Information and communication technologies and the "empowerment" of women in rural Uganda

PhD Thesis

Litho, Patricia K. 2007. Information and communication technologies and the "empowerment" of women in rural Uganda. PhD Thesis University of East London School of Social Sciences, Media and Cultural Studies
AuthorsLitho, Patricia K.
TypePhD Thesis

Within development and feminist discourse, ICTs are increasingly presented as a solution to Africa's problems of poverty, conflict, corruption and gender inequality
issues amongst other problems. However this study questions these promised benefits, specifically the extent to which ICTs can actually lead to women's empowerment as often claimed by development and feminist discourse.

Empowerment is considered a problematic concept because the concept itself is not clearly defined nor are parameters by which to identify and measure empowerment specified within development/empowerment projects. I argue for a need to go beyond the usual focus on project outcomes but identify and question the underlying contradictions in women's empowerment and relational issues of power at both the
individual and institutional level.

This thesis uses an African feminist perspective as the overarching approach to challenge dominant discourses to recognise 'voices of others' in the construction of
knowledge and move away from the hegemonic approaches that are mostly informed by Western perspectives. The argument here is that experiences are context specific and there is a need to recognize the socio-cultural, political and economic diversity that exists when implementing empowerment projects because these elements influence the way individuals respond to a situation. By taking diversity into consideration, this study endeavours to avoid reproducing stereotype images about rural women in Africa and their experiences of technologies, because women have
different identities and experiences. It is important to note that women are not merely recipients of technology but also play a role in reshaping the direction of technologies.

A predominantly qualitative approach, supplemented by a limited amount of quantitative approach was employed to examine a case study of an ICT for women's economic empowerment project in Uganda. Using semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions, observation and a review of documents, this study established that
the way women experience technological change is influenced by the context in which the ICT is introduced.

The findings revealed that women's exposure to ICTs may result in some changes and redefine how they view themselves and relate with those around them but these
changes are not always synonymous with empowerment. The study found that the adoption of ICTs is affected by a number of factors that may favour or hinder women's empowerment.

Interaction with ICTs sometimes produced negative impacts rather than the promised benefits. It could also be argued that these challenges could just be experienced at the
beginning of women's relationship with ICTs but as people get more acquainted with the technologies they could negotiate ways out of oppressive circumstance by further
changing behaviour.

Findings from the empirical work imply that empowerment is a circular process and not a linear hierarchical process as Longwe (1991) seems to suggest. It was found for instance that sometimes women had a high level of awareness and participated in political processes but their welfare and access situation was still wanting. In other cases women had political power and control over resources but still seemed unaware of their rights or did nothing to change the oppressive situations they lived in.

This study therefore contributes to feminist scholarship by providing insights into the unique experiences of women living in rural Uganda in relation to ICTs and its potential for women's empowerment.

KeywordsAfrican feminist perspective; Information and communication technologies; Gender related challenges
Publication dates
PrintJun 2007
Publication process dates
Deposited16 Jan 2014
Additional information

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