Women's Access to Political Leadership in Madagascar: The Value of History and Social Political Activism

By Altius, Ave; Raveloharimisy, Joel | Journal of International Women's Studies, July 2016 | Go to article overview

Women's Access to Political Leadership in Madagascar: The Value of History and Social Political Activism


Altius, Ave, Raveloharimisy, Joel, Journal of International Women's Studies


Women's Access to Leadership in Madagascar

While women have admittedly gained more representation in the political arena, there are still major discrepancies between female political participation and that of their male counterparts (Brown & Diekman, 2013). This is the case with regard to politics as well as business and other aspects of daily life. As of January 2014, there are only nine heads of state who are women and fourteen women who are heads of government. Women also only form 21.8% of national parliamentarians and 17% of government ministers are women (United Nations Women, 2014). In all of the history of the United States, only 44 women have served in the Senate, and 32 have ever been elected as governors (Center for American Women and Politics, 2014). The active participation of women in leadership is an integral part of development, as women constitute half of the world's population (World Bank, 2013). Non-governmental organizations and civil society organizations such as the United Nations (United Nations Women, 1979) advocate for a more equitable participation of women in leadership positions and more participation of women in decision-making in general.

Currently in Madagascar, a country with a population of 22.92 million people (World Bank, 2013), women form 23% of the national parliament. Based on this figure, Madagascar ranks 73rd in the world for women in parliament (The International Parliamentary Union, 2014). Current advocacy initiatives attempt to bolster women's participation in politics and other areas of leadership through women's education and empowerment among other measures (Women's Leadership and Political Participation, 2015). However, in order to know what methods are best for promoting women's leadership, it is necessary to examine why women participate in leadership roles, and how they have access to those roles. The question for Madagascar therefore, and the question that this research seeks to address is; what accounts for women's leadership roles in politics and government in Madagascar?

In order to develop policies and programs that foment women's participation in politics and societal leadership, it is necessary to first know what contributes to women's participation and by extension, what barriers exist to prevent women from gaining access to leadership. This research will explore the case in Madagascar because, as the literature will show, there is a lack of research around the specific factors that contribute to women's leadership in politics in that country. This research may also be relevant to other countries besides Madagascar and the findings may be useful in informing policy and programs that seek to increase women's participation in leadership in general.

Literature Review

Various theories have been explored as to how women gain political leadership positions, and what barriers they face to their participation in politics. Jalalzai and Krook (2010) outline differences between women's attainment of national leadership positions, and leadership positions in national parliaments. One of the reasons they cite is kinship--women whose husbands or fathers had been in politics found a road already paved for their own entrance into the political arena. This is especially the case historically in terms of national leadership. Jalalzai and Krook (2010) provide examples such as Indira Gandhi of India and Michelle Bachelet of Chile to make this point.

The electoral system also plays an important role in women's leadership both at the national and parliamentary levels. Nationally, some political systems have both a prime ministerial and a presidential office. Women may get elected to the office that has less power in decision making and influence in the country, in essence being just figure-heads (Jalalzai and Krook, 2010). On the parliamentary level, the type of electoral system plays a role in women's attainment of leadership positions. …

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