Women in Uganda
Women in Uganda
- Alicia C. DeckerAlicia C. DeckerDepartment of Women's, Gender & Sexuality Studies, The Pennsylvania State University
Women in Uganda have had a complex relationship with the state. During the precolonial period, there were two main types of political organization: kingdom states and “nonstate” segmentary societies. Most women in kingdom states were left out of the patron–client relationship system and accessed resources through their husbands, brothers, and sons. A small number of royal women, particularly within Buganda, had significant political power. Less is known about women in precolonial segmentary societies because of the relative lack of sources. In the mid-19th century, long-distance traders arrived in Buganda, bringing Islam and a heightened demand for slaves. The state treated enslaved women as commodities that could be sold or traded at any time. When European explorers and missionaries arrived shortly thereafter, they brought Christianity, as well as their own ideas about gender, many of which limited women’s power. After the British declared a protectorate over Uganda in 1894, missionaries worked closely with the new colonial government to educate women for domesticity. Daughters of the elite learned to become helpmates to their future husbands, who, in turn, were the functionaries of indirect rule. The colonial period also saw the advent of the club movement, which trained women to be good wives and mothers. After World War II, women’s clubs became increasingly political. Through the Uganda Council of Women, members learned to influence public opinion and government policies. However, very few women participated in formal politics at this time. After Uganda gained independence in 1962, women’s issues became increasingly central to the state. Nonetheless, activists struggled for autonomy in a political landscape that was chaotic and increasingly authoritarian. The militarization of the state, coupled with frequent and unpredictable regime changes, made women’s lives more difficult. Although more women have been elected to office and appointed to cabinet-level positions in the early 21st century, civil war and political instability have presented numerous challenges to women and their livelihoods.
- East Africa and Indian Ocean
- Women’s History