Post-war economic opportunities in northern Uganda: Implications for Women's Empowerment and Political Participation

Published: June 2012

This document presents a women-focused study which looks at peace dividends and their nature, as well as the direction they are taking. The overall objective is to map out economic opportunities for women in post-war northern Uganda and the implications for their broader political participation and empowerment.

Key Findings

  • The war triggered an expansion of women's activities, mobility and public presence, which has influenced the nature of women's economic participation in the postwar era.
  • The war gave rise to the normalisation of negative masculinities, in a sense that men lost the major sources of their generative power of participating in provisioning and decision making. What is left for most of these men is to hold onto the destructive power of dominance and violence.
  • On the whole, farming and trade/business still come at the top of women's economic activities, followed by formal/paid employment and brewing alcohol.
  • Women continue to comprise the majority of market vendors and street vendors (evening markets). Some generally peddle merchandise, selling different items such as foodstuffs, cereals, vegetables, fish, and secondhand clothes. Brewing and selling local beer such as ajon, kwete, malwa, and local waragi seems to have declined in the post-war period, but remains a major economic activity.
  • There has been tremendous expansion of women's trade in food crops.
  • The war, despite its very negative impact, has also effected significant positive changes in people's lives; new developments in the community, such as trade, have increased and communities, especially women from rural areas, have learned new survival skills.
  • Women's levels of awareness is high in terms of their rights to participate in political and economic activities.
  • About half of the women surveyed, with a slight majority from Gulu district, indicated that they were able to influence public opinion and community members.
  • Women are severely underrepresented. Currently, representation of women in positions seems to be limited to the mandatory one-third at local government level and the district woman seat at the national (parliament) level.
  • Seven out of every ten women were willing to vote for a woman for the positions of president, constituency MP or chairpersons of LCV, III and I if they were to contest.
  • 97 percent of the women in the lowest income group said they did not hold any position in local or central government, implying that low income is strongly associated with exclusion from government positions.
  • with the exception of voting, campaigning for a candidate is probably one of the most inclusive roles which women play across the board.
  • The majority of women are firmly located in basic family survival and that the money they make is not likely to be invested in building political influence.
  • Women's empowerment at the community and family level has been catapulted, not only due to women's engagement in economic activities but also due to the fact that the impact of the war disorganised male familial power to a large degree
  • The war period was specifically characterised by ruptures in the traditional and social fabric of communities. It was a period of hardship and survival of the fittest.
  • Family survival became heavily dependent on women -- they became the breadwinners. This trend has continued into the post-war period, with long term implications.

Populations Women

Complementary Outcomes Political And Civic Participation, Women's Leadership, Women's Rights

Industries Agriculture/Food Processing, Manufacturing, Service/Hospitality

Publishers EASSI, International Alert

Geographic Focus Africa (Eastern) / Uganda

Funded by Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA)