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At the close of the millennium, there is a wave of invigorating air sweeping across the African continent. The refreshing breeze can be felt in the form of women smashing the gendered ‘glass ceiling’ in a bid to overcome the cultural and structural barriers that impede their political careers. In this short article, I examine the relationship of African women to parliament. In the first section, I look at women’s involvement in politics in pre-colonial Africa, and then examine the barriers to women’s political activity thrown up by colonialism. This history explains much about women’s absence from contemporary African national assemblies. I then focus on one state – Uganda – looking closely at the policy of affirmative action there, and the reality of male bias, prejudice, and sexual harassment that women MPs confront when they manage to enter parliament.

This article is hosted by our co-publisher Taylor & Francis. For the full table of contents for this and previous issues of this journal, please visit the Gender and Development website.

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