As in many other contexts around the world, women in Pakistan significantly lag behind men in electoral modes of political participation (eg. voter turnout and registration) as well as in non-electoral activities (eg. informal community meetings, party rallies and meeting attendance, contact with representatives, and even engagement in political discussions with family and friends). Evidence that men and women in Pakistan hold distinctive preferences on public policy and issues of local service delivery indicates that this status quo of large gender gaps in political participation has substantive implications for women’s welfare. We know that increases in women’s participation as voters and local leaders can produce increased responsiveness to women’s demands. However, this link from participation to responsiveness requires that women’s participation is reflective of their preferences, which may not be the case if women systematically lack opportunities to define and coordinate on collective preferences, and/or are less likely to value and thus express their own distinctive preferences. How can we induce greater meaningful participation among women, i.e. participation that is reflective of women’s collective gendered preferences, and could thus be reasonably expected to impact distributional outcomes? We seek to answer this question through a field experiment, partnered with the Aurat Foundation, studying the effectiveness of a training intervention designed to increase women’s political participation through fostering a greater sense of group-based injustice, group identity, and collective efficacy.
Intervention Date: February – June 2023
The “common treatment arm” involves a series of facilitated trainings delivered to participants of local all-women’s groups, or women’s action committees (WACs) in Pakistan, by our implementing partner, Aurat Foundation (AF). Since such women’s groups do not currently exist in a systematic way; Aurat Foundation will first form and then recruit women to newly formed groups as part of the intervention. We will measure the effectiveness of the intervention by comparing outcomes between treatment WACs that receive the facilitated training sessions and placebo WACs that do not receive training. This comparison allows us to measure the effect of the training separate from the effects of joining a women’s group. All WACs regardless of treatment assignment will receive common information about service delivery, key local elites’ contacts, and the process of political participation at the beginning of the intervention period soon after formation in a “burn-in” meeting. This is due to a recognition that women in this context face resource-based barriers such as gaps in information and access to local elites that keep them from participating. Addressing these gaps may be necessary, though probably not sufficient to close gender gaps in meaningful political participation. Thus a common session that addresses these barriers with members across treatment and placebo WACs allows us to identify the effect of psychological resources imparted through collective efficacy trainings, separate from that of informational resources and the expansion of women’s networks from group participation.
In addition to this, we will also conduct a recruitment experiment, cross-randomized at the individual level, to study the effectiveness of different types of mobilizational messages to encourage women to participate in WACs being formed in their communities. We will measure how the messages, which will vary information on which of the many identities women hold is likely to be served by group participation, affect women’s perceptions of the potential risks and benefits of women’s collective action, their interest in joining a WAC, and their actual attendance at the first burn-in WAC meeting, and we will follow those individuals who join the group through the group-based intervention.
- The training intervention will increase women’s group efficacy beliefs, women’s sense of gender-based group identification, and women’s sense of perceived group injustice.
- The training intervention will increase the size of women’s networks.
- The training intervention will increase the level of women’s procedural knowledge.
- The training intervention will increase the level of women’s political participation, the quality of women’s political participation, and responsiveness to women’s political participation.
- Recruitment messages will affect women’s political interest, attendance at the general information meeting, and expectations over the issues to be discussed in the WACs.