Social Norms and Women’s Political Engagement
Principal Investigators: Damir Esenaliev, Anselm Hager, Lukas Hensel, Elnura Kazakbaeva
We study women’s political participation in Kyrgyzstan, a hybrid regime in Central Asia with a population of seven million. Kyrgyzstan is a democratic unicameral republic. Despite regular elections, the country has faced continued political instability and two episodes of violent inter-ethnic conflict. Importantly, Kyrgyzstan was downgraded to authoritarian regime in 2021 from a hybrid regime on the Democracy Index by the Economist Intelligence Unit. Its score fell from 5.0 points in 2020 (the median value for hybrid regimes) to 3.6 in 2021.
Kyrgyzstan is currently shaped by a moderate degree of female political participation: 22% of MPs in Jogorku Kenesh, the national parliament, are women. However, while Kyrgyzstan has implemented laws intended to advance women’s political participation, institutional law enforcement is weak. The country also suffers from low societal acceptance of women’s political rights. In the most recent World Value Survey, for instance, 26% of Kyrgyz respondents stated they believe women should not have the same rights as men. The 2016 Gender in Society Perception study conducted jointly by UNFPA, UN Women and the Kyrgyz government, finds that only 37% of Kyrgyz women are aware of specific measures intended to support women in politics. Moreover, half of the surveyed population was unable to name a female MP, and three quarters considered the work of women deputies as ineffective.
These numbers demonstrate that women’s political participation in Kyrgyzstan still leaves much room for improvement. This is despite the fact that existing development programs have aimed to advance female engagement in politics. However, reliable evidence on what works and why is currently lacking, particularly regarding the role of social norms surrounding women in politics as well as women’s political collective efficacy. Kyrgyzstan thus presents an ample opportunity for Metaketa V to make a meaningful contribution to gender equality.
Intervention Date: January – May 2023
Our common intervention coordinated across all Metaketa V experiments is a series of collective efficacy training sessions delivered to members of the all-female Village Health Committees (VHCs) in Kyrgyzstan. These village health committees organize activities for all members of the community such as regular gymnastics courses and educational events related to personal and community health issues. The treatment consists of four trainings that aim to foster the VHCs collective efficacy while also providing training about how to engage with local decision makers. We will randomize the VHCs into a treatment group that will receive the trainings and a control group that will not receive the training. Both groups will receive the invitation to take part in a burn-in meeting which will provide basic information about local decision-making processes and how to reach out to decision makers.
In addition to this main intervention, we will also conduct a secondary experiment that provides information about the prevailing social norms around the political participation of women to a random subset of participants. We will then study the effects on actual and planned political participation. For this experiment, we work both with existing VHC members and other, randomly sampled, women in the same community. We vary the provided information across on two dimensions. First, we vary whether we provide information about the norms held by men or by women. That will allow us to distinguish whether the importance of the opinions of others varies by gender. Second, we will vary whether we disclose that many other households in the same village will receive the same information. This will allow us to study whether creating the perception of “common knowledge” is important to overcome barriers to political participation.
H1: The collective efficacy intervention will increase collective efficacy.
H2: The collective efficacy intervention will increase the quantity of political participation.
H3: The collective efficacy intervention will increase the quality of political participation.
H4: The collective efficacy intervention will decrease the variance of stated policy priorities of VHC members.
H5: Local decision makers are more likely to be aware of and respond to women’s policy preferences.
HA1: Providing information that female political participation has relatively more support among the population increases female political participation.
HA2: Providing the information of male support for female political activism is more effective than providing information about female support for female political activism.
HA3: Creating common knowledge about support for political activism increases the effect of providing information about the support for female political activism.