Focusing only on numbers of women getting into politics without taking account of the factors that hinder their political participation risks being exclusionary in terms of the types of women who succeed, argues Mariz Tadros in a new issue of Contestations. She cites case studies from the new Women in Politics book in which the issue of unpaid care emerges as one of the strongest predictors of age and class in profiling women in politics.
Mariz contests that politics will continue to be gender biased if the issue of unpaid care is not broached. She suggests that a good start would be for political empowerment training programmes to take account of women's unpaid care responsibilities in terms of design and implementation. For the future we need to help create a community of sharing in which men and women share care responsibilities.
In response Shireen Hassim suggests that it is a disengagement of the politics of representation from the politics of transformation that lies at the heart of this problem. She says we need 'a re-energising of feminist politics that puts the gendered division of labour and issues of social reproduction front and centre'.
Naomi Hossain's response is that we need an 'opportunistic mix of frontline tactics and strategic re-imagining' in order to put care on the agenda. Making sure that the CSOs, NGOs and movements where women politicians start their careers are also serious about care as well as embarrassing the elite politicians into recognising care issues.
Finally, Rachael Stokes contends that addressing the elitism in women's politics requires starting from a grassroots perspective. A focus on the local offers 'a window through which to explore, support and promote different trajectories for women to enter national decision-making'.
Women the world over are being prevented from engaging in politics. Women's political leadership of any sort is a rarity and a career in politics is rarer still. We have, however, begun to understand what it takes to create an enabling environment for women's political participation. …