Knowledge Is Power and Power Is Knowledge

The Politics of Women’s Empowerment
  • Elinami Veraeli Swai


This chapter examines power dynamics in the context of women’s participation in development groups in rural Africa. In the previous chapter, we saw women’s construction of knowledge from their own worldview. Unlike the previous chapter, this chapter presents the participation of women in government-initiated groups and allows us to understand how power operates in rural settings as opposed to formal and organizational structures. I situate the establishment of women’s groups within the broader histories of rural communities, many of which have tended to be marginalized in previous studies. Therefore, I provide a brief historical examination of their origins in precolonial times, their survival in the colonial setup, and their contemporary engagement with global transformational forces. This discussion culminates in an outline of several basic approaches and strategies that women use in mobilizing and performing “development.” I show how they have used these groups to create spaces for themselves while, at the same time, isolate themselves yet still participate in development. My interpretation of this process is meant to integrate broad critical historical perspectives on women’s participation and empowerment with social relational analyses of ongoing women participation practice.


National Education Woman Group Woman Empowerment National Education System Indirect Rule 
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© Elinami Veraeli Swai 2010

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  • Elinami Veraeli Swai

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