This action research project aimed at understanding the factors obstructing and enabling participation of women in the Ward Councils of Ngara, and design a policy intervention. The study employed qualitative methods including interviews, focus group discussions, and document reviews. Following empowerment theory, it reveals socio-economic, socio-cultural, and institutional factors hindering women’s participation, such as financial difficulties, lack of political knowledge, social norms and stereotypes. It also identifies individual, community, and institutional factors that positively influence women’s access to ward council positions, such as grassroots leadership experience, support from other women, mindset changes, and reduced gender stereotypes. The study emphasized the importance of quotas in enhancing women’s representation but reviews the factors obstructing equal influence. Overcoming these challenges is concluded as crucial for women to have an equal voice, access resources, and shape development plans, policies, and strategies. It highlights the need for women’s empowerment, resource sharing, and civil society support, and recommends additional leadership positions for women, coalition building, addressing gender-based violence, and promoting gender equality in nominations. The study concludes with targeted recommendations for local government, political parties, civil society and community members to promote gender equality and effective women’s participation in decision-making bodies.
This research is the result of an “impact research grant” – an innovative approach to research that starts from the policy end. Following the request from Ngara District Council in a Local Democracy Lab to investigate the barriers to women’s political participation in its wards, this project set out to study obstacles and enablers in a manner that involved the community to directly address them.