Women’s political participation and leadership

From the local to the global level, women’s leadership and political participation are restricted. Women are underrepresented in leading positions in international institutions, government and local community fora, they are also underrepresented as voters.

Discriminatory social norms restrict women’s role to the private realm of the household: unpaid care work; lack of economic opportunities; social expectations that men are natural leaders, violence against women in public life, and laws and political institutions that disregard women’s rights all further restrict women’s political participation. Women are also less likely than men to have the education, contacts and resources needed to get access to political leadership roles.

Women’s equal political participation requires that more women are present in national parliaments, local councils and community associations. To make this a reality, the barriers to women’s participation have to be removed.

GADN Resources

Explore GADN resources and learn more about women’s political participation and leadership.

GADN Working Group

The Women’s Participation and Leadership Working Group shares information and best practice. It seeks to influence the sector’s approach to increasing women’s participation, leadership, influence and decision-making.

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The challenge

Gender balance in political participation and decision-making has been an internationally agreed target for nearly 25 years, but as of January 2019, only three countries have 50% or more women in parliament: Rwanda, Cuba and Bolivia.


Women have the right to influence decisions that affect their lives, whether in the household, community, national governments or international institutions.

Achieving women’s participation and leadership requires understanding power dynamics and working with women and men to ensure equal access to, and influence in, decision-making processes.

Raising awareness, providing training for women political candidates, running campaigns on gender equality, lobbying for legislative reforms to ensure women’s fair access to political spheres, and elections that uphold women’s rights can all increase women’s political engagement.

Useful links

Member resources