Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

Inclusive Democracy and Development Lab

Main content start

South Asia has the largest gender gap in women’s political participation. In India, women have had legal suffrage since independence and for the past three decades have held at least 33 percent of locally elected seats in keeping with a quota enacted in the Constitution. However, women have low representation at higher levels of office — only 12 percent of parliamentarians are female – and female citizens participate in politics in between elections at one fourth the rate of men. Regular protests continue to spotlight the issues of violence against women and persistent gender inequalities, as well as  the limits of current political institutions and policies in representing women’s interests and generating truly equal representation. Ensuring the representation of women’s interests is important for a wide range of development issues, as women have been shown to be more likely to demand public goods and services that benefit their households and communities.

The Inclusive Democracy and Development Lab will focus on improving women’s representation at all levels of the political process. In partnership with a political party in India and large central government ministry, the initiative scholars will design and test interventions to make progress on improving female political participation through several avenues including turnout and helping women become party workers, local leaders, and political candidates and will examine the impact of representation on changes in policy outcomes like the provision of water, toilets, health care, and education and women’s participation in welfare schemes such as MGNREGS. Initiative scholars will also explore ways to ensure that women’s interests are elevated and heard broadly.

The lab will also train and mentor Stanford students working on questions of gender, representation, and development in South Asia, including providing training to graduate students conducting field research, particularly with policy collaborators. The lab aims to become a focal point for collaboration among Stanford scholars working on these critical topics.

Core faculty members

  • Saad Gulzar, Department of Political Science, Princeton University
  • Soledad Prillaman, Department of Political Science
self-help group India
Initiative story

Stanford undergraduate student studies how social groups motivate political participation in India

Assistant Professor of Political Science Soledad Artiz Prillaman and her undergraduate research assistant, Somer Bryant, analyzed the reasons women in India have lower rates of community political participation than their male counterparts.

Read more
a voter dropping a ballot into a box
Initiative story

Saad Gulzar on the role of local elections in overcoming poverty in the developing world

Political scientist Saad Gulzar concentrates his research on the political economy of development and comparative politics across South Asia, including identifying ways in which local elections in Pakistan, Nepal, and India — introduced in 2015, 2017, and the mid-1990s, respectively — can empower villagers and ultimately lead to policies that raise their standard of living.

Read more