In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Women and Politics

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Autobiography
  • Constitutional Reform
  • Elections
  • Law
  • Local Government
  • Political Parties
  • Conflict
  • Peacebuilding
  • Religion and Politics
  • Traditional Authorities

African Studies Women and Politics
Aili Mari Tripp
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 July 2013
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846733-0117


Research on women and politics in Africa has made important contributions to both scholarship on African politics and the more general literature on women/gender and politics in the political science subfields of comparative politics and international relations. Scholarship on African politics and women is fast evolving and has made key advances, particularly in explaining increasing rates of female legislative representation; the role of women in conflict; state policies and processes regarding women’s rights; women and patronage politics; and the role of traditional authorities with respect to women’s leadership and rights. Women, as a group, have long been excluded from the highest levels of power, particularly with the onset of colonialism, the spread of Islam and Christianity, and the turn to single-party and military rule after independence. Most of these studies have been carried out by scholars focusing on women/gender and politics. With a few exceptions, very little effort has been made to incorporate women’s experiences into the broader study of parties, legislatures, elections, the military, and other key institutions, not to mention the study of the state, patronage, conflict, ethnicity, religion, political liberalization, and many other aspects of African politics. Nevertheless, women have a significant impact on politics in Africa, especially since the 1990s, as voters, leaders, and activists within civil society. The gender and politics subfield focuses largely on women’s roles, with less written on the gendered nature of various institutions and political practices. Prior to the 1990s, scholarly work on women and politics in Africa was dominated by sociologists, anthropologists, and historians. Although women and politics is a relatively new field that is increasingly attracting scholarship by political scientists, already there is a significant corpus of literature to serve as a basis for future, more detailed, studies. This bibliography reflects work done in the general area of women and politics as it relates primarily to the post-independence period in sub-Saharan Africa. It privileges works that are accessible to an international readership, including books and peer-reviewed articles. Relevant publications for non-governmental organizations are not included, with a few exceptions. The themes are selected based on the literature available and are suggestive of the main areas that have garnered interest among scholars. The selection seeks to highlight scholarship from the continent that is available in international venues.

General Overviews

To date, there are no reference works or overviews that focus specifically on women and politics in Africa. The overviews included here focus either on specific topics such as women’s rights (Nazir and Tomppert 2005), on women in Africa more generally (Hirschmann 1991, Tripp 2003), or on women and politics globally with references to Africa and African countries (Joseph, et al. 2005, Nelson and Chowdhury 1994, Gelb and Palley 2009). These reference works tend to become outdated fairly quickly because the changes in this area are so fast-paced. Therefore, such overviews are best used as the basis for a contemporary historical record.

  • Gelb, Joyce, and Marian Lief Palley, eds. Women and Politics Around the World: A Comparative History and Survey. Vol. 1, Issues. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2009.

    The volume combines analysis of issues affecting women, from economic development to education, gender quotas, and health; as well as country profiles, including Mozambique and Nigeria.

  • Hirschmann, David. “Women and Political Participation in Africa: Broadening the Scope of Research.” World Development 19.12 (1991): 1679–1694.

    DOI: 10.1016/0305-750X(91)90012-7

    This pioneering article calls for a research agenda on women and political participation, broadly defined to include informal organizations as well as women in the bureaucracy, parliament, political parties, local government, and the village.

  • Joseph, Suad, Afsaneh Najmabadi, Julie Peteet, Seteney Shami, Jacqueline Siapno, and Jane I. Smith, eds. Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures. Vol. 2, Family, Law and Politics. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2005.

    The encyclopedia includes over 360 entries on women, family, law, politics, and Islamic cultures around the world.

  • Nazir, Sameena, and Leigh Tomppert, eds. Women’s Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: Citizenship and Justice. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2005.

    This edited collection provides a comparative assessment of women’s rights in sixteen countries. Includes Libya, Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, and Tunisia.

  • Nelson, Barbara J., and Najma Chowdhury, eds. Women and Politics Worldwide. New Haven, CT, and London: Yale University Press, 1994.

    An overview of the status of women in politics in the early 1990s combined with extensive case studies, the first of its kind. The volume includes chapters on Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Morocco, South Africa, and Sudan.

  • Skaine, Rosemarie. Women Political Leaders in Africa. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2008.

    The volume profiles eleven women leaders, including women presidents and prime ministers.

  • Tripp, Aili Mari, ed. The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Women’s Issues Worldwide. Vol. 6, Sub-Saharan Africa. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2003.

    The encyclopedia surveys women’s concerns in twenty-two African countries as they relate to politics, economics, history, and broader social issues.

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