This paper examines how reserved seats for women were introduced in Vanuatu’s municipal councils. It explores how a local coalition drove the reform, and how a donor program supported it informed by principles of ‘thinking and working politically’.
The focus of this paper is a Vanuatu group called Women in Shared Decision-Making (WISDM) and the Temporary Special Measures (TSM) Taskforce it gave rise to. WISDM and TSM Taskforce members – senior public servants and politicians – became the core group within a broader and shifting coalition of government officials, civil society, traditional chiefs and party representatives.
The paper’s findings support recent research on the importance of working with elite agents to achieve reform, where appropriate, rather than only looking to foster broad-based civil society activism.