The role of participatory approaches in women's empowerment: a case of enabling rural innovation approaches in Hoima and Masindi Districts.
The participation of local community and other development stake holders has become paramount in the contemporary development process. This however, is in contrast with the development paradigms of the colonial time where there was less participation of not only women but local community as a whole. In the recent past, government of Uganda came up with various development programmes such as Poverty Eradication Action Plan (PEAP), Plan for Modernization of Agriculture (PMA) and National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS) among others in attempts to eradicate poverty and also to involve the rural poor in the development process. However, these programmes were termed as not being truly participatory as they were designed by the central government without the involvement of the rural poor. As a result of this gap, International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) came up with a participatory intervention called Enabling Rural Innovation (ERI) whose core aim was to enhance gender equity and empowerment of women. This intervention had been in place in Hoima and Masindi districts for 4 years, but the extent to which the objectives have been achieved was not yet known. This study was conducted to establish whether the ERI approach has contributed to women`s empowerment in relation to participation in decision-making, improved access to and control over resources and improved market opportunities for women. The study further examined factors which influenced the successful implementation of the ERI approach. The study employed a cross sectional research design. Data collection was done using semi structured questionnaires, focus group discussions (FGDs) check list, key informants check lists and direct observation. Quantitative data was analyzed using SPSS computer soft ware programme, while qualitative data analysis was done by categorizing and later used to back up description of findings. Key findings indicated that most respondents equally participated in household decision-making with their spouses though this could not be entirely attributed to ERI. ERI contributed significantly in the improvement of its members` access to resources but not control over resources. ERI was successfully implemented and its major success was in training of its members, group formation and market research. From this study, it can therefore be concluded that Participation is a powerful tool for empowerment but this study found it slow in attaining some of the key indicators of empowerment such as participation in decision-making and control over certain resource such as land, family income and microfinance services. However ERI as a participatory approach can be said to have contributed a lot in the empowerment of the women who were its beneficiaries especially in areas to do with access to resources and creating market opportunities. The study recommends that; Policy makers should design community intervention policies which embrace the participation of women and community members at large, Government should allocate more funds to research institution to facilitate capacity building of research scientists so as they are able to minimize long research processes as those in the ERI approach and development agencies should put in place market infrastructures such as bulking stores for rural farmers to avoid individual marketing which leads to cheating of rural farmers by middlemen.