In Lango, Northern Uganda, 20 years of war, cattle rustling and HIV/AIDS have resulted in widespread loss of life, population displacement, and loss of property. In spite of this turmoil, some traditional cultural practi
In Lango, Northern Uganda, 20 years of war, cattle rustling and HIV/AIDS have resulted in widespread loss of life, population displacement, and loss of property. In spite of this turmoil, some traditional cultural practices, such as widow inheritance, early child marriage, and widow cleansing continued, although they were increasingly seen to conflict with ‘modern’ development thinking, especially when infringing women and children’s rights. External development actors first tried to address this situation by ‘sensitising’ communities, but with limited success. It however soon became evident that clan leaders were instrumental in perpetuating cultural practices: in the early 2000’s, they became increasingly identified as key actors to address harmful traditions and to resolve conflicts. With the many trials faced by local communities, women’s roles in supporting the family institution and upholding cultural values had however expanded too. Several development organisations were established to address the challenges related to these changes and one was the Lango Female Clan Leaders’ Association, with a focus on promoting girls’ education and access to justice for women. This case study examines the role that these female clan leaders have successfully played in tackling current gender- related challenges. It explores the interface between traditional and modern gender concepts and the value of working with cultural resource persons to address cultural challenges. The study involved desk research, field based semistructure interviews, focus group discussions with 30 respondents and key informants, and a validation write-shop, all held in the course of 2008.