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date: 29 September 2023

Women and Post-Independence African Politicsfree

Women and Post-Independence African Politicsfree

  • Gretchen Bauer, Gretchen BauerDepartment of Political Science and International Relations, University of Delaware
  • Akosua DarkwahAkosua DarkwahDepartment of Sociology, University of Ghana Legon
  •  and Donna PattersonDonna PattersonDepartment of History and Africana Studies, Delaware State University


Building upon their participation in anti-colonial struggles across Africa in the mid-20th century, African women have taken on many political roles in the post-independence period. While military rule and single-party rule precluded access to elected office in many countries in the early years after independence, female combatants fought alongside their male counterparts in ongoing struggles for national liberation in other parts of Africa, especially southern Africa, into the 1980s and 1990s. In many countries, national gender machineries established in the 1970s provided an institutional infrastructure for pursuing women’s rights even if they were often not fully implemented. State feminism, articulated through First Ladyism and state-led national women’s associations, sought to co-opt women’s struggles for political gain. In some instances, it did ameliorate women’s economic hardships and promote political participation. Women’s mobilization in the 1980s, in part a response to the severe impact of structural adjustment programs on devastated African economies, led to local-level organizing and eventually to a focus on women’s access to political office. Since the political transitions that swept the continent beginning in the early 1990s, women have accessed political office in all three branches of government in unprecedented numbers just as new forms of mobilization have emerged around issues like the rights of sexual minorities.


  • Political History
  • Women’s History

State Feminisms: National Gender Machineries

“State feminism” is a term used to refer to either “state policies and procedures … which are in some way designed to improve women’s status and opportunities”—otherwise known as national gender machineries—or “the tendency for feminists to achieve positions of influence within government.”1 The first national gender machineries emerged in Africa in the 1970s in the wake of the 1975 United Nations Conference on Women held in Mexico City. The conference was a landmark event that institutionalized the importance of women’s issues globally. Indeed, across Africa, the United Nations Conferences on Women had a formative impact. By 1980, forty-one African countries had established the first national machineries for women; by 1985, when the third United Nations Conference on Women was held in Nairobi, fifty-one countries had set up national machineries. The importance of national machineries was reaffirmed at the fourth United Nations Conference on Women which was held in Beijing in 1995; one of the twelve critical areas identified at this meeting was the need for institutional mechanisms to address the needs of women.2

Despite global recognition of the importance of national gender machineries, the consensus from policymakers and scholars is that they have been largely ineffectual in Africa.3 This state of affairs is attributed to four major factors.

First, these institutions were created for self-serving purposes in Africa.4 Many of the states that created these institutions had no legitimacy; they were either military regimes or one-party state regimes. They therefore acceded to the wishes of the international community not out of a genuine concern for gender equality but to improve their status globally. Because the international community has rarely engaged in a critical assessment of how these institutions function in various places, non-legitimate states were able to gain international approval while paying mere lip service to women’s concerns.

Second, African states’ lackadaisical state attitude toward these institutions is evident in poor financing for them.5 In Cameroon, for example, President Biya has touted his interests in women’s issues on a regular basis, but he has not matched his words with financial commitment. Government funding for the national gender machinery has consistently been one of the lowest, hovering around 0.50 percent of the annual budget. Even worse, the amount devoted to the national gender machinery decreased over time, from 0.63 percent of the total budget in 1998 to 0.43 percent in 2004.6 Clearly, in Cameroon, the financial needs of the national gender machinery have not been a state priority. A similar situation is evident in Zimbabwe where annual allocations to the national gender machinery have barely covered staff salaries.7 A summary of findings for eleven sub-Saharan African countries concluded that African states had only offered “lip-service and peanuts” to the national gender machineries.8

Third, the lack of consistent government support for the work of the national gender machineries means that the institutions have had to rely on donors for funding. Thus the agendas of these institutions have been donor-driven, consisting primarily of implementing projects from a development perspective as opposed to pursuing policies that actually address gender equality. Rather than transform gender relations—which is key to the feminist agenda—these institutions focused on development projects.9 In effect, the true purpose for which these institutions were set up was undermined.

Finally, the purpose for which these institutions were set up has been undermined by “femocracy,” an organizational structure that may be defined as

an anti-democratic female power structure, which claims to exist for the advancement of ordinary women, but is dominated by a small clique of women whose authority derives from their being married to powerful men rather than from any action or ideas of their own.10

First ladies have spearheaded these institutions, which have been especially evident in Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon. Also, in the early years of independence, first ladies in Somalia and Kenya gained notoriety for the personal wealth they amassed during their period as first ladies. Two decades later, African first ladies were in the news again for their proclivity to create their own organizations.11 The nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) they set up competed with the national gender machineries for funding (both internally from the state and externally from donors), and they excelled at raising funds. National gender machineries have thus been described as poor cousins of these femocracies.12

In the countries in which femocracies existed, they eclipsed the national gender machineries on the international stage. For example, first lady Nana Konadu Rawlings led the Ghana delegation to the 1995 United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing in her capacity as the chair of the largest NGO in the country.13

There were also tensions between the national gender machineries and the first lady-run NGOs. For example, in Nigeria one first lady ordered the imprisonment of the national gender machinery chair.14 And yet, as with the national gender machineries, femocracies have been criticized for their lack of interest in transformatory gender politics. In Nigeria, first lady Maryam Babangida went so far as to publicly declare on several occasions that she was not interested in women’s liberation or feminism but instead in wifehood and motherhood.15

Femocracies were not set up to enhance gender relations on the continent; indeed, it has been argued that the real purpose of these organizational structures was to cement a positive image of the ruling parties and enhance their credibility locally.16 In Ghana, the link between the NGO and the ruling party was evident in the group’s name—31st December Women’s Movement, a reference to the date of the second coup d’état that propelled Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings into power for an eleven-year period.

As with the national gender machineries, many scholars doubt the extent to which femocracies have improved women’s status. Other scholars offer a more tempered accounting, arguing, for example, that the femocracies put women on the public agenda as a constituency whose interests must be addressed. Though very few of women’s interests may have been addressed in Africa to date, putting women on the agenda was an important first step.17

National Liberation Movements

The majority of African countries attained independence from colonial rule in the early to mid-1960s. While the independence struggles of the 1940s and 1950s were largely peaceful, in some parts of Africa, independence required a resort to armed struggle led by national liberation movements. In the Portuguese colonies of Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde, Angola, and Mozambique, as well as Zimbabwe, Namibia, and South Africa, independence was only won after years—in some cases, decades—of armed struggle. It is widely noted that African women were actively involved in these liberation wars.18 In Zimbabwe, there were as many as ten thousand women recruited into the armed wing of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) and trained as guerilla fighters.19 Women were visible not just in their numbers but also in the various activities in which they participated. While they engaged in domestic activities such as providing food for the army, they were also actively involved in the main mission of the army: freedom fighting. Women were out in the fields wielding guns and killing the enemy, a fact of which the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO), for example, was extremely proud.20

Rhetorically at least, national liberation movements embraced women’s liberation as an integral part of national liberation struggles. Many liberation movement leaders claimed that women’s liberation was equally as important as liberation from the colonial regime. Amilcar Cabral, leader of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau and Cape Verde (PAIGC), noted, “We cannot have a successful revolution without the full participation of women.”21 Similarly, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe stated, “By waging the armed struggle, [the Party has] created, therefore, a process generative of forces that will result in the total liberation of the women.”22

The extent to which women were fully incorporated into the activities of liberation movements differed from country to country. In Guinea-Bissau, PAIGC women were not actually part of the militia. Instead, they participated in political education and provided rice to the guerilla camps—in essence an extension of their domestic responsibilities.23 In Mozambique, by contrast, FRELIMO incorporated women more fully into the movement. But even in Mozambique there was a disjuncture between the ideological discussions about gender equality and the practice of it. For example, while women were conscripted into FRELIMO, they were initially barred from receiving military training and thus could not participate in combat activities.24 The situation only changed when the numbers of women in the movement grew and they rallied against the unequal treatment they received. A women’s detachment force, which participated fully in the armed struggle, was then created.25

Once independence was won, female combatants often discovered that the equality created in the camps would not be sustained outside of the camps. In the first years after independence in Zimbabwe, women made up only 7.3 percent of the parliament. At the district level, the female presence was even lower: 1.86 percent of councilors.26 These numbers did not change much, until Zimbabwe implemented a temporary gender quota for its senate for the 2013 and 2018 elections. Members of the women’s wing of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) were also reduced to mere observers at rallies and other meetings, rather than equal decision makers at the highest level. A deputy woman minister from Zimbabwe therefore described the women’s wing as a “non-decision making machinery.”27 Members of women’s wings in Botswana and Zambia share similar perspectives on the inability of women’s wings to effect real change in women’s lives. As a result, professional women in particular are opting out of the women’s wings of political parties and setting up civic organizations of their own.

Gender, Conflict, and Peacebuilding

In addition to liberation wars, there have been a number of civil wars and political conflicts across the African continent. Earlier literature characterized women as victims of these conflicts with civil wars described as the preserve of men. As victims of war, women lived with the daily threat of abuse and the fear of being abducted, forced into prostitution, or raped.28 In times of war, the moral sensibilities of a society are upturned and what would have in times of normality been considered a taboo is normalized. Rape becomes rampant, even a “weapon of war.” The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), for example, earned itself the unenviable title of “rape capital of the world,” with as many as eight thousand women raped in one year during the conflict in that region. In addition to the rape rates increasing astronomically, the upturned moral sensibilities emboldened teenagers to rape adult women. These women thus had to deal with the fact that they had had sex with men young enough to be their sons, a phenomenon otherwise quite uncommon in Africa.29

In the double victimization that is common in patriarchal societies, raped women not only have to endure the psychological trauma of rape but also societal disapproval: married women find that their husbands are no longer interested in them, and unmarried women find it difficult to get married. In societies where marital status confers respectability, the implications of such shunning are severe.30 Women who are raped may end up pregnant or with a sexually transmitted infection. In some cases, raped women are forced to marry their rapists.31

More recent literature from the countries of Chad, Sudan, Somalia, Sierra Leone, the DRC, and Rwanda acknowledges women’s roles as both participants and peacebuilders.32 For example, in South African townships in the 1980s and early 1990s, women as well as men rounded up informers, threw tires around their necks, and burned them, a practice known as “necklacing.”33 While women have been victims and occasionally perpetrators of violence in conflict-ridden societies, they have also led peacebuilding efforts. Such peacebuilding work was perhaps most evident in the case of Liberia, where Leymah Gbowee led the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace, a movement that worked assiduously to help bring the Second Liberian Civil War to an end in 2003.34 For her efforts, Gbowee was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. Women have played and continue to play significant roles in peacebuilding efforts across Africa, including in Angola, Burundi, the DRC, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda.35

Finally, in some post-conflict societies, gender relations might actually improve. In Rwanda, for example, restrictions regarding women’s ownership of land was no longer tenable in some communities where the male population had been decimated.36 Similarly, women’s income-earning opportunities have improved in both Sudan and Liberia since the wars in both places.37 Other scholars have argued that reconfigured gender relations enhanced women’s opportunities to stand for political office in post-conflict societies on the continent.38 Indeed, research shows that the end of long-standing armed conflict (1985–2010) in Africa had positive impacts on women’s political representation.39 However, war is not an appropriate mechanism for social change given the havoc it wreaks.

Democratic Political Transitions

By the end of the 1980s African economies and polities were in crisis; indeed, many have referred to the 1980s as a “lost decade” for Africa. Across the continent, but especially in West Africa, dozens of military coups d’état beginning soon after independence had produced years of military rule interspersed with the occasional civilian administration. Certainly, despite the infrequent suggestion to the contrary, military regimes proved no more adept at economic development than their civilian counterparts. In other parts of the continent, some national liberation movements still sought independence or found themselves challenged by guerilla wars as soon as they attained power. In others, civil wars and other political instability also followed independence again wreaking havoc with economies. Oil price increases during the 1970s and the ensuing world recession resulted in falling demand and prices for many of Africa’s commodities, catapulting many African economies into intolerable debt and eventually into the clutches of the international financial institutions and structural adjustment programs (SAPs) aimed at restructuring failed economies. These SAPs included debilitating austerity measures, to which women and children were the most vulnerable.40 Across the continent, African women bore the brunt of the crises of their states and the negative impact on women was manifest in a myriad of socioeconomic indicators.41 African women responded in divergent ways to this post-independence trajectory. On the one hand, especially in rural areas, women embraced a survival strategy of organizing at the grassroots level, eventually growing into significant mobilized national women’s movements.42 On the other hand, educated elite women embraced a gender equity approach to ameliorate economic and political problems, seeking among other things to address their subordinate position in public life, leading to more women seeking public office. As democratic political transitions unfolded across the continent beginning in the late 1980s and early 1990s, both responses were apparent.43

Mobilized National Women’s Movements

Since the 1980s, a plethora of women’s organizations and movements have emerged across Africa, distinct from those nascent women’s organizations that may have contributed to national independence and liberation movements and those state-sanctioned women’s associations and wings of political parties of the first few decades of independence. The United Nations Conference on Women held in Nairobi in 1985 was widely considered a turning point, providing an impetus for the formation of women’s organizations and the emergence of national women’s movements across the continent.44 The groups had disparate origins and a range of goals. Some emerged from the grassroots as attempts to ameliorate difficult economic conditions, but over time became much more political in their focus—ultimately seeking regime change. So, for example, in Kenya, the Greenbelt Movement began as a way of replacing trees and providing income to rural women farmers. It ended up deeply involved in the effort to democratize the country.45 Women also came together in many places to help end conflicts. The most well-known example of this was the group of Liberian women who “prayed the devil [Charles Taylor] back to hell.”46

Women and their organizations played pivotal roles in the democratic transitions that commenced in Africa in the early 1990s: “Like student organizations, labor unions, and human rights activists, women’s organizations openly opposed corrupt and repressive regimes through public demonstrations and other militant actions.”47 In many instances, such as the original Greenbelt Movement, women’s organizations and movements joined forces with other civil society organizations to topple undemocratic regimes. Then, once political transitions were underway, women and their organizations and movements took advantage of the early political openings “to make bolder strides in the political arena.”48 Among other things, women consolidated independent women’s organizations; demanded women’s expanded participation in politics,—through affirmative action policies if necessary; and even formed their own political parties in countries as diverse as Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and Kenya.

In Botswana, where no political transition took place, the 1980s and 1990s were years of heightened women’s mobilization focused initially on laws that discriminated against women and the need for legal reform, before shifting to political education and women’s political empowerment. In 1994, the women’s group Emang Basadi issued Africa’s first “Women’s Manifesto,” hoping to influence the manifestos of political parties competing in national elections.49 Across the continent, coalitions of women’s groups issued manifestos in the ensuing decade. Ghana’s manifesto, issued in 2004 in hopes of influencing electoral outcomes in that country, among other things, was authored by a coalition of women’s organizations that had emerged in strength in the years after that country’s political transition in the early 1990s. Prominent among the issues driving women’s mobilization in Ghana has been the need for legislation to address domestic violence and the lack of women in political office, especially in parliament.50 In countries like Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda, women’s organizations exerted pressure on political parties and government to adopt electoral gender quotas and other affirmative measures to bring more women into political office,51 often relying on commitments made by their governments in national, regional, and international protocols and declarations. On the whole, “associational autonomy” from the state and dominant party has proved to be a critical feature for success—with associational autonomy being defined as a movement being able “to set its own far-reaching agenda and freely select its own leaders.”52

In recent years, African women have also mobilized around the rights of lesbians and other sexual minorities. In Namibia and South Africa, lesbian activists have used visibility and invisibility strategies selectively to improve their access to citizenship rights.53 These are key demands in a context of political homophobia among African heads of state and other leaders who deride and, in many cases, persecute sexual minorities.

Women’s Political Leadership

One feature of the political transitions of the late 1980s and early 1990s has been a greatly expanded women’s political leadership across Africa in all three branches of government, but especially in parliaments.


For some years, the tiny East-African nation of Rwanda has led the world in women’s representation in parliament; since the 2013 election, 64 percent of members of its chamber of deputies are women. As of early 2017, the parliaments of more than one dozen African countries were at least 30 percent female. Across the continent, as in other parts of the world, those countries that have dramatically increased the representation of women in their parliaments have done so through the use of electoral gender quotas. The first wave of African countries to adopt some type of electoral gender quota in the 1990s and early 2000s were post-transition or, more likely, post-conflict countries in East and Southern Africa such as Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Angola, Mozambique, Namibia, and South Africa. In these countries, a similar set of factors was largely at play. Political transitions (often post-conflict) provided the political opportunity structure for the adoption of gender quotas as new constitutions and new electoral laws were adopted. National women’s movements mobilized with support from an international women’s movement and influenced by international norms and often comprised of cadres of capable women who had participated in liberation struggles or benefited from overseas training during exile exerted pressure on transitioning governments to adopt gender quotas. In addition, a liberation movement or dominant party with a stated commitment to women’s emancipation may have advocated for the adoption of a gender quota or a diffusion effect from one movement or country to another may have had a similar impact.54

More recently, a second wave of African countries is following suit. Kenya, Lesotho, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and Zimbabwe have adopted electoral gender quotas and, for the first time, West African countries such as Benin, Cameroon, Cape Verde, and Senegal have adopted or are considering the adoption of some kind of electoral gender quota. In these countries too, mobilized national women’s movements have called for new electoral laws and gender quotas, often working in collaboration with regional, continental, or international organizations and usually as part of a constitutional review process.55

For many observers, the important question with regard to women’s increased representation in parliaments in Africa is what impact they are having—to what extent substantive and symbolic representation effects may be identified. Substantively representing women’s interests may be understood as advancing women’s interests through the policymaking process, whether publicly or behind the scenes, measured in terms of promoting or accomplishing certain policy agendas or legislative items.56 Across Africa, examples of the substantive representation of women’s interests in parliaments with more women members have been identified. In Tanzania, women members of parliament (MPs) in the early 2000s advocated for laws that addressed women’s concerns in several areas, including maternity leave, access to university education, sexual and gender-based violence, and land reform.57 In Tanzania, women MPs have had a “big impact” on the issues discussed in parliament, have successfully pushed laws into effect addressing women’s needs in several areas, and have monitored the national budget with women’s concerns in mind.58 Similarly, the introduction and adoption of a law for the prevention and punishment of gender-based violence in Rwanda, through efforts of women MPs and their parliamentary women’s caucus is often cited as an example of more women in parliament substantively representing women’s interests.59

Symbolically representing women’s interests may be understood as altering gendered ideas about the roles of women and men in politics; raising awareness of what women can achieve as political actors and legitimizing them as political actors; or encouraging women to become involved themselves in politics as voters, activists, candidates, and leaders.60 Again, across Africa, examples of women MPs symbolically representing women have been identified. So, for example, in Rwanda “women have found respect.” With so many women represented in government, women feel that they can speak up in their communities now in a way that they could not in the past.61 In Tanzania, the increase in women’s representation in parliament and the “good performance of some female politicians” has “gradually changed the unfavourable cultural and social attitudes toward women in politics.”62 More broadly, Afrobarometer data has shown that in African countries with a greater representation of women in parliament, there is a greater political engagement of women at the citizen level (in particular with regard to voting).63

Over the last few decades, several international conventions and protocols have addressed the need for women’s greater participation in politics and decision making; some are specific to Africa and others are not, with many recommending specific percentages of women in elected office by a certain year. International Idea refers to these conventions and protocols as providing the “normative framework for the use of quotas.”64 Across the continent, women’s organizations routinely cite these documents as they seek to influence governments and put in place specific measures, such as electoral gender quotas. These conventions and protocols include the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) (Articles 3, 7, and 8); the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (Critical Area of Concern G and Articles 181–195); the 1997 Southern African Development Community (SADC) Declaration on Gender and Development, which set a minimum target of 30 percent representation by women in leadership positions by 2005; the 2000 Millennium Declaration and Development Goals (Goal 3, Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women, sets a target of 50 percent of seats in parliaments held by women by 2015); the 2003 Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol), which set a target of 50 percent representation by women in decision-making bodies by 2020; the 2004 Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa, in which leaders pledged a commitment to gender parity in the African Union and their own governments; and the 2008 SADC Protocol on Gender and Development, which set a target of 50 percent female representation in decision-making positions for all SADC countries by 2015. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has also developed a 2010–2020 Gender Strategy.


Unlike MPs who are elected into office, cabinet ministers are appointed, even if they typically undergo some kind of vetting process. This process should make it much easier for women to become cabinet ministers than it is for them to become MPs. Indeed, as has been demonstrated in Ghana, women may make inroads into cabinets even when their numbers are stagnant or declining in parliaments, and factors which obstruct entry into parliament do not necessarily obstruct access to cabinet.65 Three factors seem to have promoted women’s access to cabinet in Ghana and may do so in other African countries as well—“a conducive institutional environment, an international context stressing gender-balanced decision making and an autonomous domestic women’s movement.” Across Africa, the number of women cabinet ministers and deputy ministers has risen sharply in the 21st century, prompted in part by commitments from political parties, governments, and regional and continental organizations. A “gender-based decision-making norm”—one that “establishes expectations about appropriate levels of women in decision-making positions” appears also to be playing a role.66 Moreover, consistent with trends around the world for women cabinet ministers, women ministers in Africa are also increasingly being appointed to the “hard” portfolios of foreign affairs, justice, and trade and industry.67

There were two periods of significant increase in women’s access to cabinets in Africa, around 1975 and then again around 1990, corresponding with the first United Nations Conference on Women and then the onset of democratic political transitions.68 In early 2015, around half of African countries (twenty-six) had at least 20 percent of cabinet positions occupied by women, and eight countries had 30 percent women cabinet ministers; worldwide in early 2015, 17 percent of cabinet ministers were women (see UN Women map of Women in Politics: 2017). Evaluating the impact of women cabinet ministers is even more challenging than evaluating the impact of women MPs, given that so much of what happens in ministries takes place out of the public eye. At the same time, given that ministers are usually the ones to introduce legislation in most African parliaments, their impact can be potentially even greater. Only two women have ever been elected president in Africa—Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia from 2006–2017, and Ameenah Firdaus Gurib-Fakim, president of Mauritius from 2015. Joyce Banda became president of Malawi in 2012 following the death of the president in office and served until 2014.69 A handful of other African women have served as acting or interim heads of state or as prime ministers.70 Women prime ministers have included Elisabeth Domitien from the Central African Republic, Sylvie Kinigi from Burundi, Agathe Uwilingiyimana from Rwanda, Luisa Diogo from Mozambique, and Rose Francine Rogombe from Gabon. While more women are running for president or vice president, it is oftentimes as the flagbearers of very minor political parties that are likely to pull only very small percentages of the vote, as in the most recent presidential election in Ghana in December 2016.71


Courts represent the third branch of government and one in which African women are making remarkable strides, at least in some countries. Postcolonial African judicial systems are marked by legal pluralism, characterized by different legal systems and traditions constituting the sources of law applied in the courts—integrating pre-colonial, colonial, and postcolonial legal developments and influences. “Thus African countries today may be categorized as largely common law countries, civil law countries, or hybrid systems that combine civil law and common law.”72 In addition, in many countries there will be customary law and sharia influences as well. While judiciaries across Africa were often silenced and constitutions abolished during the years of autocratic and military rule in the first thirty years of independence, with democratic political transitions they have been revived alongside new constitutions indicating a clear separation of powers among the three branches of government. And judiciaries may be crucial sites of arbitration on many issues: “Therefore, for those interested in women’s political power, whether on the grounds of fairness, enhancing the legitimacy of state institutions, or improving the representation of women’s interests, women’s presence on the bench matters.”73 Over the last quarter-century, women have been selected with increasing frequency into the most senior positions in judiciaries across the continent—chief justices in common-law countries and mixed common-law and civil-law countries, and presidents of the constitutional court in civil countries. There have been eighteen women leaders in the judiciary who have held or hold apex positions in fourteen different African countries over the last twenty-five years.74 A number of factors—including type of legal system, selection method, the commitment of gatekeepers, the end of major conflict, and regional diffusion—contribute to women’s ascent to the most senior judicial posts in these several African countries.

Women are joining judiciaries in significant numbers in other higher and lower courts across Africa as well; in some countries, there will be greater percentages of women in the higher than lower courts, and in other countries it is the other way round. The only book on women judges in Africa finds that those countries with more women in their judiciaries tend to be those with strong national, even constitutional, commitments to increasing women’s access to positions of power and decision making, and where women may be found in other elected and appointed positions in government.75 In their greater numbers, women judges and justices are having an impact across the continent, for example, in promoting judicial diversity and addressing male bias, challenging patriarchal norms and institutional contexts, contributing to the development of legal and constitutional jurisprudence and case law, challenging societal perceptions of judicial corruption, and recruiting (and mentoring) still more women into the judiciary.76 Of course, just counting women in different political offices and the different branches of government is not enough, but “increasing numerical representation is an important first step toward facilitating real change in power relations throughout the world.”77

Discussion of the Literature

In the 1970s and 1980s, primarily women scholars of Africa sought to focus on women as political actors—looking back to women’s roles in nationalist struggles and liberation movements and forward to women’s roles in the post-independence period. In a series of articles on women activists in the Tanganyikan Nationalist Union (TANU) and women in African nationalism more broadly, Susan Geiger documents the “neglect of women” in the history of nationalist movements across the continent stemming, ostensibly, from a lack of written records; the predominance of men in national-level political leadership; and an understanding of gender as a category relevant at the domestic or community level but not the national or global level. Geiger addresses this oversight in her own work by using life history research and a feminist theoretical framework to examine women’s participation in TANU and other nationalist movements across Africa.78 A decade earlier, Jean O’Barr sought to restore African women to analyses of political life across the continent—to make “the invisible visible.” She traced the early invisibility of African women in accounts of African politics to prevalent assumptions held by scholars about the political roles of African women (heavily influenced by an “invisibility of women in political science” more broadly)—having to do with a valuing of politics over other aspects of economy and society, of the public over the private, and of men’s activities over women’s activities, as well as an absence of “prominent women” in national politics.79 (She noted that sociologists and anthropologists were more likely to be writing about women in Africa than political scientists.) O’Barr’s concern to restore African women to accounts of politics and policy coincided with Ester Boserup’s seminal work on the need to take into account women’s role in economic development, an integral part of the “nation building” that was to be taking place across Africa in the early years of independence.80

Scholarship has also followed political developments “on the ground.” While women’s overt political roles may have been eclipsed under military and single-party regimes in the first three decades of independence in some parts of the continent; in other countries, women were fighting alongside men in civil conflicts or continued struggles for national liberation, and this was reflected in a literature that delved deep into women’s roles—Turshen and Twagiramariya’s What Women Do in Wartime and Urdang’s And Still They Dance: Women, War and the Struggle for Change in Mozambique—or a later literature that looked at women’s roles once the conflicts were over—King-Akerele’s Women’s Leadership in Post-Conflict Liberia: My Journey or Burnet’s Genocide Lives in Us: Women, Memory and Silence in Rwanda. With the rise of autonomous mobilized national women’s movements across the continent from the mid-1980s onward came monographs investigating women’s associations and organizations in one country after another: Hassim’s Women’s Organizations and Democracy in South Africa: Contesting Authority; or Leslie’s Social Movements and Democracy in Africa: The Impact of Women’s Struggle for Equal Rights in Botswana; or Fallon’s Democracy and the Rise of Women’s Movements in Sub-Saharan Africa, which focused on Ghana.

In the 1990s and 2000s, the focus on women’s roles in social movements made way for women, rather than their organizations, to be the political actors as MPs, judges, and cabinet ministers. This development was reflected in volumes such as Women and the State in Africa, edited by Jane Parpart and Kathleen Staudt; Bauer and Britton’s Women in African Parliaments; Bauer and Dawuni’s Gender and Justice in Africa: From Obscurity to Parity?; and Sylvia Tamale’s When Hens Begin to Crow: Gender and Parliamentary Politics in Uganda. Another extremely important literature to emerge in the late 1990s and early 2000s was that which grappled with feminism and feminist approaches in an African context.81 Early contributions to this discussion included Mikell’s African Feminism: The Politics of Survival in Sub-Saharan Africa and Oyeronke’s African Women and Feminism: Reflecting on the Politics of Sisterhood.

In addition to these works, there has also been significant research produced and published in journals not widely accessible outside of particular African countries; some, but not all, of this work was strongly supported by institutions such as CODESRIA in Dakar or the African Gender Institute at the University of Cape Town.

Primary Sources

For women in national political office, primary source material is found in government office archives and, in some cases, national archives. The type and availability of primary sources, however, vary considerably by country. Some of this material is accessible online, in online newspapers, for example. Since much of women’s formal political activity began in the postcolonial era, women are still expanding their political reach in many countries in the 21st century. In places where women were elected as presidents and prime ministers such as Malawi, Liberia, Senegal, and Mauritius, there generally is a greater public record of both written material as well as oral interviews that can be analyzed and used as primary sources. In some cases, oral interviews can help to fill a part of the silences found in the archives. Like interviews, memoirs are important and are growing in number. Of course, memoirs raise issues of corroborating facts.

Memoirs as Primary Sources

Memoirs chronicle numerous political issues. Some memoirs are about women’s position in or proximity to liberation or other activist movements. Others were written by women who held executive positions in African governments. Memoirs, autobiographies, and letters related to African women in politics are widely available and represent experiences from different regions of the African continent. Many of these sources are written by major political actors as well as the spouses and children of political leaders. Per the latter, in Aminata Forna’s The Devil That Danced on the Water: A Daughter’s Quest, she writes about her father’s political activity in Sierra Leone. Another example is Marthé Moumié’s memoir about her deceased husband: Victime du colonialisme français: mon mari Félix MoumiéVictim of French Colonialism, my husband Félix Moumié.82

Significant autobiographies and memoirs include those by Winnie Mandela, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Aoua Kéita, and Wangari Maathai.83 In their respective memoirs, they discuss multifaceted parts of their familial, professional, and political lives. In 419 Days, Winnie Mandela chronicles her imprisonment from May 1969 to September 1970 through her journal and letters. In addition to this extant work, Joyce Banda is currently writing abbreviated memoirs about her time as president of Malawi. There are also numerous articles about women who were elected to office or were members of governing or opposition groups, including articles about Funimalayo Ransome-Kuti, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and the African National Congress (ANC) Women’s League, among others.

Reading the Archives

In national archives across the continent, there is a dearth of material that represents women’s voices. While some material on women’s political activity in the postcolonial era exists, some of the best sources of archival records include records maintained by women’s associations and organizations. Other primary sources include print interviews, speeches, and—increasingly in the digital era—visual media archival records.

Many Francophone countries such as Cameroon and Senegal use a record-keeping system patterned after France’s colonial Journal officiel de l’Afrique Occidentale Française—in the case of Senegal, the Journal officiel République du Sénégal and for Cameroon, the Journal officiel République du Cameroun. Many women’s political and politically affiliated social organizations such as those started by first ladies (for example, the 31st December Women’s Movement in Ghana) also maintain records. This is an alternate way to find records about African women’s political activity beyond the national archives.

One of the richest sources about women’s political activity is found in South Africa and includes formal state-sanctioned and university archives. Archival reserves include the Federation of South African Women’s Papers at the University of the Witwatersrand, the ANC archives at the University of Western Cape and the University of the Witwatersrand, and the Helen Joseph Papers at the University of the Witwatersrand. Yale University holds the South Africa Now collection, which includes interviews, news reports, and documentaries. One of the independent archives is South African History Online. Run by a nonprofit organization, it includes entries on different institutions, events, and people, and it contains a variety of primary sources, including newspaper articles, speeches, charters, and historic photographs.

Links to Digital Materials

Further Reading

Edited Collections
  • Allman, Jean, ed. Fashioning Africa: Power and the Politics of Dress. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004.
  • Allman, Jean, Susan Geiger, and Nakanyike Musisi, eds. Women in Colonial African Histories. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002.
  • Bauer, Gretchen, and Hannah Britton, eds. Women in African Parliaments. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2006.
  • Bauer, Gretchen, and Josephine Dawuni, eds. Gender and the Judiciary in Africa: From Obscurity to Parity? New York: Routledge, 2016.
  • Cole, Catherine, Takyiwaa Manuh, and Stephan Miescher, eds. Africa after Gender? Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007.
  • Georg, Odile, ed. Perspectives Historiques Sur le Genre en Afrique. Paris: L’Harmattan, 2007.
  • Goetz, Anne Marie, and Shireen Hassim, eds. No Shortcuts to Power: African Women in Politics and Policy Making. New York: Zed Books, 2003.
  • Hay, Margaret Jean, and Sharon Stichter, eds. African Women South of the Sahara. New York: Longman, 1995.
  • Hodgson, Dorothy, and Sheryl McCurdy, eds. “Wicked” Women and the Reconfiguration of Gender in Africa. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2005.
  • Meintjes, Sheila, Anu Pillay, and Meredith Turshen, eds. The Aftermath: Women in Post-Conflict Transformations. London: Zed Books, 2001.
  • Mikell, Gwendolyn, ed. African Feminism: The Politics of Survival in Sub-Saharan Africa. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997.
  • Oyewumi, Oyeronke, ed. African Women and Feminism: Reflecting on the Politics of Sisterhood. Trenton: Africa World Press, 2003.
  • Parpart, Jane, and Kathleen Staudt, eds. Women and the State in Africa. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1990.
  • Sheldon, Kathleen, ed. Courtyards, Markets, City Streets: Urban Women in Africa. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1996.
Country Studies
  • Abramowitz, Sharon. Searching for Normal in the Wake of the Liberian War. Philadelphia: University of Philadelphia Press, 2014.
  • Burnet, Jennie. Genocide Lives in Us: Women, Memory, and Silence in Rwanda. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2012.
  • Cooper, Barbara. Marriage in Maradi: Gender and Culture in a Hausa Society in Niger. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 1997.
  • Decker, Alicia. In Idi Amin’s Shadow: Women, Gender and Militarism in Uganda. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2014.
  • Fallon, Kathleen. Democracy and the Rise of Women’s Movements in Sub-Saharan Africa. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.
  • Geisler, Gisela. Women and the Remaking of Politics in Southern Africa: Negotiating Autonomy, Incorporation and Representation. Uppsala: Nordic Africa Institute, 2004.
  • Hassim, Shireen. Women’s Organizations and Democracy in South Africa: Contesting Authority. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2006.
  • Kang, Alice. Bargaining for Women’s Rights: Activism in an Aspiring Muslim Democracy. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2015.
  • King-Akerele, Olubanke. Women’s Leadership in Post-Conflict Liberia: My Journey. Accra, Ghana: Digibooks, 2012.
  • Konde, Emmanuel. African Women and Politics: Knowledge, Gender, and Power in Male-Dominated Cameroon. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellon, 2005.
  • Leslie, Agnes Ngoma. Social Movements and Democracy in Africa: The Impact of Women’s Struggle for Equal Rights in Botswana. New York: Routledge, 2006.
  • Sheldon, Kathleen. Pounders of Grain: Women, Work, and Politics in Mozambique. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2002.
  • Steady, Filomina. Female Power in African Politics: The National Congress of Sierra Leone. Munger Africana Library Monograph. Pasadena: California Institute of Technology, 1975.
  • Tamale, Sylvia. When Hens Begin to Crow: Gender and Parliamentary Politics in Uganda. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1999.
  • Urdang, Stephanie. And Still They Dance: Women, War and the Struggle for Change in Mozambique. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1989.
Autobiographies, Biographies, and Memoirs
  • Cooper, Helene. The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood. New York: Simon and Schuster, 2008.
  • Forna, Aminatta. The Devil That Danced on the Water: A Daughter’s Quest. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2002.
  • Gbowee, Leymah. Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer and Sex Changed a Nation at War. New York: Beast Books, 2011.
  • Johnson Sirleaf, Ellen. This Child Will Be Great: Memoir of a Remarkable Life by Africa’s First Woman President. New York: HarperCollins, 2009.
  • Kéita, Aoua. Femme d’Afrique. Paris: Présence Africaine, 1975.
  • Maathai, Wangari. Unbowed: A Memoir. New York: Anchor Books, 2006.
  • Mandela, Winnie. 419 Days. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2014.
  • Mandela, Winnie. Part of My Soul Went with Him. New York: W. W. Norton, 1985.
  • Berger, Iris. Women in Twentieth Century Africa. Cambridge U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2016.
  • Currier, Ashley. Out in Africa: LGBT Organizing in Namibia and South Africa. St. Paul: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.
  • Patterson, Donna. Pharmacy in Senegal. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2015.
  • Sani, Hajo. Women and Leadership. Abuja: HAMS, 2012.
  • Sheldon, Kathleen. African Women: Early History to the 21st Century. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2017.
  • Steady, Filomina. Women and Collective Action in Africa. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.
  • Tripp, Aili Mari. Women and Power in Postconflict Africa. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2015.
  • Tripp, Aili Mari, Isabel Casimiro, Joy Kwesiga, and Alice Mungwa. African Women’s Movements: Transforming Political Landscapes. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
  • Tsikata, Dzodzi. Lip-Service and Peanuts: The State and National Machinery for Women in Africa. Accra, Ghana: Third World Network-Africa, 2000.


  • 1. Vicky Randall, “Gender and Power: Women Engage the State,” in Gender, Politics and the State, eds. Vicky Randall and Georgina Waylen (London and New York: Routledge, 1998), pp. 185–205.

  • 2. Aili Mari Tripp, Isabel Casimiro, Joy Kwesiga, and Alice Mungwa, African Women’s Movements: Transforming Political Landscapes (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

  • 3. Melinda Adams, “‘National Machineries’ and Authoritarian Politics: The Case of Cameroon,” International Feminist Journal of Politics 9.2 (2007): 176–197; Dzodzi Tsikata, Lip-Service and Peanuts: The State and National Machinery for Women in Africa (Accra, Ghana: Third World Network-Africa, 2000); and Dzodzi Tsikata, “National Machineries for the Advancement of Women in Africa: Are They Transforming Gender Relations?” Social Watch (2001): 73–74.

  • 4. Adams, “‘National Machineries’ and Authoritarian Politics: The Case of Cameroon”; Amina Mama, “Khaki in the Family: Gender Discourses and Militarism in Nigeria,” African Studies Review 41.2 (1998): 1–18.

  • 5. Adams, “‘National Machineries’ and Authoritarian Politics: The Case of Cameroon,”; Gisela Geisler. “Troubled Sisterhood: Women and Politics in Southern Africa: Case Studies from Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana,” African Affairs 94.377 (1995): 545–578; and Tsikata, Lip-Service and Peanuts.

  • 6. Adams, “‘National Machineries’ and Authoritarian Politics: The Case of Cameroon,” 186.

  • 7. Geisler, “Troubled Sisterhood.”

  • 8. Tsikata, Lip-Service and Peanuts.

  • 9. Tsikata, Lip-Service and Peanuts.

  • 10. Amina Mama, “Feminism or Femocracy? State Feminism and Democratisation in Nigeria,” Africa Development/Afrique et Développement 20.1 (1995): 37–58.

  • 11. Jibril Ibrahim, “The First Lady Syndrome and the Marginalisation of Women from Power: Opportunities or Compromises for Gender Equality?” Feminist Africa 3 (2004): 48–69.

  • 12. Tsikata, Lip-Service and Peanuts.

  • 13. Ibrahim, “The First Lady Syndrome”; Mama, “Feminism or Femocracy?”; and Dzodzi Tsikata, “Gender Equality and the State in Ghana,” in Engendering African Social Sciences, eds. Ayesha Iman, Fatou Sow, and Amina Mama (Dakar: CODESRIA, 1997).

  • 14. Mama, “Feminism or Femocracy?”

  • 15. Ibrahim, “The First Lady Syndrome.”

  • 16. Ibrahim, “The First Lady Syndrome”; Jackie-Tamika Cunningham, First-Ladyism and Women’s Empowerment in Nigeria since 1985? (PhD diss., University of Vienna, 2013).

  • 17. Ibrahim, “The First Lady Syndrome.”

  • 18. Geisler, “Troubled Sisterhood”; Allen Isaacman and Barbara Isaacman, “The Role of Women in the Liberation of Mozambique,” Ufahamu: A Journal of African Studies 13.2 (1984): 128–185; Stephanie Urdang, “Fighting Two Colonialisms: The Women’s Struggle in Guinea-Bissau,” African Studies Review 18.3 (1975): 29–34; Stephanie Urdang, “Women in National Liberation Movements,” in African Women South of the Sahara, eds. Jean Hay, Margaret Lee, and Sharon Stichter (New York: Longman, 1995); and Harry G. West, “Girls with Guns: Narrating the Experience of War of Frelimo’s ‘Female Detachment,’” Anthropological Quarterly 73.4 (2000): 180–194.

  • 19. Geisler, “Troubled Sisterhood.”

  • 20. Clémence Pinaud, “‘We Are Trained to Be Married!’ Elite Formation and Ideology in the ‘Girls’ Battalion’ of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army,” Journal of Eastern African Studies 9.3 (2015): 375–393.

  • 21. Urdang, “Fighting Two Colonialisms,” 29, 30.

  • 22. Geisler, “Troubled Sisterhood” 551.

  • 23. Urdang, Women in National Liberation Movements.

  • 24. Isaacman and Isaacman, “The Role of Women in the Liberation of Mozambique.”

  • 25. Urdang, Women in National Liberation Movements.

  • 26. Urdang, Women in National Liberation Movements, 552.

  • 27. Urdang, Women in National Liberation Movements, 554.

  • 28. Turshen, “Women’s War Stories.”

  • 29. Turshen, “Women’s War Stories.”

  • 30. Clotilde Twagiramariya and Meredeth Turshen, “‘Favours’ to Give and ‘Consenting’ Victims: The Sexual Politics of Survival in Rwanda,” in What Women Do in Wartime: Gender and Conflict in Africa, eds. Meredeth Turshen and Clotilde Twagiramariya (London: Zed Books, 1998).

  • 31. Turshen, “Women’s War Stories.”

  • 32. Turshen, “Women’s War Stories”; and Aili Mari Tripp, Women and Power in Postconflict Africa (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

  • 33. Beth Goldblatt and Sheila Meintjes, “South African Women Demand the Truth,” in What Women Do in Wartime: Gender and Conflict in Africa, eds. Meredith Turshen and Clotilde Twagiramariya (London: Zed Books, 1998).

  • 34. Leymah Gbowee and Carol Mithers. Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer and Sex Changed a Nation at War (New York: Beast Books, 2011).

  • 35. Sokari Ekine, “Women’s Responses to State Violence in the Niger Delta,” Feminist Africa 10 Militarism, Conflict and Women’s Activism 10 (2008): 67–82; Dina Rodriguez and Edith Natukunda-Togboa, eds., “Gender and Peace Building in Africa,” University of Peace, United Nations, 2005, p. 209; Abdul Karim Issifu, “The Role of African Women in Post-Conflict Peacebuilding: The Case of Rwanda,” Journal of Pan African Studies 8.9 (2015): 63–78; and Yemsrach Kidane, “Women’s Leadership Role in Post-Conflict Peace-Building Process,” Journal of African Union Studies 3.2–3 (2014): 87–101.

  • 36. Turshen, “Women’s War Stories.”

  • 37. Turshen, “Women’s War Stories”; and Veronika Fuest, “‘This Is the Time to get in Front’: Changing Roles and Opportunities for Women in Liberia,” African Affairs 107.427 (2008): 201–224.

  • 38. Gretchen Bauer and Hannah Britton, eds., Women in African Parliaments (Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2006).

  • 39. Melanie Hughes and Aili Mari Tripp, “Civil War and Trajectories of Change in Women’s Political Representation in Africa, 1985–2010,” Social Forces 93.4 (2015): 1513–1540; and Aili Mari Tripp, Women and Power in Postconflict Africa (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

  • 40. Gloria Emeagwali, ed., Women Pay the Price: Structural Adjustment in Africa and the Caribbean (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1995).

  • 41. Gwendolyn Mikell, “Introduction,” in African Feminism: The Politics of Survival in Sub-Saharan Africa, ed. Gwendolyn Mikell (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997).

  • 42. Aili Mari Tripp, “The New Political Activism in Africa,” Journal of Democracy 2 (2001): 144–155.

  • 43. Mikell, “Introduction,” 28; and Michael Bratton and Nicolas VandeWalle, Democratic Experiments in Africa: Regime Transitions in Comparative Perspective (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

  • 44. Aili Mari Tripp et al., African Women’s Movements: Transforming Political Landscapes (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2009).

  • 45. Wangari Maathai, The Greenbelt Movement: Sharing the Approach and the Experience (Herndon, VA: Lantern Books, 2003).

  • 46. Gbowee and Mithers, Mighty Be Our Powers.

  • 47. Tripp, “The New Political Activism in Africa,” 142–144.

  • 48. Tripp, “The New Political Activism in Africa,” 142–144.

  • 49. Agnes Ngoma Leslie, Social Movements and Democracy in Africa: The Impact of Women’s Struggle for Equal Rights in Botswana (New York: Routledge, 2006).

  • 50. Mansah Prah, Ghana’s Feminist Movement: Aspirations, Challenges, Achievements (Accra, Ghana: IDEG, 2007).

  • 51. Bauer and Britton, Women in African Parliaments.

  • 52. Aili Mari Tripp, “The Politics of Autonomy and Co-optation in Africa: The Ugandan Women’s Movement,” Journal of Modern African Studies 39.1 (2001): 101–128.

  • 53. Ashley Currier, Out in Africa: LGBT Organizing in Namibia and South Africa (St. Paul: University of Minnesota Press, 2012).

  • 54. Julie Ballington, “Conclusion: Women’s Political Participation and Quotas in Africa,” in The Implementation of Quotas, ed. Julie Ballington (Stockholm: International Idea, 2004); Bauer and Britton, Women in African Parliaments; Sylvia Tamale, When Hens Begin to Crow: Gender and Parliamentary Politics in Uganda (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999); Tripp et al., African Women’s Movements; and Georgina Waylen, “Women’s Mobilization and Gender Outcomes in Transitions to Democracy: The Case of South Africa,” Comparative Political Studies 40.5 (2007): 521–546.

  • 55. Gretchen Bauer, “‘A Lot of Head Wraps’: African Contributions to a Third Wave of Electoral Gender Quotas,” Politics, Groups, and Identities 4.2 (2016): 196–213.

  • 56. Susan Franceschet et al., “Conceptualizing the Impact of Gender Quotas,” in The Impact of Gender Quotas, eds. Susan Franceschet, Mona Lena Krook, and Jennifer Piscopo (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).

  • 57. Ruth Meena, “The Politics of Quotas in Tanzania,” in The Implementation of Quotas, ed. Julie Ballington (Stockholm: International Idea, 2004).

  • 58. Anna Makinda, “Promoting Gender Equality in the Tanzanian Parliament,” in African Parliamentary Reform, eds. Frederick Stapenhurst, Cindy Kroon, Rasheed Draman, Andrew Imlach, and Alexander Hamilton (London: Routledge, 2011).

  • 59. Claire Devlin and Robert Elgie, “The Effect of Increased Women’s Representation in Parliament: The Case of Rwanda,” Parliamentary Affairs 61.2 (2008): 237–254.

  • 60. Franceschet et al., “Conceptualizing the Impact of Gender Quotas,” 17–18.

  • 61. Jennie Burnet, “Women Have Found Respect: Gender Quotas, Symbolic Representation and Female Empowerment in Rwanda,” Politics and Gender 7.3 (2011): 303–334.

  • 62. Mi Yung Yoon, “More Women in the Tanzanian Legislature: Do Numbers Matter?,” Journal of Contemporary African Studies 29.1 (2011): 83–98. For Uganda, see Vibeke Wang, “Women Changing Policy Outcomes: Learning from Pro-Women Legislation in the Ugandan Parliament,” Women’s Studies International Forum 41 (2013): 113–121.

  • 63. Tiffany D. Barnes and Stephanie M. Burchard, “Engendering Politics: The Impact of Descriptive Representation on Women’s Political Engagement in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Comparative Political Studies 46.7 (2013): 767–790.

  • 64. International IDEA, Atlas of Electoral Gender Quotas (Stockholm: International IDEA, 2014).

  • 65. Melinda Adams et al., “The Representation of Women in African Legislatures and Cabinets: An Examination with Reference to Ghana,” Journal of Women, Politics and Policy 37.2 (2016): 145–167.

  • 66. Suraj Jacob et al., “Gender Norms and Women’s Political Representation: A Global Analysis of Cabinets, 1979–2009,” Governance: An International Journal of Policy, Administration, and Institutions 27.2 (2014): 321–345, 322.

  • 67. Gretchen Bauer, “Sub Saharan Africa,” in Women in Executive Power: A Global Overview, eds. Gretchen Bauer and Manon Tremblay (New York: Routledge, 2011).

  • 68. Catherine Russell and Mark DeLancey, “African Women in Cabinet Positions—Too Few, Too Weak: A Research Report,” Asian Women 15 (2002): 147–163.

  • 69. See Female Presidents in Africa: A Rather Short History, June 5, 2015.

  • 70. Bauer, “Sub Saharan Africa.”

  • 71. Melinda Adams, “The Election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Women’s Executive Leadership in Africa,” Politics and Gender 4.3 (2008): 475–484.

  • 72. Josephine Dawuni, “Introduction,” in Gender and the Judiciary in Africa: From Obscurity to Parity? eds. Gretchen Bauer and Josephine Dawuni (New York: Routledge, 2016).

  • 73. Josephine Dawuni and Alice Kang, “Her Ladyship Chief Justice: The Rise of Female Leaders in the Judiciary in Africa,” Africa Today 62.2 (2015): 45–69.

  • 74. Dawuni and Kang, “Her Ladyship Chief Justice,” 50.

  • 75. Gretchen Bauer, “Conclusion,” in Gender and the Judiciary in Africa: From Obscurity to Parity? eds. Gretchen Bauer and Josephine Dawuni (New York: Routledge, 2016).

  • 76. Dawuni, “Introduction,” 12–14.

  • 77. Ballington, “Conclusion.”

  • 78. Susan Geiger, “Women in Nationalist Struggle: TANU Activists in Dar es Salaam,” The International Journal of African Historical Studies 20.1 (1987): 3–5. See also Susan Geiger, “Tanganyikan Nationalism as ‘Women’s Work’: Life Histories, Collective Biography and Changing Historiography,” Journal of African History 37 (1996): 465–478; and Susan Geiger, “Women and African Nationalism,” Journal of Women’s History 2.1 (1990): 227–244.

  • 79. Jean F. O’Barr, “Making the Visible Invisible: African Women in Politics and Policy,” African Studies Review 18.3 (1975): 19–27, 20–21.

  • 80. Ester Boserup, Women’s Role in Economic Development (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1970).

  • 81. See Amina Mama, What Does It Mean to Do Feminist Research in African Contexts? Feminist Review Conference Proceedings, 2011.

  • 82. Aminatta Forna, The Devil Danced on Water (London: HarperCollins, 2002); and Marthé Moumié, Victime du colonialisme français: mon mari Félix Moumié (Paris: Editions Duboiris, 2006).

  • 83. Winnie Mandela, Part of My Soul Went with Him (New York: Norton, 1985); Winnie Mandela, 419 Days (Athens: Ohio University Press, 2014); Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, This Child Will Be Great (New York: Harper Perennial, 2010). Aoua Kéita, Femme d’Afrique (Paris: Présence Africaine, 1975); and Wangari Maathai, Unbowed (New York: Anchor, 2007).