Chapter 10: National women's machineries: Trojan horses or hostages?
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Dedicated national mechanisms - such as commissions or ministries - to promote women’s rights have been set up in most countries, sometimes acting as ‘Trojan horses’ providing feminist movements ‘insider’ access to public decision-making. But the work of these institutions has been uneven, with some of them repurposed by conservative governments to promote conventional gender roles and relations. This chapter explores the conditions for the effectiveness of gender equality architecture within national administrations, and examines recent trends. Some of these bureaucracies have been highly effective, mainstreaming gender to the point that feminist governance is becoming routine. In more autocratic settings, however, femocrats have been displaced or isolated, and are fighting to safeguard earlier gains. Multilateral global and regional systems for advancing women’s rights, such as the CEDAW committee or the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women, provide states with some incentive to report on gender equality issues, and in the process, create reasons to sustain national gender equality mechanisms.

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