Reserved Seats for Women in Rural Local Government: Achieving a Level Playing Field

  • Shajeda AktarEmail author
  • Janet McIntyre-Mills
Part of the Contemporary Systems Thinking book series (CST)


The government of Bangladesh introduced direct election in the quota seats for women through the Local Government (Second Amendment) Act 1997. The empirical studies on the performances of the elected women representatives, however, show mix evidences of women representatives’ success and empowerment. Intuitively, the literature commonly scrutinised the role performances of the elected women representatives in the LGIs, but there is no study so far to investigate whether there were situations that beget self-selection in contesting (and more importantly, in self-exclusion from contesting) election. This paper discusses the issues women representatives faced in contesting election in the local government institutions in Bangladesh. Empirical evidence shows women members were to struggle in exercising agency and mobilising resources while making a decision to contest election, during election campaign as well as functioning in the LGIs once elected.


Women empowerment Reserved seats Local government Direct election 



The authors are grateful for helpful comments on the previous draft of this paper to Dr. Elizabeth Morrell, Mona Lena Krook, participants of the Midwest Political Science Conference (Chicago, USA) 2012; New Zealand Political Studies Association Conference (Canterbury University, Christchurch) 2013 and the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Science Seminar (Flinders University) 2013. The remaining errors are responsibility of the authors. Opinion, explanation and suggestions do not correspond to any organisations mentioned in the paper.


  1. ADB. (2004). Gender and governance issues in local government: Regional report of technical assistance in Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan. Manila: South Asia Regional Department, Asian Development Bank.Google Scholar
  2. Aktar, S. (2006a). Women empowerment in the local government system in Bangladesh: A study of the elected women members of some selected Union Parishads. Rajshahi: Rajshahi University.Google Scholar
  3. Aktar, S. (2006b). Women empowerment, participation and leadership in the local government system of Bangladesh: A study of the elected women members of Union Parishads (in Bengali). Journal of Bangladesh Public Administration Training Centre, 8(3), 32–48.Google Scholar
  4. Aktar, S. (2009). Problems and potentials of women empowerment in the local government system in Bangladesh. Social Science Journal, 15, 42–59.Google Scholar
  5. Ali, A. (2003). Women’s participation in local government. Dhaka: Miazee Publications.Google Scholar
  6. Babbie, E. (2007). The practice of social research. London: Wordsworth Publishing Company.Google Scholar
  7. Basu, A. (2003). Gender and governance: Concept and context. In M. Nussbaum et al. (Eds.), Essays on gender and governance (pp. 20–58). New Delhi: Human Development Research Centre, UNDP.Google Scholar
  8. BBS. (2010). Statistical year book. Dhaka: Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.Google Scholar
  9. Beijing Platform for Action. (1995). Fourth world conference on women, United Nations Development Programme.Google Scholar
  10. Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of a theory of practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brody, A. (2009). Gender and governance: Overview report. Sussex: BRIDGE, Institute of Development Studies.Google Scholar
  12. Chambers, R. (1983). Rural development: Putting the last first. New York: Longman Scientific and Technical.Google Scholar
  13. Chowdhury, N. (1985). Women in politics in Bangladesh. In Q. K. Ahmed et al. (Eds.), Situation of women in Bangladesh. Dhaka: Ministry of Social Welfare and Women’s Affairs.Google Scholar
  14. Chowdhury, N. (1994a). Gender issues and politics in a patriarchy. In B. J. Nelson & N. Chowdhury (Eds.), Women and politics worldwide. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  15. Chowdhury, N. (1994b). Women in politics. Empowerment, Women for Women, 1, 7–60.Google Scholar
  16. Chowdhury, N. (1994c). Women’s participation in politics: Marginalization and related issues. In N. Chowdhury et al. (Eds.), Women and politics. Dhaka: University Press Limited.Google Scholar
  17. Chowdhury, F. (2008). Women in politics in Bangladesh. Dhaka: Ministry of Social Welfare and Women’s Affairs.Google Scholar
  18. Chowdhury, F. D. (2009). Problems of women’s participation in Bangladesh politics. The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs, 98(404), 555–567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Coleman, J. S. (1988). Social capital in the creation of human capital. American Journal of Sociology, 94(Suppl), 95–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dahlerup, D. (2006). Women, quotas and politics. Oxon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  21. Dahlerup, D., & Freidenvall, L. (2005). Quotas as a fast track to equal representation for women. International Feminist Journal of Politics, 7(1), 26–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Darcy, R., Welch, S., & Clark, J. (1987). Women, elections, and representation. New York: Longman.Google Scholar
  23. Das, H. (2005). The rationale of increasing the number of women’s reserved seats in the parliament and holding direct election. In Movement profiles of Bangladesh Mahila Parishad Report (pp. 1996–2002). Dhaka: Bangladesh Mahila Parishad.Google Scholar
  24. Eisenstadt, S. N., & Roniger, L. (1980). Patron-client relations as a model of structuring social exchange. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 22(1), 42–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Eschle, C. (2001). Global democracy, social movements, and feminism. Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  26. Eulau, H. (1962). Recollections. In J. C. Wahlke et al. (Eds.), The legislative system: Explorations in legislative behavior (pp. 121–140). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  27. European Network of Experts. (1997). Women in decision-making. Luxembourg: European Network of Experts, European Commission on Anti-Discrimination.Google Scholar
  28. Evertzen, A. (2001). Gender and local governance. The Hague: Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV).Google Scholar
  29. Firoj, J. (2007). Women in Bangladesh Parliament. Dhaka: AH Development Publishing House.Google Scholar
  30. Frankl, E. (2004). Quota as empowerment: The use of reserved seats in Union Parishad as an instrument for women’s political empowerment in Bangladesh. Stockholm: Department of Political Science, Stockholm University.Google Scholar
  31. Fulton, F. (2008). Women’s participation in decentralised government: Panchayat Raj Institutions in Rural Rajasthan, India. San Antonio: Saint Mary’s University.Google Scholar
  32. Garner, J. W. (1985). Introduction to political science. Delhi: Pearl Publishers.Google Scholar
  33. Getz, V. (2005). Gateways and gatekeepers: Empowerment through reservation: The experience of elected women representatives in Kerala, India Panchayats. Pullman: Washington State University.Google Scholar
  34. Glaeser, E., Laibson, D., & Sacerdote, B. (2002). An economic approach to social capital. The Economic Journal, 112(483), F437–F458.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. GoB. (2008). Constitution of Bangladesh. Dhaka: Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of Bangladesh.Google Scholar
  36. Goetz, A. M. (2004). Decentralization and gender equality, striving for gender equality in an unequal world. Washington: United Nations Development Programme.Google Scholar
  37. Goetz, A. M. (2009). Gender and administration. IDS Bulletin, 23(4), 6–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Guhathakurta, M., & Begum, S. (1995). Women’s participation in the formal structure and decision making bodies in Bangladesh. In R. Jahan (Ed.), Empowerment of women: Nairobi to Beijing (1985-1995) (pp. 29–45). Dhaka: Women For Women.Google Scholar
  39. Gurumurthy, A. (1998). Women’s rights and status: Questions of analysis and measurement, UNDP Monograph series no. 7. Retrieved from, Washington.
  40. Halder, N. (2004). Female representation in parliament: A case study from Bangladesh. New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies, 6, 27–63.Google Scholar
  41. Haque, M. S. (2000). Female representation in parliament: A case study from Bangladesh. New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies, 6(1), 59–87.Google Scholar
  42. Haque, M. S. (2003). Citizen participation in governance through representation: Issue of gender in East Asia. International Journal of Public Administration, 26(5), 569–590.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Huda, K., Rahman, S., & Guirguis, C. (2008). Social capital and what it represents: The experience of the ultra-poor in Bangladesh. Journal of Power, 1(3), 295–315.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. IDEA. (2013). Quota project: Global Database of Quotas for Women. Retrieved from, cite visited 17 January 2013.
  45. Islam, M. (2000). Political empowerment in Bangladesh in world perspective: An analysis. Rajshahi University Studies, Part-C, 8, 95–119.Google Scholar
  46. Kabeer, N. (1994). Reversed realities: Gender hierarchies in development thought. London: Verso Books.Google Scholar
  47. Kabeer, N. (1999). The conditions and consequences of choice: Reflections on the measurement of women’s empowerment. Geneva: United Nations Research Institute for Social Development.Google Scholar
  48. Kabeer, N. (2011). Between affiliation and autonomy: Navigating pathways of women’s empowerment and gender justice in rural Bangladesh. Development and Change, 42(2), 499–528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Karl, M. (1995). Women and empowerment, participation and decision making. London: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  50. Khan, M. H. (1998). Patron-client networks and the economic effects of corruption in Asia. European Journal of Development Research, 10(1), 15–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Khan, Z. R., & Mohsin, A. (2008). Women’s empowerment through local governance: Emerging issues and debates. In Pathways of Women’s Empowerment: RPC Mid Term Review Conference, Cairo.Google Scholar
  52. Kothari, C. R. (2005). Research methodology: Methods and techniques. New Delhi: Vishwa Prakashan.Google Scholar
  53. Krook, M. L. (2005). Politicizing representation: Campaigns for candidate gender quotas worldwide. New York: Columbia University.Google Scholar
  54. Krook, M. L. (2006). Reforming representation: The diffusion of candidate gender quotas worldwide. Politics & Gender, 2(3), 303–327.Google Scholar
  55. Krook, M. L. (2007). Candidate gender quotas: A framework for analysis. European Journal of Political Research, 46(3), 367–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Krook, M. L. (2009). Quotas for women in politics: Gender and candidate selection reform worldwide. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Lindberg, S. (2004). Women’s empowerment and democratization: The effects of electoral systems, participation and experiences in Africa. Studies in Comparative International Development, 39(1), 28–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Lister, R. (1997). Citizenship: feminist perspective. London: McMillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Local Government Ordinance. (1997). Government of the Peoples Republic of Bangladesh.Google Scholar
  60. Mahmud, S., Shah, N., & Becker, S. (2012). Measurement of women’s empowerment in rural Bangladesh. World Development, 40(3), 610–619.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Mahtab, N. (2007). Women in Bangladesh: From Inequality to Empowerment. Dhaka: AH Development Publishing House.Google Scholar
  62. Mason, K. (1984). The status of women: A review of its relationships to fertility and mortality. New York: Rockefeller Foundation.Google Scholar
  63. Moin, J. (2004). Women empowerment in local government system of Bangladesh. Rajshahi: Rajshahi University.Google Scholar
  64. Moser, C. O. (1989). Gender planning in the third world: Meeting practical and strategic gender needs. World Development, 17(11), 1799–1825.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Moser, C. (1993). Gender planning in development: Theory, practice and training. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  66. Mukhopadhyay, M. (2003). Creating citizens who demand just governance: Gender and development in the twenty-first century. Gender and Development, 11(3), 45–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Mukhopadhyay, M. (2005). Decentralisation and gender equity in South Asia: An issues paper. Ottawa: The International Development Research Centre.Google Scholar
  68. Mukhopadhyay, M., & Meer, S. (2004). Creating voice and carving space: Redefining governance from a gender perspective. Amsterdam: Royal Tropical Institute (KIT).Google Scholar
  69. Murshid, T. M. (2004). Women, Islam and the state in Bangladesh: Subordination and resistance. Retrieved from
  70. Nazneen, S., & Tasneem, S. (2010). A silver lining: Women in reserved seats in local government in Bangladesh. IDS Bulletin, 41(5), 35–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Niven, D. (2010). Party elites and women candidates: The shape of bias. In M. L. Krook & S. Child (Eds.), Gender power, leadership and governance: A reader (pp. 151–158). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  72. Panday, P. (2008a). Women’s political participation in Bangladesh: Institutional reforms and actors. Hong Kong: City University of Hong Kong.Google Scholar
  73. Panday, P. (2008b). Representation without participation: Quotas for women in Bangladesh. International Political Science Review, 29(4), 489–512.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Panday, P. (2011). Local government system in Bangladesh: How far is it decentralised? Lex Localis-Journal of Local Self-Government, 9(3), 205–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Phillips, A. (1998). Feminism and politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  76. Putnam, R. (1993). Making democracy work: Civic traditions in modern Italy. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  77. Qadir, R. S. (2004). Participation of women at the local level politics: Problems and prospects. In N. Chowdhury (Ed.), Women and politics. Dhaka: Women for Women.Google Scholar
  78. Rahman, M., & Roy M. K. (2004). Participation of women in rural local government: A socio-economic analysis. In Bangladesh in the 21st Century: The Political Economy Perspective, the XV Biennial Conference, Bangladesh Economic Association, Dhaka.Google Scholar
  79. Rahman, M., & Zaman, N. (2004). Politics and local self-government in Bangladesh: The historical perspective. Social Science Journal, 9, 31–49.Google Scholar
  80. Riaz, A. (2005). Traditional institutions as tools of political Islam in Bangladesh. London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Roberts, M. (2001). Non-governmental organizations and rural development in Uganda. Bergen: Bergen University.Google Scholar
  82. Roskin, M., Cord, R. L., Medeiros, J., & Jones, W. (2007). Political science: An introduction. New York: Pearson Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  83. Salahuddin, K. (1995). Women’s political participation in Bangladesh. In J. Huq (Ed.), Women in politics and bureaucracy. Dhaka: Women For Women.Google Scholar
  84. Samuelson, P. (2009). Economics. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  85. Sawer, M., Tremblay, M., & Trimble, L. (2006). Representing women in parliament: A comparative study. Oxon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  86. Siddiqi, N. (1995). Problems of people’s participation at the grass-root: Decentralized local government in perspective. Journal of Administration and Diplomacy, 3(1), 17–41.Google Scholar
  87. Siddiqui, T. (2002). Effective participation of women and strengthening of local government in Bangladesh. In National seminar on good governance and local government: Changes and challenges. Dhaka: Odhikar.Google Scholar
  88. Stacey, M., & Price, M. (1981). Women, power and politics. London: Tavistock Publications.Google Scholar
  89. Sun, T. (2004). Gender representation in politics and public administration: Taiwan and Asian countries. In 18th Conference of International Association of Historians of Asia (IAHA), Academic Sinica, Taipei, Taiwan.Google Scholar
  90. Tamerius, K. L. (2010). Sex, gender, and leadership in the representation of women. In M. L. Krook & S. Child (Eds.), Women, gender, and politics: A reader (pp. 93–112). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  91. Thomas, S. (1997). Why gender matters? The perceptions of women office holders. Women and Politics, 17(1), 27–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  92. Thorlind, R. (2003). Decentralization and democracy: Exploring social capital and politicization in the Bengal Region. Dhaka: Pathak Shamabesh Book.Google Scholar
  93. Tremblay, M. (2007). Democracy, representation and women: A comparative analysis. Democratization, 14(4), 533–553.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  94. Tripp, A. M., & Kang, A. (2008). The global impact of quotas: On the fast track to increased female legislative representation. Comparative Political Studies, 41, 338–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  95. UNDP. (1997). A global research framework of the decentralised governance programme. New York: United Nations.Google Scholar
  96. UNIFEM. (2002). Leadership in decision making. Retrieved April 30, 2012, from, New York.
  97. United Nations. (1992). Women in politics and decision making in the late twentieth century. Dordrecht: Nijhoff Publishers.Google Scholar
  98. United Nations. (1996). The Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action: Fourth World Conference on Women. New York: United Nations.Google Scholar
  99. Usu, N. (2010). Affirmative action in Indonesia: The gender quota system in the 2004 and 2009 elections. Asia Online, Flinders Asia Centre Occasional Paper, 1, 1–23.Google Scholar
  100. Vickers, J. (1997). Towards a feminist understanding of representation. In J. Arscott & L. Trimble (Eds.), In the presence of women (pp. 20–46). Toronto: Harcourt Brace.Google Scholar
  101. Vijayalakhmi, V. (2002). Gender, accountability and political representation in local government. Bangalore: Institute for Social and Political Studies.Google Scholar
  102. Viswanathan, N., Duggan, L., Nisonoff, L., & Wieqersma, N. (1997). The women, gender and development reader. London: Zed Books.Google Scholar
  103. Wade, R. (1984). The system of administrative and political corruption: Canal irrigation in South India. Journal of Development Studies, 18(3), 287–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  104. White, S. (2010). Domains of contestation: Women’s empowerment and Islam in Bangladesh. Women’s Studies International Forum, 33, 334–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  105. Yin, K. R. (1994). Case study research: Design and methods. London: Sage.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Public AdministrationRajshahi UniversityRajshahiBangladesh
  2. 2.Flinders UniversityAdelaideAustralia

Personalised recommendations