On 3rd May, 2017, members of staff from the School of Women and Gender Studies together with their counterparts at the University of Tromsø, Norway launched one of their latest publications titled, “Gender, Poverty and Social Transformation: Reflections on Fractures and Continuities in Contemporary Uganda”.
The book comprises 11 chapters under three themes; (i) Beyond Economic Determinism: Reflections on Productive resources and Women Economic Rights and Empowerment; (ii) The Political Economy of Domestic Provisioning, Healthcare and HIV/AIDS; (iii) Marriage, Sexuality and Changing Trends in Gender Relations.
It was edited by Prof. Grace Bantebya, Assoc. Prof. Josephine Ahikire and Dr Florence Kyoheirwe Muhanguzi from the School of Women and Gender Studies, Makerere University and Prof. Siri Gerrard from the University of Tromsø. Other authors included Assoc. Prof. Consolata Kabonesa, Dr Tabitha Mulyampiti, Dr Stella Neema, Dr Aramanzan Madanda, Dr Peace Musiimenta, Mr David Mpiima, Dr Ruth Nsibirano Kabwigu, Ms. Anne Ninsiima Kizza, Ms Zerupa Akello and Ms Lise Nordbroend, the Director of the Centre for Women and Gender Research at the University of Tromsø, Norway.
The book is a product of a five-year collaborative project of the School of Women and Gender Studies, Makerere University and the Centre for Women and Gender Research, University of Tromsø, Norway. It brings together a collection of works and analyses obtained through a multi-disciplinary gender-focused research project conducted in Uganda by the staff and PhD students of the two collaborating institutions. The project was funded by the Norwegian Programme for Development, Research and Education (NUFU).
Within the broad theme of Gender, Poverty and Social Transformation: Reflections on Fractures and Continuities in Contemporary Uganda, the book addresses key questions relating to the current debates on gender equality in Africa.
The book is informed by two motivations. First, it addresses the representation of African women and attempts to move beyond stereotypes. This motivation points specifically to the need to go beyond women as eternal victims, taking the orientation of African women as social agents.
Whereas it is an undeniable fact that women have been historically disadvantaged relative to men, looking at them as eternal victims creates a discourse of lamentations, which has tended to dominate the knowledge created about the African woman. The discourse of lamentations is without doubt informed by the undeniable fact that Africa is a continent in crisis. Widespread poverty, war and displacement, and global marginalisation all make Africa a continent struggling with the problem of development. This problem of development then translates into developmentalism, especially in gender studies. The book therefore is part of the overall effort to build resources for bottom-up agency.
The second motivation relates to moving beyond generalizations to illuminate concrete realities in gender relations. The authors acknowledge that whereas gender relations are in a continuous flux, scholarship in the field has not kept up the pace. In Uganda, especially, scholarship in gender studies has tended to lag behind the changes, thereby limiting sensibilities as well as innovations in gender development practice. The authors have a strong feminist focus and reveal new insights, both at the practical and theoretical levels.
Within the broad context of poverty, public-sector reforms and information communication technologies (ICTs) in Uganda, the book maps out the changes and continuities in gender relations in Uganda today. It explores critical issues relating to gender transformation as an aspect of social transformation, in aspects of health provisioning, sexuality, poverty transitions, dynamics of productive resources, culture, and new realities of women’s subordination. The authors mapped out the rhythm of gender relations in these areas, addressing themselves to the need to bring new knowledge in the area of gender studies.
In her remarks, one of the reviewers, Prof. Joy Kwesiga, congratulated the staff and students of the School of Women and Gender Studies upon the publication saying it would go a long way in building the capacity of the researchers and scholars. “The book goes someway in adding to the comparatively small collection of literature available for teaching and policy formulation. It sets the pace for enhancing social science research in general as opposed to consultancy research which rarely promotes academicians because they cannot own commissioned work,” she noted.
Commenting on one of the chapters in the book, Prof. Kwesiga said the debate about developmentalism and economic rights was crucial to opening academic space to redefine feminist research in Uganda and Africa.
Prof. Kwesiga urged academics to continuously set research agendas and work towards longitudinal research programmes to address issues of generalization, stereotypes and transformation.
Speaking at the launch ceremony, the Principal of CHUSS, Prof. Edward K. Kirumira, expressed gratitude to the Norwegian government for the support rendered to the College and other Units of Makerere University. He commended the School for promoting teamwork and locally generated knowledge through joint publication.
The Dean of the School of Women and Gender Studies, Prof. Josephine Ahikire, appreciated the support extended by the Norwegian Government towards the project. She also thanked the Principal of CHUSS, the former Dean of the School of Social Sciences, Prof. Joy Kwesiga, and the former Dean of School of Women and Gender Studies as well as Heads of Department for their dedicated support towards the project. She emphasized the importance of disseminating research findings noting that knowledge generated through research should be used to inform development.
The launch was presided over by the Chargé d’Affaires of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Uganda, Annlaug Rønneberg.