On the Front Lines: Women’s Mobilization for Democracy in an Era of Backsliding

Authored by: Saskia Brechenmacher, Erin Jones, and Özge Zihnioğlu

Categories: Human Rights, Violent Conflict
Sub-Categories: Nonviolent Resistance
Region: No Region
Year: 2024
Citation: Brechenmacher, Saskia, Erin Jones, and Özge Zihnioğlu. On the Front Lines: Women’s Mobilization for Democracy in an Era of Backsliding. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, March 21, 2024.

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Executive Summary

The world is beset by what analysts frequently call a democratic recession, marked by democratic erosion in old and new democracies in every region of the world. Yet against this troubling backdrop, people all over are pushing back against authoritarian practices. Their resistance often has taken the form of large-scale, sustained protests against stolen elections, repression by security forces, and moves by incumbent leaders to undermine democratic institutions—whether in Belarus, Brazil, Iran, Myanmar, Poland, or elsewhere. New civil society initiatives have formed to defeat autocratic leaders at the polls and prevent illiberal restrictions on citizens’ basic rights.

To help address the lack of analysis on this topic, this compilation examines women’s diverse roles in and influence on popular movements against democratic erosion around the world. It asks why women mobilize for democracy and how they do so, and assesses whether their participation—as individual activists and leaders or as part of organizations—shapes the goals, tactics, and coalitions of democratic resistance. It further analyzes how autocratic and backsliding regimes and their allies in civil society have responded to women’s mobilization for democracy.