Why Women Participate Less than Men in Civic Activity: Evidence from Mali
39 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2014
Date Written: August 14, 2014
Civic engagement fails to foster democratic representation and accountability when women or other marginalized groups face barriers to participation, as they do in many developing countries. Rather than flattening access to participation, a randomly assigned civic education course in Mali widened the gender gap when it increased civic activity among men while decreasing that among women. Qualitative evidence reveals mechanisms by which the information intervention generated perverse consequences for women. In a place where women are traditionally unwelcome actors in the public sphere, the course heightened the salience of civic activity, thus increasing social costs for female participators. Women report implicit and explicit threats of sanctions from male relatives and village elders. The intervention did, however, work to close the gender gap in civic and political knowledge. Together, these findings suggest that resource constraints limit civic participation, but flattening access cannot overcome discriminatory gender norms – and may even exacerbate them.
Keywords: civic participation, gender, information, experiment
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