Call for proposals: Research on Women’s Wings within Political Parties in Malawi

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Call for proposals: Research on Women’s Wings within Political Parties in Malawi

March 02nd, 2021

The Project 

The value of women’s networks, both within and outside political parties, is commonly identified by senior political woman as an important aspect of their political journey and success. Whilst there is considerable literature on what makes an effective network, there is little research available on women’s networks within political parties.

Political parties are widely recognised as one of the primary arbiters of women’s representation in a political system, and many parties organise their women members in networks which are referred to as ‘Women’s Wings.’ Although these vary in size, profile of membership, place in the party governance structure, formal policies and constitution between parties, the establishment of women’s wings has a long history.

In many contexts where party leadership is still heavily dominated by men, women’s wings are an important network and space within party structures and may present an opportunity for women to work towards better inclusion of women in decision-making structures. They may also provide training to support women’s campaigns and political experience (Cels et al., 2014). However, women’s wings also face challenges in being able to influence political parties’ agendas (Osei-Afful, 2014) and in some cases have been criticised for silo-ing women’s issues.

In many cases, women’s wings have been considered to be an important conduit through which to support women’s political leadership through the network they provide. One study found that women’s wings occur in approximately half of 106 parties across 17 nation-states and that parties with women’s wings were more likely to have gender quota rules (Childs & Kittilson, 2016).

Another study examined an original dataset of 196 political parties in 79 countries in South America, the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan African and Asia found that women’s wings are more likely in states where there is a strong autonomous feminist movement. It also finds significant and positive relationships between women’s wings and other aspects of women’s representation, including quotas for membership on party NECs and women’s membership on NECs and among parliamentary delegations (Cowell-Meyers, 2017). However, there is limited evidence on how women’s wings operate, and in what ways women’s wings support women’s political leadership.

In order to address this gap within the literature, this research has two main objectives:

  • To explore whether and how women’s wings facilitate women’s political empowerment and leadership.
  • To explore whether there are opportunities for WFD Political Party programmes to support effective women’s wings

Key Deliverables

  1. Conduct primary research on the women’s wings within two-three political parties in Malawi. This will be through semi-structured interviews with 7-10 people from each political party. The interviews will be with a range of elected representatives and party officials.
  2. Collate and conduct analysis of the interviews from each party and create final report summarising findings

View the Terms of References for further details, timeframe, and application requirements. 

Applications and proposals should be sent to by 8 March 2021


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