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Mobile phones and women's empowerment in Maasai communities: How men shape women's social relations and access to phones

Summers, KH; Baird, TD; Woodhouse, E; Christie, ME; McCabe, JT; Terta, F; Peter, N; (2020) Mobile phones and women's empowerment in Maasai communities: How men shape women's social relations and access to phones. Journal of Rural Studies 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2020.04.013.

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Abstract

Mobile phones have been heralded by many as promising new tools to empower women throughout the Global South. However, some have asserted that new information and communication technologies (ICTs) may serve to amplify disparities between more powerful and less powerful people. Few studies have examined which women stand to benefit and under what conditions. This study seeks to better understand the relationships between mobile phones and women's empowerment by examining diverse women's experiences within Maasai agro-pastoralist communities in northern Tanzania. Specifically, we ask three guiding questions: (1) How do Maasai women access and use phones? (2) What processes of empowerment do phones support or undermine? and (3) How are these processes embedded in diverse social relations? To address these questions, we use a framework that integrates a Social Relations Approach with a modified version of the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach. Our team conducted semi-structured and individual-stakeholder interviews with Maasai women in June-July, 2018 to learn their perspectives on phones, social-relations and multiple aspects of empowerment. We analyzed the content of these interviews using deductive and inductive qualitative strategies. These efforts yield multiple findings: (1) women's access to phones is fluid; (2) multiple pathways to empowerment and disempowerment exist; (3) phones reinforce inequalities; (4) women's identities are intersectional; and (5) women's networks remain homogenous. Taken together, this approach and these insights provide a more conservative account of the benefits of mobile phones than many studies and also an important technology-empowerment narrative for development scholars and practitioners.

Type: Article
Title: Mobile phones and women's empowerment in Maasai communities: How men shape women's social relations and access to phones
DOI: 10.1016/j.jrurstud.2020.04.013
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrurstud.2020.04.013
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10098741
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