Exercising Her Right: Civic and Political Pathways to Women’s Political Participation in Pakistan

Project Duration: 2017 to 2021

Reducing the gender gap in electoral participation in developing democracies is an important and acknowledged challenge for global policy. The exercise of the right to vote is a key requirement of political accountability and equal participation in the electoral process is also a pre-requisite of women’s empowerment. Pakistan is a particularly “hard case” for this challenge because the wide gender gap in political participation has shown considerable resilience compared to other countries in the region, such as India, which have seen a narrowing of this gap since the 90s. The magnitude of this challenge in the Pakistani setting is well recognized by donors, parliamentarians and civil society. However, despite considerable investment and effort, we continue to struggle with the design and implementation of effective interventions to address this challenge. It is clear that there are no silver bullets, and that closing the gender gap in political participation will require rigorous evidence, systematic learning, experimentation and innovation.

In light of the upcoming 2018 general elections in Pakistan and persistent gender inequalities in political participation, this project sets out to design and evaluate the effectiveness of strategies to increase women’s voter participation in the upcoming 2018 General Elections. An important objective of this project is to create a learning platform that uses mixed method research and rigorous evaluations to produce evidence on two open questions in the policy and research agenda on women’s participation:

  • Do non-partisan campaigns by civic organizations have a greater impact on women’s participation compared to partisan campaigns run by political actors, and are there additional gains from coordinated campaigns between civic organizations and political actors?
  • Are gender-segregated campaigns more effective than desegregated ones?

Using a Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) design, the project will be able to causally identify the impact of civic vs. political mobilization appeals to women, as well as the relative effectiveness of targeting only women, only men or both within a household with these interventions. The creation of a learning platform is possible because of an understanding about a novel collaboration between the researchers and premier civic and political partners engaged as part of DFID-UK Government’s Consolidating Democracy in Pakistan (CDIP) program.

We envision that the learning platform will enable project partners to innovate the design of their future programs using results from this project. The collaboration with DFID will allow the evidence generated by this platform to inform the global effort to increase women’s political participation in challenging contexts like Pakistan.