Kang (2013) “finds that the effect of the gender quota law on the election and appointment of women hinged on a combination of three factors: the design of the law, the institutional context, and the agency of women’s activists who monitored the quota’s implementation.”
I’m on the fence about this one. On the upside, I’m happy to see that Kang highlights the importance of institutions in Africa, which are too often pushed aside as neopatrimonial and weak, thus unimportant (see Jackson and Rosberg 1981, Reno 1998, Bratton and van de Wall 1997, van de Walle 2001, etc).
As a visual person, I wanted to see the changes for myself. Here’s a basic plot with the trend in women’s representation across elections in Niger. I’ve labeled some key time periods (single-party rule, multiparty elections, and elections after the quota was implemented). There are remarkably good statistics on this for Niger (compared to other countries where data on at least one or more elections is unavailable).
Some clear trends stand out. First, women in Niger were late to join the national legislature. The first woman wasn’t elected until 1989, whereas most African countries elected women in their first or second elections (by the mid-1970s). After the first cohort of women (5.38% of the parliament) were elected under single-party rule, the number of female MPs declined in multiparty elections. By 1999, women only made up 1.2% of the parliament. It seems like the quota law has turned this around for the time being, bringing representation to 12.39% in the 2011 poll.
On the downside, this law smells of tokenism. The 10% threshold is the lowest on the continent. I wonder what will happen to the women once they are in office. Will the women’s movement in Niger be able to push through the 25%, 30% or even 50% quota they hope to establish? At the moment, there doesn’t seem to be much support from the ruling party.