring, pointing to their activism in contrast to the old regime’s
promulgation of state feminism. Asserts that despite the dichotomy between Islamist and secular women, much of their objectives
intersected. Analyzes the representation of women in parties, political structures, media, and rural contexts in the aftermath of the
Moghadam, Valentine M. “Democratization and Women’s Political Leadership in North Africa.” Journal of International Affairs
68.1 (2014): 59–78.
Scrutinizes the success of transitions post-Arab Spring in Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, and Libya. Argues that transitions are more
likely to succeed in countries where women had a degree of established legal and social rights. Asserts that increasing female
participation in certain contexts can enhance the “quality” of the transition. Finally, argues that a democratic transition is insufficient, and
that countries need to embrace a “women-friendly democracy” for success.
Olimat, Muhamad S. “Arab Spring and Women in Kuwait.” Journal of International Women’s Studies 13.5 (2012): 180–194.
Addresses women’s inability to win seats in the 2012 Kuwaiti legislative elections in contrast to the 2009 elections. Argues that despite
having ample time to prepare, women’s electoral success was hindered by several obstacles, such as contestation among female
candidates, schisms within the women’s movement, and lack of constituent support. Asserts the need for women to garner support of
females and move beyond existing obstacles to win in the future.
Sinha, Sangeeta. “Arab Spring: Women’s Empowerment in Algeria.” Journal of International Women’s Studies 13.5 (2012):
Examines the absence of women’s voices in Algeria during the Arab uprisings. Traces the history of women’s rights and the roles of
activists. Argues that women are not inactive and mentions examples of protest, including opposition to the 1984 Family Code.
Sjoberg, Laura, and Jonathan Whooley. “The Arab Spring for Women? Representations of Women in Middle East Politics in
2011.” Journal of Women, Politics, and Policy 36.3 (2015): 261–284.
Examine the dominant discourses in Western media toward women in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Find two primary narratives,
one that predicts a positive outcome for females in the region and another that views the gender issue as “problematic.” Though the
narratives seem contradictory, the authors argue that they are similar given the fact that they equate the status of females with the
development of liberal ideals in these societies.
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... Thus, we assume that women in Arab, particularly Bahrain's political decision process, are newcomers. It could result from the Arab political 2011 uprisings, which led to a large representation of women in legislation and political systems (Shalaby, 2018). For instance, during uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen, Arab women actively participated and remained prominent. ...
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The rise of SNS facilitated politicians with new opportunities to communicate directly with voters. Especially during election campaigns. Twitter provides female politicians with a space to exercise their political tasks beyond traditional media, especially in some Arab countries. Based on the framing theory, this study aims to identify how the female politicians in Bahrain utilised Twitter to present themselves for Parliamentary election campaigns in 2018. The researchers scrutinised the phenomenon using a thematic analysis of n = 263 tweets posted by two Bahraini female candidates. Results revealed that although politicians largely preferred Twitter in election campaigns to reinforce support and mobilisation for political engagement, two selected candidates lacked interaction with their supporters. Thus, the researchers concluded that the Bahraini female politicians have a long way to represent themselves in digital media politics as men widely benefit from personalisation more than females.
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Although a voluminous literature has studied the substantive representation of women, these studies have largely been confined to advanced democracies. Similarly, studies that focus on the relationship between Islam and women's rights largely ignored the substantive representation of women in Muslim-majority countries. As one of the first studies of its kind, this article investigates the role of religion in the substantive representation of women by focusing on a Muslim majority country: Turkey. Utilizing a novel dataset of 4700 content coded private members' bills (PMBs) drafted in the Turkish parliament between 2002 and 2015, this article synthesizes competing explanations of women's representation in the Middle East and rigorously tests the implications of religion, ideology, critical mass and labor force participation accounts. The results have significant implications for the study of gender and politics in Muslim-majority countries.
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In recent decades, Islamic political movements, and their subsequent political parties, have been increasingly recruiting and nominating women to high-level decision-making positions despite the fact that the ideology they espouse often acts to dissuade women from assuming positions of political leadership. My ethnographic research on religious women’s activism in Iran and Turkey helps explain this unexpected trend by shedding light onto the role of Islamic party women in challenging the gender discriminatory attitudes and behaviours of their male party leaders. In particular, I highlight the role that a number of high-ranking Islamic party women with close ties to the ruling elites played in pressuring their male party leaders to address women’s political underrepresentation in formal politics. Women’s close ties to the ruling elites consisted of formal ties with key Islamic leaders that evolved thanks to women’s long-term devotion to the Islamic movement or learning at Islamic seminaries. I demonstrate that such close ties to the leaders, as well as the presence of a public discourse in favour of women’s increased access to politics, enabled influential Islamic women to leverage a form of ‘internal criticism’ as an important strategy to enhance women’s political rights and status from within the Islamic movements.
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This article explores the complex, liminal, and difficult space in which stories of women in “the Arab Spring” were wielded as parts of political narratives of gender, race, class, religion, democracy, and Westernization in Western media as the Arab Spring unfolded. It examines those stories by using the tools of postcolonial feminism. After briefly describing what is meant by (gender and) the Arab Spring, the article outlines a method for evaluating the significations of the media narratives surrounding it. We find two dissonant narratives (of gender as emancipatory and of gender as problematic) and ask what assumptions about gender (and sex and race and culture) have to be made to produce these particular representations. We argue that the dissonant narratives have in common using the situation of women as a barometer for the success of Westernization, liberalization, and democratization. The article concludes by exploring the implications of these findings.
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Do voters regard male and female candidates equally? Does apparent religiosity of candidates help or hurt their electoral chances? Where biases exist, what explains them? We present a novel explanation of political bias, drawing from role congruity theory. It posits that political contexts shape citizens' perceptions of qualities that make a “capable leader,” which subsequently drives their willingness to vote for candidates. Evidence from a survey experiment embedded in the 2012 Tunisian Post-Election Survey demonstrates that this theory explains biases based on gender and religiosity better than dominant modernization and social identity theories. Moreover, these mechanisms are also likely to drive political biases related to other features and in other countries. This has important implications for policymakers aiming to reduce political biases in Tunisia, the MENA, or globally. It should encourage them to pay careful attention to stereotyped traits of underrepresented groups and successful leaders, and to use institutional solutions (e.g., electoral quotas) to shape expectations about underrepresented groups and leadership.
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Islamist parties in Jordan and Yemen have become the most female-friendly in the Middle East since the initiation of political liberalization. Why has women's participation in two highly conservative Islamist parties increased so dramatically over a relatively short period of time? Expanded women's participation is not the result of a strong, articulated women's movement within each party or of the triumph of moderates over hardliners. Rather, Islamist women have found greater voice when male party leaders recognize the utility of mobilizing female voters and when tensions within the parties largely unrelated to women create space that women can seize. In particular, intraparty fissures along two issue axes-commitment to democratization and interpretation of sacred texts-create structural openings for Islamist women. While the openings often disappear as conflicts are resolved, women advance incrementally within the parties.
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The Arab Spring has inaugurated a new form of politics that represents a shift from a ‘politics from above’ to a ‘politics from below’ in regard to gender policy in Tunisia. Discourse surrounding state policy on gender, formerly the purview of elite groups, has recently been shaped and driven by popular organisations and associations. This article draws on Habermas to argue that the shift has been facilitated by the emergence of a new public sphere and engaged civil society following the fall of the Zine El Abidine Ben Ali regime in 2011. To demonstrate the emergence and diversity of Tunisian civil society, we focus on the promulgation of a new constitution and the debate surrounding Article 28, which has been contested by some Tunisians as reducing women's status to ‘complementary’. A discussion of women's status in the history of Tunisian family law, especially in the popularly valorised Code of Personal Status, illustrates how women's rights were historically expanded as a top-down policy or ‘politics from above’. We juxtapose this historical context with the present period of transition and constitution writing since 2011. An examination of quotations from Tunisian women, both opponents and supporters of Article 28, demonstrates the shift in Tunisia from a ‘politics from above’ to a ‘politics from below’ as women's groups are making demands upon the state and voicing their concerns in ways that have profoundly influenced the tenor of debates around gender politics in the country.
In the spring of 2011 citizens in one Arab country after another rose in defiance of authoritarian regimes to demand political change. It appeared that the region had caught up with the “third wave” of democratization — perhaps even ushering in a fourth one — and would embark on successful democratic transitions. After all, polls since 2000 had shown strong support for democracy in almost all Arab countries (Moaddel, 2007). The road since then, however, has been rocky with quite different trajectories that a burgeoning body of literature has analyzed. Less researched has been the gendered nature of the uprisings, that is, how gender relations and women’s mobilizations have shaped these trajectories, as well as how women and their rights have been affected.
As Arab monarchies increasingly adopt and empower consultative assemblies, women’s representation varies markedly across countries. What leads citizens in these new electoral systems to vote for women? This study investigates the determinants of support for women’s representation using the first electoral survey ever conducted in Oman, prior to the October 2015 Majlis al Shura elections. It considers cross-nationally recognized factors – gender ideology and religion – and tribalism, a factor heretofore largely unexplored. Confirming prior studies, citizens with traditional gender ideology are much less supportive of women’s representation. Developing a simultaneous equations model, we show that religiosity and tribalism shape gender ideology. Unlike in Western countries, education is unassociated with attitudes, and there is no generational shift towards equality; younger men are less supportive of women’s representation than are older men. Increasing women’s representation requires not only increasing citizen demand for female leaders, but also changing informal tribal and formal electoral institutions.
This paper aims to look and discuss the association of Islam and women's electoral participation in Muslim majority and non-Muslim majority countries. The dataset that was used for the analysis, entitled "Party Variation in religiosity and women's leadership: A Cross National Perspective, 2008-2010", was taken from the Inter-University Consortium of Political and Social Research, University of Michigan who approved the use of their dataset. The unit of analysis targeted 329 political party lists in 26 countries. Women's political participation was operationalized as electoral quota for women, internal party quota, percent share of women in decision-making bodies, interaction of percent female leadership with female membership, and percentage of female nominees. Test statistics, such as t-test, Pearson's r, chi-square, and correlation were applied in analyzing the data in order to come up with empirical relationships. The results show that there is an association between Islam and women's political participation, as well as difference in women's electoral participation between Muslim majority and non-Muslim majority countries. However, the coefficient of determination was small which suggests that there are other factors that explain women's electoral participation in these countries. Also, this paper illustrates two opposing views regarding secularist feminism and Islamic feminism.
The role of women in the Arab Spring uprisings requires special attention. Indeed, women participated alongside men in recent political movements and were actively involved in shaping the outcomes of these processes. The case of Bahrain is especially interesting. Even though the Bahraini "Day of Rage" movement was ultimately marginalized at large, it had unlikely consequences for Bahraini women. As female empowerment has been a high priority on the government's agenda, participation of women in the public sphere serves important functions and in the aftermath of Bahraini uprising it got an additional boost. The aim of this paper is to assess how the role of Bahraini women has been interwoven with political liberalization reforms in the first decade on the 21st century and assess its importance for the Bahraini authorities. Secondly, it aims at analyzing the outcomes of Arab Spring uprising for Bahraini women. It asserts that as the pro-government and anti-government movements took to the streets, social divisions of Bahrainis deepened and equally, affected female activists. Ultimately, the article ends with a discussion over the prospects of female empowerment by pro-democracy movements in the Middle East.
The Arab Spring brought turmoil, upheaval and regime change in its wake. But these winds of change barely touched Algeria, and when it did we did not hear or see any women. In order to answer the two questions, the paper explores the status of women in present-day Algeria within a historical social and political context. Understanding the status of women is done by delving into some of the historical processes that Algerian women have had to confront. In order to understand the empowerment process, the study uses the empowerment framework as outlined by the Beijing Platform of action and modified by Moghadum.