BOOK LAUNCH! Women and Power in Africa: Aspiring, Campaigning, and Governing

Editors: Dr Melanie L. Phillips and Dr Martha Johnson

Co-Editors Dr Melanie L. Phillips and Dr Martha Johnson will present key findings from Women and Power in Africa, a new edited volume that brings together experts on gender and African politics to examine trends in women’s political participation across the continent.

Over the past three decades, women’s political representation in African politics— as aspirants, candidates, and elected officials — has increased dramatically. However, this growth has not been uniform across the continent.

In the absence of quotas, regular multiparty elections, including in regionally significant democracies like Ghana and Nigeria, have often failed to produce major improvements in women’s access to political power. Expensive election campaigns, party biases, conservative cultural norms, as well as political violence act as recurring barriers.

In Women and Power in Africa, editors Leonardo Arriola, Martha and Melanie bring together a wide range of contributors to examine how women participate in African politics in all phases of the election cycle — from party nominations to governance. Drawing on a wide range of cases, including Benin, Ghana, Malawi, Zambia, Kenya, Namibia, Burkina Faso, and Uganda, the volume argues for the importance of ‘taking gender seriously and valuing women’s experiences as a source of empirical evidence [to] uncover invaluable information about how politics operate’.

During this book talk, Melanie and Martha will reflect on the overarching themes that emerge from the project, present findings from their research on candidate selection in Zambia and women’s local-level participation in Benin and Malawi, and engage with questions and reflections from participants.

MA and PhD students at the University of Cambridge with an interest in gender, democracy, and African politics are particularly encouraged to attend.


Dr Martha C. Johnson is Department Chair and Associate Professor of Political Science at Mills College. Her research examines the politics of bureaucratic capacity in Africa, as well as women in politics, with a geographical focus on Francophone states. She has conducted research in and written on Burkina Faso, Senegal, and Benin. Her work has been published in American Journal of Political Science, Comparative Political Studies, Africa Today, Journal of Modern African Studies, Development Policy Review, and Development and Change.

Dr Melanie L. Phillips received her PhD in political science from the University of California, Berkeley in 2022 and currently works as a researcher on the ‘Political Transformations in African Cities Project’ supported by the Norwegian Research Council. Her research focuses on the intra-party dynamics of candidate selection in new democracies where political parties control selection. Her dissertation research has been funded by the National Science Foundation as well as the Institute of International Studies and the Center for African Studies at UC Berkeley.