Community understandings of and responses to gender equality and empowerment in Rakai, Uganda

Margo Mullinax, Jenny Higgins, Jennifer Wagman, Neema Nakyanjo, Godfrey Kigozi, David Serwadda, Maria Wawer, Ronald Gray, Fred Nalugoda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Women's rights and gender empowerment programmes are now part of the international agenda for improving global public health, the benefits of which are well documented. However, the public health community has, yet, to address how people define and understand gender equality and how they enact the process of empowerment in their lives. This study uses safe homes and respect for everyone(SHARE), an anti-violence intervention in rural Rakai, Uganda, as a case study to investigate perceptions of gender equality. Investigators analysed 12 focus groups of adult women and men to explore how macro-level concepts of gender equality are being processed on an interpersonal level and the effects on health outcomes. Respondents generally agreed that women lack basic rights. However, they also expressed widespread disagreement about the meanings of gender equality, and reported difficulties integrating the concepts of gender equality into their interpersonal relationships. Community members reported that equality, with the resulting shift in gender norms, could expose women to adverse consequences such as violence, infidelity and abandonment with increased sexual health risks, and potential adverse effects on education. Efforts to increase women's rights must occur in conjunction with community-based work on understandings of gender equality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)465-478
Number of pages14
JournalGlobal public health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2013


  • IPV
  • gender equality
  • interpersonal negotiation
  • unintended health outcomes
  • women's empowerment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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