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Is Information Power?: Civics Training and Women's Political Participation in Rural India

Comparative Politics Workshop of the Penn Political Science Department, co-sponsored by CASI

Soledad Prillaman
Postdoctoral Prize Research Fellow in Politics, Nuffield College, University of Oxford
Friday, December 8, 2017 - 12:00
Stiteler Hall – Silverstein Forum University of Pennsylvania 208 S. 37th Street Philadelphia, PA 19104 12:00 - 1:30 p.m.

In India there persists a striking gender gap in political participation and representation, despite several decades of targeted policy interventions. Women's political participation is important not only on normative grounds of inclusion, but because we know that when women do participate, politics changes. Dr. Prillaman evaluates the use of political information via gender-oriented civics education at increasing women's political participation. Through a gender-oriented civics training implemented by the NGO Pradan, women receive information about the political system and their rights and entitlements within this system and are directly exposed to existing political institutions, with the aim of reducing informational barriers to political participation. Importantly, this information is delivered within existing women's groups. In this workshop, she evaluates this intervention using a matching design but further describes a randomized control trial, which is in the field now, to more precisely estimate these effects. She shows that women who had participated in the civics education program were significantly more likely to coordinate their political behavior with the other women in their women's group, had more knowledge of the political system and how to engage in it, and had greater confidence in their abilities to engage in public spaces. While women of all backgrounds were more likely to participate in politics following the intervention, the specific mechanisms that yielded this participation were conditional on education and position within the network. These findings contribute to our understanding of how group dynamics and information affect individual political behavior and importantly help to fill the gap in our understanding of gendered political behavior.

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