Women’s Collective Action for Political Expression


Inclusive politics remains an elusive goal in Pakistan, which has a history of military interference in governance institutions, unstable elected governments and internecine conflict. Women’s voices, within the corridors of power or as constituents whose interests must be accounted for, have been weak but are growing stronger. Activism, led by the women’s movement and civil society advocacy groups since the 1980s, has yielded results. The state has opened up democratic spaces to women in elected legislatures and local bodies through an expanded reserved seats quota; and recently legislators revised electoral rules to mandate a minimal level of women’s greater inclusion as candidates and voters.

About this research

Drawing on qualitative research including key informant interviews and a survey conducted with conducted with women elected for the 2013–18 period to the Pakistan Senate, National Assembly, and four provincial assemblies, this research seeks to examine:

  • The history of the women’s rights movement’s successful campaign for the restoration of reserved seats for women in elected bodies and legislatures
  • The obstacles [political, social and institutional] faced by women who seek to exercise their right to vote, and collective action to overcome them
  • The formation and effectiveness of the women’s caucus at the provincial and national legislatures to enhance women’s political participation and further women’s rights
  • Women’s collective action for reform in election laws to require political parties to increase allocation of tickets on general seats to women and increase women’s voice and decision-making power within parties 

See also A4EA phase 2 research on Gendered Contentions

Key contacts

Ayesha Khan

Postgraduate Researcher

Project details

start date
1 April 2017
end date
31 December 2018


About this project



Recent work

Journal Article

Women Politicians Navigating the ‘Hostile Environment’ in Pakistan

Women in Pakistan operate within highly patriarchal contexts that promote their exclusion from public spaces; but those working in politics, the most public of spaces, defy these prevailing gender norms. This article examines women’s experience of sexual harassment in the political...

21 September 2020

Journal Article

Dilemmas of Representation: Women in Pakistan’s Assemblies

Recognizing constraints Pakistani women legislators face despite their entry into politics on a 17 per cent quota in national and provincial assemblies, it is time to rethink how quotas can lead to their political mainstreaming. This article explores quota legislators' views on their own...

18 May 2020

Working Paper

Women in Politics: Gaining Ground for Progressive Outcomes in Pakistan

IDS Working Paper 519

This paper is an analysis of findings from a study of women’s political voice in Pakistan under the A4EA Research Programme. It aims to contribute to the growing body of literature around how feminist mobilisation and political voice leads to progressive policy outcomes.

1 November 2018