Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa
Conseil pour le développement de la recherche en sciences sociales en Afrique
Conselho para o Desenvolvimento da Pesquisa em Ciências Sociais em África
مجلس تنمية البحوث الإجتماعية في أفريقيا

African Governance and Gender: From a Politics of Representation to a Politics of Transformation


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The Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) is pleased to announce the 2012 session of its annual Democratic Governance Institute. It therefore invites researchers to submit their applications for participation in this institute to be held from 23th July to 11th August, 2012 in Dakar, Senegal.


The activities of all CODESRIA Institutes centre on presentations made by African researchers, resource persons from the continent and the Diaspora, and participants whose applications for admission as laureates have been successful. The sessions are led by a scientific director who, with the support of the selected resource persons, ensures that the laureates are exposed to a wide range of research and policy issues. Each laureate is required to prepare a research paper to be presented during the session. The revised versions of such papers will undergo a peer review for publication by CODESRIA. The CODESRIA Documentation and Information Centre (CODICE) will provide participants with a comprehensive bibliography on the theme of the institute. Access to a number of documentation centers in and around Dakar will also be also facilitated.


The CODESRIA Democratic Governance Institute will be conducted in French and in English through simultaneous translation.

African Governance and Gender: From a Politics of Representation to a Politics of Transformation

Modern democracy has inexorably come to mean representative democracy. If so, can a system where more than one half of the population is severely under-represented be regarded as a true representative democracy and what are the implications for governance?

It is increasingly recognized that one of the important steps in deepening democracy and democratic governance is to ensure a better representation of women in politics. More women in politics across the world, inclusive of Africa, are presumed to assist in ensuring that gender lenses are applied to governance and in so doing, transform the lives of women on the continent. From Mexico in 1975 to Beijing in 1995, a lot of progress has been made for the advancement of women but one area which demands more scrutiny is the political representation of women. Governance refers to the process of decision making and the ways in which decisions are implemented. While government is the main actor, there are several non-state actors such as civil society groups, socio-cultural organisations, trade unions, youth movements, etc., who can influence decisions.

The numbers of women in certain African legislatures exceed that of many more developed democratic countries. The question that is often asked is whether the numerical increase in women’s representation in politics guarantees the representation of womens’ interests in government decision making. In other words, a politics of representation does not necessarily lead to a politics of transformation. A number of studies across the globe have demonstrated that with the influx of larger numbers of women in to public politics, women’s issues, interests, values, and perspectives have been incorporated into political discourse and policy-making but these do not translate into effective action on the ground. A minimum critical mass is seen as necessary for promoting women’s interests but this too remains problematic.

African governance has a long road to travel for the promotion of gender equitable and more just societies. While certain African countries have developed state- of the arts constitutions in guaranteeing equal rights to their citizens, inclusive of women, the latter often continue to bear the brunt of male-biased policies and/or what are perceived as gender-neutral policies within the African governance context.

African governance should be infused with an African feminist ideology if it is to contribute to more gender justice and equitable societies. Problems of and resulting from gender inequity are often exacerbated in the context of economic crises. The World Bank/IMF policies of the 1970s and 80s structural adjustment policies and the related rolling back of the state have had some serious negative impacts on women in Africa. The more recent financial global crisis has also had major ripple effects on women’s ability to sustain their livelihoods and on the attainment of MDG Goal 3 referring to gender equality. Several sources indicate that MDG Goal 3 – is the one making the least progress. It is also the goal that may unlikely be attained in the near future. The growing evidence of a rapidly expanding feminisation of poverty is also a reflection of the persistent gender insensitive policies. Can women in African politics help to shape and reformulate African governance and global governance in such a way as to ensure the prevention of the erosion of welfare measures for women, to recognize women’s reproductive and productive contributions to the economy and thereby render economic playing fields between men and women more equal? What about local government and how does it articulate with politics at the central level to deliver more gender equitable governance?

Despite many obstacles, women in positions of power and decision making have taken significant steps to articulate women’s interests in politics as exemplified by some gender sensitive legislations, particularly those speaking to violence against women. While laws are necessary, they are not sufficient to change the African governance architecture.

As women straddle between the private and public spheres, they continue to remain on the margins and are often treated as second class citizens. The urgency of gender inclusive democratic developmental states is increasingly felt. Gender inclusive democratic developmental states work at ensuring that policies are made and implemented with the view of ensuring responsive gender budgeting and equitable citizenship. In short, democratic developmental governance is required for all kinds of governance which turns development into freedom, i. e. - freedom from want, illiteracy, malnutrition, homelessness and diseases. By so doing, it enhances the capabilities of both men and women. The UNDP dictum ‘without engendering development, development is endangered’ still remains relevant today.

Several international instruments exist that facilitate women’s involvement in governance and speak to development. Some of these include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, The Convention of All Forms of Discriminations Against Women (CEDAW), UN Security Council Resolution 1325. In spite of these, moving towards gender equity remains rather slow. And when countries prioritise ‘femocracy’ as opposed to governance with gender lenses, women’s empowerment can suffer an important setback. Perhaps, more attention should be paid to what Nigerian writer Obioma Nnaemeka calls ‘Nego feminism’- which is a feminism of negotiation and/or a ‘No- ego feminism’. If the latter can appropriate some space within the African governance architecture without reinforcing the unequal power relations between men and women, a lot would have been gained for African women and gender hierarchies could be reversed.

The objectives of the 2012 governance Institute:

1) To examine how the relations between the state and women is implicitly or explicitly represented.
2) To explore the opportunities and constraints that African women legislators face in bringing change to women’s lives.
3) To identity the obstacles to womens’ entry in African politics and gendered governance.
4) To study the potential for non state actors to collaborate with women in positions of decision making to ensure governance with gender lenses.
5) To understand the interface between national governance and global governance with the view of promoting MDG goal 3 and gender equitable societies.
6) To explore whether the emergence of men’s movements in certain parts of Africa can bring about more gender justice.
7) To examine the interface of the local and the global and local and how it impacts on women’s lives and what are its implications for governance.
8) To examine the complexity around gendermainstreaming as a concept and whether it can assist in providing gender lenses to governance.
9) To examine how gender mainstreaming at global level affects the gender balanced mode of governance in Africa.
10) How the recent economic global crisis is impacting on governance with the women face.

The Director

CODESRIA has selected Professor Sheila Bunwaree, who has been conducting research for many years on issues of development, governance, gender, to direct the 2012 Democratic Governance Institute. As director of the Institute, Professor Sheila Bunwaree will carry out the following tasks:

- Assist with the identification of resource persons in charge of leading discussions and debates;
- Participate in the selection of laureates;
- Interact with the laureates to help them readjust their research questions and their approaches;
- Design the courses for the session, including specific sub-themes;
- Deliver a set of lectures and conduct a critical analysis of papers presented by the resource persons and the laureates;
- Submit a written scientific report on the session.

In addition, Professor Sheila Bunwaree is expected to (co-) edit the revised versions of the papers presented by the resource persons with a view to submitting them for publication in one of CODESRIA’s collections. She will also assist CODESRIA in assessing the papers presented by laureates during the Institute for publication.

Resource Persons

Lectures to be delivered during the session are intended to offer laureates an opportunity to advance their reflections on the theme of the Institute. Resource persons should therefore be senior scholars or researchers who have published extensively on the theme, and who have significant contributions to make to the debates on it. They will be expected to produce lecture materials which would stimulate laureates to engage in discussion and debate around their respective lectures and the general body of literature available on the theme.
Once selected, resource persons must:

- Interact with the director of the institute and laureates to help the latter readjust their research questions and their methodological approaches;
- Submit a copy of their course materials for reproduction and distribution to participants no later than one week before they deliver their lectures;
- Deliver their lectures, participate in debates and comment on the research proposals and the papers of the laureates;
- Review and submit the revised version of their lecture notes or research papers for publication by CODESRIA not later than two months following their presentation at the Institute.


Applicants should be Masters or PhD students or scholars in their early career with a proven capacity to conduct research on the theme of the institute. Intellectuals active in the policy process and/or social movements and civil society organizations are also encouraged to apply. The number of places offered by CODESRIA at each session is limited to fifteen (15). Non-African scholars who are able to raise funds for their participation may also apply for a limited number of places.

Application Procedures

Applications for the position of resource person should include:

1) An application letter;
2) A curriculum vitae;
3) Two (2) published papers
4) A proposal of not more than five (5) pages in length, outlining the issues to be covered in their three (3) proposed lectures, including one on methodological issues;

Applications for laureates should include:

1) An application letter;
2) A letter indicating institutional or organizational affiliation;
3) A curriculum vitae;
4) A research proposal (not more than ten (10) pages in two copies) including a descriptive analysis of the work the applicant intends to undertake, an outline of the theoretical interest of the topic chosen by the applicant, the relationship of the topic to the problematic and concerns of the theme of the 2012 Institute ;
5) Two (2) reference letters from scholars or researchers known for their competence and expertise in the candidate’s research area (geographic and disciplinary), including their names, addresses, telephone and/or fax numbers and email addresses.

Application Deadline

The deadline for the submission of applications is 6th May, 2012. Selected applicants will be notified by the end of May 2012. Laureates are expected to use the month of June to carry out their fieldwork or collect information to prepare a draft research paper to be presented during the Institute. This draft research paper should be submitted to CODESRIA not later than 15th July, 2012. Laureates will be expected to work on this document (and not on the abstract of the proposal) and prepare it for publication during the Institute.

Submission of Applications

All applications or requests for additional information should be sent to:

Democratic Governance Institute
Avenue Cheikh Anta Diop x Canal IV
BP 3304, CP 18524, Dakar, Senegal
Tel.: (221) 33 825 98 21/22/23
Fax: (221) 33 824 12 89

January 16 2012