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Women's Rights Movements as a Measure of African Democracy

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The currently dominant neoliberal narrative of democratization in Africa is silent on women, focussing (as have the dominant narratives on colonialism and nationalism before it) on conflicts between male elites. This paper, using the case of Botswana, is intended as a contribution to a counternarrative of democratization that focuses on women's groups, along with trade unions, civic groups and other popular forces, as a basis for "democratization from below." The inclusion of women in both politics and scholarly narratives is not only a question of equity. Examining the conditions that make it possible for women's groups to organize and to succeed can provide a useful measure of the substantive democracy in a system, an understanding of the class base needed for effective women's mobilization and protection of their rights, and an idea of how women's groups might develop as part of effective coalitions seeking popular democracy.

Affiliations: 1: Institute for African Development, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, U.S.A.


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