May 1, 2019
REGION: Sub-Saharan Africa

The article “Gendered Accountability: When and Why Do Women’s Policy Priorities Get Implemented?” by Valeriya Mechkova and Ruth Carlitz, examines the relationship between women in positions of political power and the promotion of issues and policies that are beneficial for women. The authors’ research focuses on the region of Sub-Saharan Africa and looks specifically at the issues of maternal and infant mortality, and access to clean water. The authors conclude that greater prevalence of women in legislative offices and female citizens holding representatives accountable contribute to a decrease in infant mortality rates; however, there is no clear association between women and parliament and maternal mortality or access to clean water.

In conducting this study, the authors examine instances where female members of parliament take action to represent the interests of female citizens. The authors use a conceptual framework analyzing factors such as descriptive representation, defined as the proportion of women in the legislature, and how this contributes to substantive representation, defined as improved policy outcomes for women. The authors find that the promotion of policies that benefit women is more likely to occur when female citizens are more actively engaged in politics and hold female representatives accountable, and when the formal procedures used to elect representatives incorporate quotas and a degree of proportionality so that women can compete against other interests within parties, which creates flexibility in the election process and makes it easier for women to get elected.

In examining the relationship between the number of female representatives and infant mortality rates, the authors also address the issues of reversed causality and omitted variable bias. To address these issues, the authors incorporate a five-year lag period to account for delayed effects of greater female representation. The authors also consider country-specific factors including foreign aid, income per capita, urban population, corruption, and others.

Below is a breakdown of the authors’ findings in relation to the issues studied:

Infant Mortality Rates

· The authors find that a greater number of female representatives contributes to decreased infant mortality rates, which holds across a variety of quantitative tests.

· In addition, a decrease in infant mortality rates is more likely to occur when female citizens hold female representatives accountable.


Maternal Mortality Rates

· After controlling for various factors, the authors did not find a clear connection between the number of female representatives and maternal mortality rates.

· The authors found that the lack of correlation between maternal mortality rates and female representatives may be explained by divisions in the policy community, because maternal mortality rates may not be a priority to the broader public and there may disagreements on how the issue could be addressed effectively.

· The authors also hypothesize that though there is not a strong correlation, female politicians may still be promoting this issue even if their actions are not resulting in policy change.


Access to Clean Water

· Similarly, the correlation between women in parliament and access to clean water did not hold after controlling for various factors.

· The authors also found that policy implementation may be a barrier for legislatures to improve access to clean water because of the complexity of the issue.

NOTE: This summary is produced by the Rule of Law Collaborative, not by the original author(s).

Gendered Accountability: When and Why Do Women’s Policy Priorities Get Implemented?

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