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Creating social policy to support women's agency in coercive settings: a case study from Uganda

Burgess, Rochelle and Campbell, Catherine (2016) Creating social policy to support women's agency in coercive settings: a case study from Uganda. Global Public Health, 11 (1-2). pp. 48-64. ISSN 1744-1692

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Identification Number: 10.1080/17441692.2015.1005654


Many emphasise the need for policies that support women's agency in highly coercive settings, and the importance of involving target women in public deliberation to inform policy design. The Ugandan Marriage and Divorce Bill seeks to strengthen women's agency in marriage, but has faced many obstacles, including objections from many women themselves in public consultations. We explore key stakeholders’ accounts of the difficulties facing the Bill's progress to date, through focus groups with 24 rural and urban men and women, interviews with 14 gender champions in government, non-governmental organisations and legal sectors, and 25 relevant media and radio reports. Thematic analysis revealed an array of representations of the way the Bill's progress was shaped by the public consultation process, the nature of the Ugandan public sphere, the understanding and manipulation of concepts such as ‘culture’ and ‘custom’ in public discourse, the impact of economic inequalities on women's understandings of their gendered interests and low women's trust in the law and the political process. We discuss the complexities of involving highly marginalised women in public debates about gender issues and highlight possible implications for conceptualising agency, gender and social change as tools for gender policy and activism in extreme inequality.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2015 Taylor & Francis
Divisions: Psychological and Behavioural Science
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Date Deposited: 07 Jan 2016 17:02
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 00:51

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