The state and civil society in Uganda, Kenya and South Africa : the case of women’s movements

Johansen, Kine Fjell (2011-03)

Thesis (MA)--University of Stellenbosch, 2011.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Both democracy and civil society is seen to be dysfunctional in many African countries. Political leaders are not accountable to the people and citizens’ participation in the democracies is low. Particularly, women have often been neglected both within formal politics and the civil society. The aim of this thesis has been to investigate the role of the women’s movements in Uganda, Kenya and South Africa. The study has focused on the relationship between the women’s movement and the state, and further addressed the extent to which the women’s movements have been able to direct the state and influence policymaking for improved women’s rights and gender equality in the respective countries. The thesis has found that the relationship between the women’s movements and the state in the three countries inhibits very different characteristics that give rise to varying degrees of success from the work of the women’s movements. Further, the relationship has been subjected to changes in accordance with the overall political developments in the three countries. In Uganda and South Africa the political transitions of the mid 1980s and early 1990s, each respectively represented a period of good connection and communication between the women’s movements and the state. The women’s movements were able to present a strong voice and, thereby, were able to influence the state for the adoption of national gender machineries. After the political transitions, the relationship between the women’s movements and the state in both Uganda and South Africa has, however, become more constrained. In South Africa, the debates on women’s rights and gender equality have been moved from the terrain of the civil society and into the state, leading to a seemingly weakened voice for the women’s movement outside the state. In Uganda, the women’s movement have come to be subjected to pressure for co-optation by the government. The government does not genuinely uphold a concern for increased women’s rights and gender equality, and the women’s movement has at times been directly counteracted. Further, in Kenya, the women’s movement’s relationship with the state is characterised by competition rather than communication. The women’s movement is subjected to high degrees of repression, attempts of cooptation and silencing from the state, and the women’s movement have been effectively restricted from presenting a strong voice and influence the state to any great. The three case- studies illustrates that the political opportunity structures present at a particular time influence the extent to which women’s movements can work effectively in different contexts.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Menige Afrikaland se demokrasie sowel as burgerlike samelewing word as disfunksioneel beskou. Politieke leiers doen geen verantwoording aan die mense nie, en burgers se deelname aan demokrasie is gebrekkig. Veral vroue word afgeskeep in die formele politieke sfeer én die burgerlike samelewing. Die doel van hierdie tesis is om die rol van die vrouebewegings in Uganda, Suid-Afrika en Kenia te ondersoek. Die studie konsentreer op die verhouding tussen die vrouebeweging en die staat, en handel voorts oor die mate waarin die verskillende vrouebewegings die staat kan lei en beleidbepaling kan beïnvloed om beter vroueregte en gendergelykheid in die onderskeie lande teweeg te bring. Die tesis bevind dat die verhouding tussen die vrouebewegings en die staat in die drie lande onder beskouing baie uiteenlopende kenmerke toon, wat wisselende grade van sukses in die vrouebewegings se werk tot gevolg het. Voorts verander dié verhouding namate die oorkoepelende politieke bestel in die drie lande verander. Uganda en Suid-Afrika se politieke oorgange in die middeltagtiger- en vroeë negentigerjare onderskeidelik het ʼn tydperk van goeie bande en kommunikasie tussen die vrouebewegings en die staat verteenwoordig. Die vrouebewegings se stem het groot gewig gehad en kon dus die staat beïnvloed om nasionale beleid en werkswyses met betrekking tot gender in te stel. Ná die onderskeie politieke oorgange is die verhouding tussen die vrouebeweging en die staat in sowel Uganda as Suid-Afrika egter aansienlik ingeperk. In Suid-Afrika het die debat oor vroueregte en gendergelykheid van die gebied van die burgerlike samelewing na die staat verskuif, wat die vrouebeweging se stem buite die staat aansienlik verswak het. In Uganda is die vrouebeweging weer onderwerp aan druk van koöpsie deur die regering. Die regering blyk nie werklik besorg te wees oor beter vroueregte en gendergelykheid nie, en die vrouebeweging word by tye direk teengewerk. Daarbenewens word die Keniaanse vrouebeweging se verhouding met die staat gekenmerk deur kompetisie eerder as kommunikasie. Die vrouebeweging het te kampe met heelwat onderdrukking en koöpsie- en muilbandpogings van die staat, en word in effek daarvan weerhou om hul menings te lug en die staat in enige beduidende mate te beïnvloed met die oog op groter doelgerigtheid en beter beleidbepaling wat vroueregte en gendergelykheid betref. Die drie gevallestudies toon dat die politieke geleentheidstrukture op ʼn bepaalde tydstip ʼn uitwerking het op die mate waarin vrouebewegings doeltreffend in verskillende kontekste kan funksioneer.

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