In 2018, Overseas Development Institute (ODI) with support from ALIGN undertook a qualitative research study in Uganda and Nepal as part of a History and Change research series of the Advancing Learning and Innovation on Gender Norm project.
The History and Change research sought to pull together and draw lessons from personal narratives of change and resistance in gender norms, expectations and behaviors as they relate to the broader social, economic and political processes. The overall aim of the study was to enhance understanding of the factors that enable or challenge positive changes as they are perceived and experienced through the lives of individual women at different levels.
In Uganda, the research was conducted by Prof. Grace Bantebya Kyomuhendo from the School of Women and Gender Studies, Makerere University, and Dr Carol Watson, International Consultant for ODI. Their study titled, “Narratives of Change and Resistance in Confronting Discriminatory Gender Norms in Uganda” was undertaken in Kampala with 55 participants including 49 women and 6 young men.
The research was guided by the project’s conceptual understanding of gender norms – both how they operate and how they either change or resist change. It is underpinned by the current thinking around gender justice and entitlements and was informed by the capabilities approach to human development, which posits that progress across the life cycle in a number of key domains is critical to the empowerment of women and girls and their equitable attainment and exercise of capabilities. Narrative investigations covered norms around: household and family relations, education, physical integrity and health, psychosocial well-being, and political and civic participation.
The research gives insights on how far the country has moved in the struggle for gender equality, gender transformation and gender sensitive policies. It enumerates the positive changes as a result of various efforts aimed at promoting gender justice and highlights the frustrating trends characterized by resistance in confronting some discriminatory gender norms at family and institutional levels. The study points to the importance of collective agency in advancing women’s rights.
According to Prof. Bantebya, the research contributes to knowledge building on norm change in the struggle to promote gender justice and women empowerment.
Presenting findings of the study at Makerere University on 27th August 2019, Prof. Bantebya noted that although significant strides had been made in addressing gender inequality, a lot more needed to done to minimize resistance in confronting discriminatory gender norms. She said discriminatory gender norms continue to manifest at all levels in society despite a number of measures that have been taken to promote gender equality. “There is continued devaluation of the girl child, unequal gendered division of labour, the double burden on women, women’s restricted autonomy and decision-making authority within the household, persistent domestic violence and limitations to women’s economic empowerment,” she noted.
Prof. Bantebya further noted that efforts to reduce resistance in confronting discriminatory gender norms have been undermined by the power and persistence of patriarchy. According to the findings of the study, the norms, attitudes and practices associated with patriarchy as a system continue to operate at all levels of society and through all institutions, serving to reinforce discriminatory gender norms and thus maintain male power and privilege.
In a bid to minimize discriminatory gender norms, the researchers called for reinvigoration of the Women’s Movement and collective agency, expansion and reinforcement of quality education at all levels, elimination of gender-based violence in all its forms and strengthened approaches to economic empowerment. They also recommended deeper action and analysis at household level where many of the most stubborn gender discriminatory norms and practices prevail.
Prof. Bantebya explained that during the study, people of all categories recognized that education was the pathway to empowerment.
In her submission, one of the discussants, Dr Florence Mahanguzi, Senior Lecturer at the School of Women and Gender Studies emphasized the importance of quality education in empowering women and consequently bridging the gender gap. She also underscored the importance of collective agency in addressing the inequalities, noting that the Women’s Movement was instrumental in advocating for women’s rights.
Former EAC Youth Ambassador, Eng. Jacob Eyeru called for documentation and assessment of the impact of progress to generate basis for further engagements aimed at promoting gender parity.
Like others, Maria Alesi, Programme Manaer at Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung stressed the importance of transformative education and Economic empowerment in addressing gender injustices. She called for documentation of women’s contributions and assessment of new forms of activism to guide activities aimed at promoting gender equality.
Reacting to the presentation, Hon. Rhoda Kalema urged “influential” women to empower others noting that personalized growth cannot make great impact in the struggle for gender equality.
In her remarks, the Dean, School of Women and Gender Studies, Dr Sarah Ssali noted that gender inequality was not only among men and women but also exhibited in institutional structures.
The Principal, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Dr Josephine Ahikire appreciated the researchers. She noted that the struggle for gender parity needed to respond to the demands of the changing world, calling for reassessment of the progress so far made so as to establish what can be done differently to address complexities in society.
ALIGN is a four-year project aimed at establishing a digital platform for Community of Practice (CoP) centred on gendered norms affecting adolescents and young adults. ALIGN seeks to advance understanding and challenge and change harmful gender norms by connecting a global community of researchers and thought leaders committed to gender justice and equality for adolescents and young adults. ALIGN is led by Overseas Development Institute (ODI), with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
See detailed report in the document herewith attached