African Journal of Social Work

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Listening to voices from below: learning from older women’s self-organised groups to decolonise social work in Uganda

Sharlotte Tusasiirwe


Although professional social work in Uganda has a long history, given its colonial origin in the 1950s, the profession is still struggling with challenges such as an unclear professional mandate, public recognition and relevance. These challenges point to the ultimate need for decolonisation although social workers are grappling with finding ways to decolonise and localise their practice. This paper presents local knowledge on the self-organised mutual support groups led by older women, based on life story interviews of 10 older women in a rural community in South Western Uganda. Local knowledge on groups’ formation and functions, their strengths and constraints will be presented. The main argument is that this local knowledge and experience can provide a basis for culturally appropriate social work interventions that build on the already existing initiatives and wisdom of people from below. The paper begins with a discussion on the current situation of social work in Uganda before presenting the empirical findings on older women’s self-organised groups and how they can inform decolonisation of social work practice in Uganda.

Keywords: decolonisation, social work, culturally relevant, older women, Uganda, community-based

AJOL African Journals Online