Journal Article


Quotas: Add Women and Stir?

Published on 10 September 2010

At the Millennium Summit world leaders committed to reducing extreme poverty through a series of targets encompassed within the MDGs, with a deadline of 2015. One of these was to promote gender equality and empower women, and the ‘proportion of seats held by women in national parliament’ was set as a key indicator. With the MDG Review Summit meeting in September 2010, this is an opportunity to consider whether the proportion of women in parliament continues to be the most adequate proxy for women’s political empowerment.

This IDS Bulletin explores what the quota has meant as a motorway to women’s accession to political power by drawing on research findings from the Pathways of Women’s Empowerment Research Programme Consortium (‘Pathways’), as well as a series of articles from a special seminar in the Brazilian National Congress as part of this programme, and contributions from other country case studies. The aim of the issue is to bring new insights from the programme and beyond to an audience of development academics and policy actors who have become familiar with the proliferation of different forms of affirmative action, but who are interested in interrogating the politics behind the quotas in all their complexity and nuances.

It questions motivations behind adopting quotas, discusses different political pathways of breaking through the ceiling for women to reach political office (with or without quotas); and raises questions such as who benefits from the quota as a fast track option, and what kind of gender agendas do the women who have come to power via the quota espouse and advocate?

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Table of contents

Introduction: Quotas – Add Women and Stir? Mariz Tadros

Implementing Affirmative Action: Global Trends Julie Ballington

The Limits of Women’s Quotas in Brazil Clara Araújo

Does the Political Participation of Women Matter? Democratic Representation, Affirmative Action and Quotas in Costa Rica Montserrat Sagot

A Silver Lining: Women in Reserved Seats in Local Government in Bangladesh Sohela Nazneen and Sakiba Tasneem

Towards a Politics of Collective Empowerment: Learning from Hill Women in Rural Uttarakhand, India Divya Sharma and Ratna M. Sudarshan

Women in Local Government: The Pakistan Experience Saba Gul Khattak

Forging Ahead without an Affirmative ActionPolicy: Female Politicians in Sierra Leone’s Post-War Electoral Process Hussaina J. AbdullahThe Will to Political Power: Rwandan Women in Leadership Juliana Kantengwa

Palestinian Women Contesting Power in Chaos Islah Jad

Quotas: A Highway to Power in Egypt… But for Which Women? Mariz Tadros

The Sudanese Women’s Movement and the Mobilisation for the 2008 Legislative Quota and its Aftermath Sara Abbas

A Missed Opportunity: Women and the 2010 UK General Election 2010 Sarah Childs

Quotas as a Path to Parity: Challenges to Women’s Participation in Politics Ana Alice Alcântara Costa


Image of Mariz Tadros
Mariz Tadros

Director (CREID)

Publication details

published by
Tadros, M. and Costa, A.
Tadros, M. and Costa, A.
IDS Bulletin, volume 41, issue 5


About this publication

Research themes
Inequalities and Poverty

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