The community library as site of education and empowerment for women: Insights from rural Uganda
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Community libraries in developing countries can be important sites of knowledge exchange and acquisition for women with little or no formal education living in communities characterized by extreme poverty and gender inequities. As locally managed and operated institutions, specific needs identified by community members shape their mandates, activities, and types of resources. Community libraries also offer a “neutral” space where women can safely gather and independently or collectively pursue learning in areas of relevance and interest to them. This paper explores the impact of Kyato Community Library (KCL) on women's lives in a rural Ugandan context. It considers the questions: i) What valuable educational opportunities does KCL provide for girls and women who have been prevented from attaining adequate formal schooling?; and ii) What additional services, opportunities and qualities could KCL provide to engage girls and women in these educational opportunities? The paper argues that with careful attention paid to women's literacy needs and desires, local context, appropriate resource acquisition and community-minded personnel, community libraries can promote and support women's literacy and personal development, enabling them to cultivate capabilities needed to engage more fully on equal terms in their societies.
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