Rural women's legal empowerment through digital technology

TitleRural women's legal empowerment through digital technology
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsR. Okello
Series titleAfrican Studies Collection
Date Published2023
PublisherAfrican Studies Centre Leiden (ASCL)
Place PublishedLeiden
Publication Languageeng
ISBN Number978-90-5448-200-0
Keywordsaccess to justice, digital technology, rural women, Uganda

Arguably, the Covid-19 pandemic has presented new opportunities for digital transformation within the justice sectors in African countries and beyond. The LEWUTI project (Legal Empowerment of Women Using Technology and Innovation) predates the pandemic, and is run by BarefootLaw, a Ugandan socio-legal NGO. As the 2020 UNDP report highlights, during the pandemic many courts were adapted to digital technologies. Online justice was supposed to respond more rapidly to challenges in this unprecedented situation, creating new opportunities to reach more beneficiaries and scale up justice processes. However, it is not clear that women benefit equally from the digitisation of justice systems. The pandemic highlighted some of the risks of relying on digital means to achieve women’s legal empowerment, especially for rural women. Against this background, this study examines the opportunities and challenges entailed in the digital transformation of access to justice as a means of legal empowerment for rural women in Northern Uganda. Data for the study was collected in the rural Gulu area, through focus groups discussions with selected women. The data was then analysed through the lens of Legal Empowerment (LE) and Access to Justice frameworks, to make sense of the information generated. The findings suggest that digital technology can play a significant role in addressing the unmet legal needs of rural women in Uganda. Many women have reported being able to use digital interfaces to access legal help, evaluate their problems, and decide whether the problems have legal solutions. These technologies have also helped women to prepare evidence and to make sense of laws and legal documentation. Obstacles remain, however. These include a lack of legal knowledge and awareness, poverty, a lack of access to mobile phones, illiteracy, a lack of telecommunication infrastructure, power inequalities, and the attitudes of some lawyers. These factors continue to hinder some rural women’s use of digital technology to access justice. Some women also emphasised that introducing digital technologies to secure women’s legal empowerment may be putting the cart before the horse, so long as the corruption of Uganda’s legal and court system remains pervasive.

IR handle/ Full text URL


Citation Key12522