“Working politically behind red lines” examines six cases of collective initiatives to advance women’s rights in Egypt and Jordan between 2000 and 2010. The study explores what accounts for the emergence, success and failure of women’s coalitions in these two countries. Using a case study approach, the study examines the interface between collective agency and structure in two national contexts characterized by authoritarian rule and powerful Islamist movements strongly opposed to any structural transformation of gender hierarchies.
The research suggests that politically inhibiting and closed policy environments can seriously undermine the potential for collective action to influence positive policy change. Yet the ability to ‘work politically’ is critical if activists are to make progress in achieving their goals and in developing strong coherent internal organizational structures.
The general finding therefore is that engaging in informal or ‘backstage politics’ is equally – if not more – important than formal channels of engagement in these contexts. Policy change relies heavily on informal relationships rather than formal citizenstate engagements, or interactions of civil society organizations and the organizations of the state. The study examines ways in which the international community has positively contributed to the success of the coalitions as well as occasions when its practices have compromised the organizational development and consolidation of coalitions and their policy impact. The study concludes by identifying key policy messages that may help donors and supporters in the international community to support women’s coalitions.
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