How do women’s movements make a difference: a framework for the comparative analysis of women’s movements policy agency in Central and Eastern Europe

How do women’s movements make a difference: a framework for the comparative analysis of women’s movements policy agency in Central and Eastern Europe

For decades, women’s movements have been the focus of an established and growing body of comparative political research in the context of Western postindustrial democracies. However, relatively little has been published so far about the agency of women's movements in the Central and Eastern European (CEE) region since the collapse of the communist systems.

This paper was written to be presented at the the 3rd European Conference on Gender and Politics (ECPG). It is an extensive literature on women’s movements and the situation of women in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), which has emerged since the 1990s. The author claims that previous research on this topic has not been interested in the policy impact as a theoretical and analytical concept; and finds that this concept still needs to be defined in order to draw meaningful conclusions about how influential women’s movements have been in the transitioning CEE region. Synthesising the literature on the outcomes of social and women’s movements and the theories of public policy making, this paper develops an analytical framework which allows for examining the similarities and differences between women’s movements' agency and impact on gender policy development in different CEE countries. The framework consists of four major components:

1. It offers an operational definition of women’s movements that can be used for comparative assessment of women´s movements policy impact in CEE countries.

2. It argues that policy impact of women´s movements can concern some or all of the steps in the policy process, namely agenda setting, specification of alternatives, enactment of policies, and implementation of policies.

3. It argues that future studies analysing women’s agency should broaden the scope of policies that are included in different studies.

4. It offers a methodological design that addresses the problem of causality: how to establish a causal link between a women’s movements’ agency and an observed policy change?

While this paper focuses on one important area of impact, namely public policy, the author recognises that women´s movements can have impact in other areas of social life as well, e.g. cultural and social relations. Gains in one arena may either help or hinder attempts to make gains in another. Success within the political arena can influence changes in both the cultural and social arenas. For example, when groups gain acceptance, or are seen as legitimate actors within the political arena, they increase their chances of creating a collective identity; which is recognised both by those within, as well as outside of, the movement. Future studies should develop analytical frameworks that view the women’s movement’s impact as three overlapping arenas: policy, culture and social relations.

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