This article outlines how citizenship can be used as a political and theoretical tool by combining 'rights' and 'participation'. Participation in social, economic, cultural and political decision-making provides a more dynamic and active form of rights in which people work together to improve their quality of life. This must reflect the fact that certain types of participation such as 'informal' and/or local political participation are often those in which women take the lead, providing them with a sense of personal power. This may be achieved through an internationalist agenda which understands citizenship as broad rights and responsibilities operating in a context of democracy and accountability. Exclusion can also be countered through a 'differentiated universalism' which recognises the difference within groups, but retains a universal commitment to participation for all. Politics here can work through dialogue and accept different and changing positions - examples of the South Africa Women's National Commission, which represented a great variety of women's positions in the transition from apartheid, and women's centres in Belfast operating in the context of the Catholic/Protestant struggles, are cited.
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BRIDGE is a research and information programme located within IDS Knowledge Services. We are part of a global movement whose vision is a world where gender equality, dignity and social justice prevail, where poverty is eliminated and where human rights – including women’s rights - are realised.