This book offers an explanation for some of the most significant developments in Africa since the 1990s, namely the emerging visibility of women as political actors and the adoption of a new generation of policies advancing women's rights. We raise many questions that have rarely been examined in a comparative African perspective: Why have some countries been more likely to adopt these policies than others? Why have so many of these changes taken place in countries coming out of civil conflict? Why have so many partially democratic and nondemocratic countries introduced woman-friendly reforms? What difference does democracy make to the adoption of women's rights reforms? These are just some of the questions this book tackles.
This book is one of the first to document the dramatic changes in women's mobilization and women's impact on politics across the continent in the 1990s. There are a few superb country studies (e.g., Britton 2005; Fallon forthcoming; Hassim 2006; Steady 2006; Tamale 1999) and some regional studies (Geisler 2004). An important edited volume by Gretchen Bauer and Hannah Britton (2006) examines women in African parliaments. There is a very small but growing literature on the subject in journals that focuses on aspects of the changes described in this book in one country or context (e.g., electoral quotas for women, women and land concerns, and female genital cutting). Our book brings many of the pieces together and tells a much bigger story about overall changes in women's movements and their political impact after the 1990s.