Empowering Women to Fight Corruption

Authored by: Yolaan Begbie and Piero Locatelli

Corruption affects everyone. Young, old, men, women, black, white, rich and poor. But some groups are more vulnerable than others. In many parts of the world, it’s women. From seeking employment and enrolling their children in schools, to accessing basic services and becoming land owners – many grassroots women experience corruption in their daily lives. It’s a reality documented in a UNDP report titled “Seeing Beyond the State: Grassroots Women’s Perspectives on Corruption and Anti-Corruption”.

Some key findings of UNDP report include:

  • The burden of bribery falls most heavily on women of caregiving age
  • Women view all public agencies as corruption
  • Bribery occurs in all areas of engagement with public agencies
  • Grassroots women perceive group-affiliated leaders to be more accountable
  • Organized women are empowered to fight corruption

Empowerment is exactly why Ugandan Joyce Nangobi, a 54-year-old woman from Uganda, started the Slum Women’s Initiative for Development (SWID) in 2003 with three others. Thirty women were later mobilized to join their efforts, and nearly 10 years on, they’ve grown to over 500 members. “It started as a necessity,” says Nangobi. At the time, families were illegally being evicted from their homes, and with many women widowed or with their husbands away working in urban areas, they were left to fend for themselves and their children. “Many women were uneducated and illiterate. They were not aware of their rights, and didn’t know that they could stop authorities from evicting them”.

Workshop: "Mainstreaming Gender and Incorporating Grassroots Women's Perspectives" in Global Anti-Corruption Initiatives and Agendas


SWID now holds paralegal training on land ownership and property rights. Women are educated on what they’re entitled to, and warned about paying money to government officials who promise title deeds and then never follow-through. Nangobi has experienced this first hand. In February this year she paid the fees for documents to prove ownership. The official told her she would have the papers within two weeks. Nine months later, she has nothing to show. Nangobi is now fighting to get the title deeds, armed with knowledge she has.

Others, she says, are not as lucky. Like Sylvia Nalubowa. Pregnant with twins, Nalubowa went to her local hospital when she started having contractions. She was reportedly turned away by nurses who allegedly demanded money to call the doctor. The story goes that Nalubowa couldn’t afford to pay them. She was left unattended and died. “What the nurses did was wrong,” says Nangobi, “but we have to look at the cause, not the symptom.”

“If government paid our public healthcare workers a decent salary they wouldn’t need to solicit bribes. I believe that’s the cause that ignites corruption, and it’s grassroots communities that suffer.”

But they are at work too. Changing their and their communities’ lives. It now needs to be upscaled, as concluded during a panel held on the issue at the 15th IACC. “Ask what they need. It’s not always money. Sometimes it’s just training,” said one participant. Through training, comes empowerment. Through empowerment comes the means to fight corruption.


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