With many emerging democracies experiencing stagnation or setbacks, providers of democracy support are struggling to tailor assistance strategies to highly varied transitional contexts. As a crucial area of international aid for democracy as well as for development more generally, efforts to bolster women’s political empowerment share this challenge. Strategic differentiation not only helps identify what types of programs may be most effective in advancing gender equality in politics but also reveals how this work can be a critical lever for broader change where attempted transitions have slipped into dysfunctional patterns.
Author note: I undertook this paper at the request and with the support of the Gender, Women, and Democracy team of the National Democratic Institute (NDI).
The team was interested in connecting my ongoing work on strategies of democracy assistance with the domain of women’s political empowerment. They
were close partners in framing the structure of the research and analysis and provided
access to numerous NDI field representatives and other staff for research
interviews. Many of the examples in the paper are drawn from NDI programs,
but the research findings are not specific to NDI’s work.