Does Women's Proportional Strength Affect their Participation? Governing Local Forests in South Asia
Author: Bina Agarwal
Size: 15 pages (216 kB)
This paper examines community forest institutions in India and Nepal to assess the impact of increasing women's participation in local decision-making bodies. Its findings support popular assertions that women's effectiveness in such forums depends on their numerical strength and that the proportion for such effectiveness is around a third. However, while women's greater presence is critical, this is not enough. Other factors – such as the individual skill and attributes of decision-making members – help make that presence effective.
There is insufficient rigorous statistical testing in studies about women's participation in decision-making bodies. These studies also do not focus on how numerical strength might empower women in the process of decision-making itself. Active participation (such as attending meetings and speaking up at them) is a necessary intermediate step for women to influence decisions.
Women from poor households are the worst affected by forest use rules formulated by community forest institutions (CFIs) – for example, by restrictions on the extraction of firewood. It is therefore important to focus on women's proportional strength in the executive councils (ECs) of CFIs and its impact on their effective participation in decision-making.
Statistical examination of 135 CFIs in Gujarat and Nepal show that women's proportional strength is important in enhancing women's participation in governance:
However, the presence of more women on the EC is not sufficient for ensuring that women become office bearers. Beyond a mandate for including a certain percentage of women as office bearers, leadership training for women may be necessary. Other lessons are that:
Agarwal B., 2009, 'Does Women’s Proportional Strength Affect their Participation? Governing Local Forests in South Asia', World Development, vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 98-112.