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Access Type

WSU Access

Date of Award

January 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name



Political Science

First Advisor

Sharon F. Lean


Gender equitable states are more peaceful than states with low levels of gender equality (Caprioli 2000, 2003, 2005; Caprioli and Boyer 2001; Hudson, et al. 2012). In contrast with other scholars who have emphasized the role of norms or biopolitics, I suggest that women’s political empowerment is driving the relationship between gender equality and lower conflict probability. I ask whether a state is less likely to become involved in international conflict when women can exercise political and civil rights. Using a multiple time series analysis on a cross-national data set (1930-2010), I investigate whether women’s political empowerment, expressed as a state’s annual score on the V-Dem Women’s Political Empowerment Index (Sundstrom, et al. 2015) is associated with a lower probability of involvement in, initiation of, and use of force in Militarized Interstate Disputes (Jones, et al. 1996). I use Generalized Estimating Equations to model the relationship between women’s political empowerment and conflict. I find no relationship between women’s political empowerment and the conflict measures. However, when I test the three dimensions of the index with the conflict dependent variables, I find that women’s civil society rights are associated with less use of force and war.

Based on the quantitative findings, I present two contrasting cases to understand the ways that high and low women’s civil society rights affect women’s peace activism. I examine the role of women’s civil society in pursuing peace in Guinea during a regional crisis (1999-2002) and in the United States during the first Gulf War (1990-1991). I find that women in Guinea effectively mobilized via a regional women’s peacemaking organization. The regional nature of the organization, drawing on membership within and outside of Guinea, enabled them to overcome risks in a repressive political environment. In the United States, women had ample rights but their activism was mediated by factors such as news media portrayals of the first Gulf War and a lack of national leadership for local groups. This study suggests a need for additional research into the relationship between women’s civil society participation and state peacefulness.

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