Essay: Overview, Theories and Concept of Women Political Participation

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The role of women in leadership has over the years been of great importance. This is because of the acknowledged impacts women have made in socio-economic development when in leadership positions despite the obstacles they encounter. A further reason is that the participation of women improves the quality of governance as women are able to handle a wider array of policies than men. Low participation of women in leadership positions affects their progress in improving the legal and regulatory framework for promoting gender equality. Across the globe, few women are influencing the legislative process of their respective countries. This chapter shares various scholarly positions on women’s political participation and provides inputs to inform the discussions of the study.

The issue of political participation has received considerable attention for diverse group of researchers including sociological and public affair intellectuals since it is related to the standard way of democratic system depicted Lamprianou (2013). This raises the notion that women political representation is very essential in democratic processes however, ‘political theorists’ argued that there should be equal participation of all and sundry in development processes (Verba et al., 1978) cited by Lamprianou I, 2013 . This is because it ensures broad participation in the decision making process which is a precondition for proper democratic governance (Pateman, 1970; Dahl, 1978) cited by Lamprianou (2013). This implies that the involvement of women in political terrain is cheered by political scientists. According to Bourne (2010) cited by Lamprianou (2013) political participation can take numerous forms including membership of a political party or civil society organizations, contacting politicians to express one’s concerns about development issues, making suggestions, forwarding petition amongst many others.

The meaning of political participation has never been an easy one since it has diverse debatable attributes and branches. Cameron (2011) cited by Lamprianou (2013) spearheaded, how should one treat a riots of young individuals or a coup d’état in a particular country. Is it a form of political participation or should it be relegated to the background when one raise issue of political participation? This makes the definition of political participation non-universal in nature (Uhlaner, 2001) cited by Lamprianou (2013). In short however, he defines political participation as “political engagement” or “public involvement in decision making.” Diemer (2012) cited by Lamprianou (2013) sees political participation as an “enlargement with traditional mechanisms in the political system, such as being a member of political party or voting during election” whilst Riley et al (2010) cited by Lamprianou (2013) submits that political participation is a set of rights and roles that considers a formally organized civic and political activities. From Munroe (2002) cited by Lamprianou (2013) position, political participation constitute the degree to which citizens are exercising to engage in political activities such as protest to speak freely, to influence, to vote or to get more energetically involved.

Several other scholars’ opine that political participation is made up of series of activities that target at influencing political authority (Huntington and Nelson, 1976; Verba et al., 1995) cited by Lamprianou (2013). In this context, it can be pictured as dynamic in nature, characterized by evolving social phenomenon. Participation involves people and these people are likely to become more or less politically active (Riley et al., 2010) cited by Lamprianou (2013). Participation will therefore be influenced by several factors. Vecchione and Caprara (2009) as cited from Lamprianou (2013), identified education, age and gender as essential ingredients that influence political participation. In the direction of education, the more individuals were educated, the more likely for them to move into the political net of their country. The assumption holds that women participation in politics could be achieved when women were educated to know the benefits that accrued from such national engagement (Verba et al., 1995; Stolle and Hooghe, 2009; Conway, 2001) (cited by Lamprianou (2013).

In the direction of age and its influence on political participation, younger population under the universal charter age is often excluded from the political domain. Other age restrictive barriers are applied to old age citizens especially to some high of the land. Lister (2007) argued that since young people are financially dependent and immature, they are often isolated from the political net of their countries. Others have however argued that the younger generation is not alienated from the political market. There are numerous studies that have shown that the young people have critical attitude towards institutional politics, thus; they are not totally disengaged from their country’s political set-up (Briggs, 2008; Henn et al., 2002; O’Toole et al., 2003; Phelps, 2005).

In establishing relationship between women involvement and political participation, Bourdieu’s Concept of “Habitus” offers some explanation on the relation geographical representation of women in politics (Eriksen and Nielsen, 2001). The theory explains that the world is surrounded by structural constraints which form “permanent dispositions” representing various schemes of perception originating from conventional categories such as male/female. These constraints could prevent women to participate in politics. Apart from structural constraints, internalized dispositions could also influence the way and manner individuals engage in politics and take part in decision making processes (Bourdieu, 1990). This draws the idea that not only do external constraints impede women political participation; but also, the internal driven attribute of the women could serve as an obstacle for women political participation. In making a clarion call for women’s political participation, five main arguments have been propounded which are the Justice Perspective, the experience argument, the interest school of thought, the symbolic argument, the critical mass argument and the democracy argument (Inglehart and Norris, 2003; Joshua and Aseem, 2013).

The proponents of the Justice argument contend that women have a right to more than half the seats in parliament since they are more than half in terms of their number to men of the world population. The experience school of thought avows that women have different experiences which are biologically and socially constructed and should be represented in the political platform as well. The interest proponents include scholars who contend that women and men have conflicting interests and these interests cannot be represented by men; hence the need for women political participation. The symbolic scholars are of the view that women acting as political heads serve as role models for all women regardless of their political viewpoints or membership of a political unit. From the critical mass perspective women are able to achieve solidarity of purpose to represent women’s interest when they are able to achieve certain level of representation. The democracy commentators argue that there should be equal representation of women and men as this enhances democratization of governance.

2.1 The Political System

As part of democratization there arises the guiding principles, the structures and the formulae thereby political system is discussed based on the strength of democracy, the electoral system and gender electoral quota systems. This system is very vital in democracy therefore WorldNet define it as:

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