Description of the project

Since December 2010, the Arab region has witnessed unexpected protest movements, some of which have generated very important political changes. Women have been very active in the democratic uprisings, especially in Tunisia and Egypt. However, feminist researchers as well as women’s movements have pointed to the numerous historical examples of women being pushed back into the home after having participated in revolutionary processes. The traditional Nordic understanding that gender equality will come with the development of society (the time-lag theory, Karvonen & Selle 1995) has been seriously challenged by actual global developments, recently also in the Nordic countries.

The Arab Spring represents an interesting challenge for gender research on women’s political participation and representation. Although having played a crucial role in the popular mobilization processes, women’s political participation in the “post-revolution” phase and in the political reconstruction of their countries remains – up to now - very limited, if not completely absent. However, one may argue that new avenues for political influence have been opened for women and younger people of both genders as a consequence of technological developments. As an example, the new social media have allowed for rapid communications and for the involvement of young women through the circumventing of restrictions often placed on women in the public space. The breakdown of the ancient regimes and the old party structures and the establishment of new political parties, new electoral systems such as the new PR electoral system in Tunisia and new systems of electoral gender quotas all open up for new avenues for women into public life. In addition to all this, new actors, including many “independent”, are appearing on political realm, with new political agenda based on new concepts of citizenship and political participation. As previously already stated by the Arab Human Development Report from 2003, empowering women and enhancing their political participation is a prerequisite for the development of the Arab region. This research collaboration will focus on the importance of agency, institutional and discursive changes.

The aim of this project is to develop research ties between Swedish and Arab, particularly North African, researchers that are experts on women’s political participation and representation as well as on the use of active measures to overcome the many barriers to women’s inclusion in political decision-making at all levels. The principal partners are WIP, Women in Politics Research Network at the Department of Political Science at Stockholm University and CAWTAR, Center for Arab Women Training and Research, settled in Tunis, Tunisia, but working at the regional level. Based on the expertise of the participating researchers on the political empowerment of women, this project will broaden, complement and further develop on-going research projects. The research collaboration will consist of research visits in Sweden and North Africa, workshops and one larger conference. The project will further make a  a mapping of the research in this field (both in the Arab world and in the Nordic countries), and prepare for a common book project.

The Partners

The WIP Network at the Department of Political Science, Stockholm University is led by Professor Drude Dahlerup and associate Professor Lenita Freidenvall, both of whom have published extensively on issues within the globally expanding research field “Gender and Politics”. They are expert on women’s representation, electoral systems, political parties and electoral quota systems. They have been employed in that capacity as international consultants in, among other places, Sierra Leone, Cambodia, Tunisia (IPU3 mission, March 2011, UNDP Mission October 2012), Turkey and most recently Egypt (IPU mission January 2013) and have worked for and with OSCE, SADEC, UNPD, International IDEA, OSCD, The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), The Club of Madrid, Nordic Council of Ministers and the European Union (

CAWTAR is a renowned regional institute for research and training, dealing with women’s empowerment all over the Arab world. CAWTAR’s many publications include studies on women’s political participation in various Arab countries, Arab media from a gender perspective and gender and decision-making ( and more specifically Of particular interest for this collaboration is that CAWTAR’s present research project focused on young women’s political participation in Tunisia, financed by IDRC, see later. Through CAWTAR’s extensive networks of researchers and stakeholders in the Arab world, the project will not only focus on research links in Tunisia and Egypt but will also – in its workshops and conferences - involve researchers and various stakeholders in other North African countries as well as in other Arab countries in the MENA-region.

International symposium, Stockholm, 17/1 2013

“Women’s Empowerment? New Social Media and Women as Agents of Change in the Arab Region”

This conference marked the beginning of the project and focused on women as agents of change in the Arab region and new social media. The conference included participants from universities, civil society, and government agencies and had four key speakers: Professor Fatima Sadiqi, University of Fez; Racha Mourtada, Dubai School of Government; Professor Anne Sofie Roald, Malmö University; Professor Kristina Riegert, Stockholm University.

Follow this link to access a Conference Report including program, summaries and PowerPoint presentations, as well as list of participants:  Conference report (279 Kb)

Upcoming activities

-          Mapping of published and ongoing research on women’s political participation in the MENA region (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, South Soudan, Jordan, Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Syria) and in the Nordic countries (Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland) from 2000 to 2013. Time frame: April-September 2013. Work in progress.

-          International conference in Tunis in December 2013. Work in progress.