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AU Scholars | Spring 2016 Research Courses

Women’s Movements/ Women’s Parties: Collective Strategies for Improving Women’s Representation

Course Time: F 11:45am -- 2:25pm

Course Description

As multi-peace talks were set to begin in 1995 in Northern Ireland, where there were very few women in politics, members of the women’s movement wrote to every established political party to ask how they would ensure that women were represented in the negotiations. Not a single party responded, though one registered receipt of the letter. The women realized that forming their own political party would be their only opportunity to have their voices heard. Tiny, marginal and short-lived, the NI Women’s Coalition still managed to have a profound effect on women’s representation by pressuring the mainstream political parties to pay attention to these issues and alter their behavior and policies.  

The project compares women’s movements all over the world with a focus on their strategies for improving women’s political representation. The course will consider some examples of women’s and other movement-parties (such as green or ethnic parties), examine the relationship of women’s movements to established political parties and create a list of cases of women’s formal mobilization. Students will help prepare the list of cases and write a research brief on a case of their choosing. The end product will be a catalogue of women’s parties the world over and a collection of case-studies of women organizing outside of established parties. This data will allow us to explore whether and when forming a women’s political party is a useful tactic for improving women’s representation.  

Research skills 

The project will give students an occasion to examine some key themes of three bodies of literature: social movements, political parties and politics and gender. Students will also have an opportunity to do original research using primary documents (e.g., newspapers, interviews) and election materials to develop the historical record of women’s parties and/or movements. The project will also give students the opportunity to practice their written and oral communications skills, hone their problem-solving and critical inquiry skills and develop teamwork.