Document Type

Honors Project


In 2018, Bolivia and Nicaragua contain 53 and 46 percent women in their national legislatures respectively, while other countries, including the United States, lag behind with proportions around 20 percent. Why do some countries have higher levels of women in office? A preliminary answer points to gender quotas, which have increased numbers of women in legislature in numerous cases. Rather than beginning and ending the story of women’s representation with gender quotas, however, this project analyzes the processes that lead a country toward the adoption of such quotas. By tracing the political histories of Bolivia and Nicaragua through crises related to democratization, women’s mobilization, and opening political space, this project provides a more complete explanation of differences in women’s representation. Both countries contain more women in legislature than many others, but these gains come as a result of decades of women’s activism. When women mobilize during and after crises of democratization, they are ultimately able to access spaces of power within the legislature after new political space opens. This theory provides potential for a more nuanced analysis of a country’s trajectory toward gender quotas and eventual increased representation of women.



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