Emerging women leaders’ views on political participation in Melanesia

Ceridwen Spark, Jack Corbett

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12 Citations (Scopus)


Existing explanations for why women do not get elected to parliament in Melanesia emphasize structural barriers to participation, including prohibitive costs and patriarchal norms. They are largely silent, however, on why those women who do conform to the profile of the “archetypal candidate,” and thus have the best chance of overcoming these barriers, choose not to run. Drawing on an extensive qualitative dataset, including forty in-depth interviews with emerging women leaders from three Melanesian countries, we find that many women are pessimistic about the way electoral politics are conducted. Echoing longstanding critiques of political practice, this cohort conceptualizes their political activity as being conducted in a parallel public sphere, in contexts in which they consider themselves more able to pursue programmatic reform. Rather than focusing on structural barriers, we explore their decision to eschew parliamentary elections as an act of resistance against politics as usual in Melanesia. This new material adds to the literature on why women chose to run “from” rather than “for” parliament and therefore has implications for scholars and practitioners interested in improving women’s parliamentary representation across the globe.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-235
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Feminist Journal of Politics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • acceptable difference
  • archetypal candidates
  • Melanesia
  • Parliamentary representation
  • political leadership

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