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Dr Belinda Maswikwa

Home country: Zimbabwe

Year of enrolment: 2010

Graduation date: March 2015

Department: Political Science

Supervisor: Prof Amanda Gouws

Dissertation title: Limits of Citizenship: A Comparative Analysis of Women's Participatory Citizenship in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

​Abstract: Developmental initiatives in Sub-Saharan Africa emphasise participatory citizenship as the means through which poor women can assert and claim their citizenship rights. Although citizenship and agency are crucial elements in this narrative, little is known about the citizenship process for African women. Furthermore, there is no analytic framework to guide an empirical analysis of agency. This dissertation aims to address these gaps by examining how marginalised Black African women understand themselves as citizens, navigate their structural barriers and develop strategies to negotiate their membership in and relationship with their states. This dissertation uses a deviant case analysis of women living in Zimbabwean and South African townships, who identify as members of the isiNdebele and isiZulu ethnic groups respectively, to Western theories of agency. Data was collected through the use of in-depth interviews and analysed using content and relational analysis. Results indicate that the women use a range of everyday resistance strategies to negotiate their relationship with their states. These strategies are mapped onto an innovative analytic framework that synthesizes feminist, androcentric and subaltern theories of citizenship agency, in order to highlight the non-conventional ways that marginalised African women exercise their agency as citizens. Interestingly, both sets of women emphasise the obligation to vote, work and support oneself without recourse to the state, rather than a reciprocal and participatory relationship. The internalisation of citizenship as an obligation without a corollary emphasis on rights and participation is problematic given that both governments suffer from legitimacy, corruption and governance issues. The main policy implication arising from the study is that there is a need for civic education in schools as well as a feature of women‟s empowerment and community development programs so that marginalised African women are encouraged to expand their participatory skills to collectively challenge, contest and improve the substance of existing citizenship rights.

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