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‘Let there be a Balance’: Women in African Parliaments



It has been 25 years since the National Resistance Movement took power in Uganda and ushered in an era of women's increased presence in African legislatures – at first in east and southern Africa and eventually beyond. In 2008, Uganda's neighbor Rwanda became the first country in the world to have more women than men in a chamber of parliament. In mid-2012, eight African countries were among the top 30 countries worldwide in terms of women's presence in a single or lower house of parliament. Across the continent one country after another has taken measures to increase women's presence in the national legislature. This article provides an update on these developments within sub-Saharan Africa. In particular, the article seeks to evaluate women's descriptive, substantive and symbolic representation in African parliaments in the last quarter-century by reviewing a growing literature. Despite the remarkable gains that have been made by women in national legislatures across the continent, Africa's accomplishments in this arena are little known – in contrast to those from other parts of the world. This article, in surveying and synthesizing the literature, seeks also to make those accomplishments better known.

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