The article looks at the efforts of women's movements in southern Africa to claim a stake in formal politics as an avenue to pursue their specific demands. After decades of exclusion, the importance of political representation was first realised by the women's movement in Zambia on the eve of the first democratic elections. The article looks at the failures of women's movements in one-party states in building fruitful alliances with women in political party movements, compares the strategies and varying experiences and successes of lobby groups in Zambia, Botswana and Namibia, and sugests that to achieve more equitable gender legislation, women in politics and in the women's movement should form an alliance that targets political parties directly.