Over the last more than two decades, political parties and governments across sub-Saharan Africa have adopted electoral gender quotas for parliament at an astonishing rate – and with remarkable success as many sub-Saharan African countries have catapulted to the top in terms of women’s representation in a single or lower house of parliament. During a first wave in East and Southern Africa, quotas were adopted in the aftermath of conflicts and in the course of political transitions as mobilized national women’s movements, influenced by an international women’s movement and international norms, took advantage of political openings to press for the adoption of quotas through new constitutions or new electoral laws. In some cases a clear diffusion effect was at play between political movements that closely influenced one another. During a second wave mostly, though not only, in West Africa, quotas are again being adopted as women’s movements, in collaboration with regional, continental and international organizations, similarly press for an increased representation of women during constitutional reform processes or through revisions to electoral laws. During this second wave, creative quota designs have emerged as parties and governments have sought to strengthen existing electoral gender quotas or adopt them for the first time. This paper examines some innovations in quota design and quota use in three sub-Saharan African cases that are part of the second wave, including the move to gender parity and the possibility of an only ‘temporary’ special measure.
Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies Research Paper No. RSCAS 2014/92. [open access]