Exercising Her Right to Vote: Experimental Evidence on Civic and Political Action as Pathways for Women’s Political Empowerment

In Pakistan, the gender gap in electoral participation continues to be a significant challenge. In the 8 min explainer video above, Ali Cheema (IDEAS) discusses the political economy of women voters in Pakistan in the context of rising urbanisation and a growing middle class.

About the research project

This project asked how social and political norms and other barriers interact with political incentives to constrain political participation by women. It explored whether, and to what extent, action by civic and political organisations might help tackle these barriers.

The research was carried out through a mixed methods approach, using both a quantitative analysis of surveys and a randomised control trial experiment around interventions designed and implemented by civil society actors prior to the elections in 2018.

The research sought to explore why the gender gap in electoral participation is particularly high in Pakistani metropolitan areas which do not have the same community-based restraints associated with tribal and communal customs as rural areas do. The project also sought to explore ways for addressing the gap and increasing women’s political participation.

The research carried out a household survey amongst 2,500 randomly selected households in Lahore and also held focus group discussions with a small number of respondents. Based on what was learned from these activities, a multi-dimensional mobilisation campaign was run with the households as part of an experiment focused on increasing women’s turnout. The experiment found that by focusing on households (rather than communities), and mobilising both women and men, led to an increase of 8 per cent in women’s turnout on election day in July 2018 in these communities.

See also A4EA phase 2 research on Gendered Contentions

Key contacts

Ali Cheema

Associate Professor of Economics at LUMS

Project details

start date
1 April 2017
end date
31 December 2018


About this project



Recent work

Working Paper

Invisible Citizens: Why More Women in Pakistan Do Not Vote

IDS Working Paper;524

Why does a gender gap in voting exist in Pakistan? Our research looks beyond the creation of democratic spaces for women's participation, such as voter registration, to look instead at the constraints that women face in being able to use such spaces. This paper uses qualitative fieldwork...

Ali Cheema
Ali Cheema & 3 others

20 February 2019