Women's Representation, Participation, and Influence in Bureaucracy and Invited Spaces

The difficulties women representatives face in the formal political sphere led women's movement activists and also the state to focus on ensuring the representation of women in other institutional forums. These include various government machineries, women's ministries, gender commissions, and so on. We also focus on women's inclusion and participation in the invited spaces (semi-formal) created by the state for engaging citizens at the com- munity/local levels such as health-watch committees, and policy consultation processes, such as those for the Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS).

National Gender Machineries

All of the case-study countries have created national gender machineries for 'bureaucratized representation' (Goetz 2003b) to promote gender equity in state programmes and policy. In Chile, Servicio Nacional de la Mujer (SERNAM), the national women's machinery, played a key role in advocating for legislation against domestic violence, sexual harassment, and gender discrimination, including laws on day care for seasonal workers and maternity leave for domestic employees (Waylen 1997). In Rwanda, the Women and Gender Ministry played a key role in creating a clear gender focus within the bureaucracy and in disseminating women's demands that emerge through the Women's Councils at the village level and their national secretariat (Burnet 2008). In Uganda, the Women's Ministry, which had strong links with women's organizations and associations, acted to promote their demands (Goetz 2003a).

For Bangladesh, Uganda, Rwanda, and Nepal, the discussion in international UN women's conferences on state gender machineries facilitated the establishment of national gender machineries. In the sub-Saharan context—for example, Rwanda and South Africa—these national gender machineries, such as the Gender Equality Commission (South Africa) and the Ministry of Women and Gender (Rwanda), were also products of negotiations between the women's movement and the transitional government, where the latter wanted to signal its commitment to gender equity. In Chile, the democratic transition and women's participation in the democratic movement, and pressure by the women's movement on the state and political parties created space for the creation of SERNAM (Frohman and Valdez 1995).

The effectiveness of 'bureaucratized representation' by these gender machineries depends on their: expertise, budgets, ability to review policies formulated by other departments, ability to co-ordinate different policies on gender, and ability to sanction other departments if they fail to promote gender equity in their policies. In Bangladesh, though the Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs (MOWCA) co-ordinates the affairs of other ministries using gender focal points, it has limited influence since it cannot sanction any government body for not addressing gender equity in their policies or programmes (UNIFEM 2008). Resource constraint is a major drawback; in South Africa the Gender Equality Commission's work was stretched in terms of time, staff, and money, which created difficulties for fulfilling its mandate (Fester 2014). In Chile, SERNAM's activities have been constrained by lack of finance, lack of autonomy, close ties with political parties, and an absence of institutional power to influence other ministries. At times SERNAM's goals that threaten gender relations have been overtly opposed by other ministries and government bodies (Waylen 1997).

The political and international contexts may also affect these national machineries' ability to perform. The work of the Commission on the Status of Women in India (CSWI) attracted attention during the UN women's decade (1975-85), which led to a concerted effort to study the impact of various development measures on poor and rural women in India. CSWI's work also gained importance in the 1970s because the emergency period imposed by the Congress Party created a context where work on women's issues was not considered as politically dangerous as other subjects (Kumar 1995). Many of the national gender machineries had gained momentum and support from the state around the time of the Beijing conference (UNIFEM 2008), which points to the role played by international discourses for creating space.

 
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