Arguably, the Covid-19 pandemic has presented new opportunities for digital transformation within the justice sectors in African countries and beyond. The LEWUTI project (Legal Empowerment of Women Using Technology and Innovation), predates the pandemic, and is run by Barefoot Law, a Ugandan socio-legal NGO. As the 2020 UNDP report highlights, during the pandemic many courts were adapted to digital technologies. On-line justice was supposed to respond more rapidly to challenges in this unprecedented situation, creating new opportunities to reach more beneficiaries and scale-up justice processes. However, it is not clear that women benefit equally from digitisation of justice systems. The pandemic highlighted some risks of relying on digital means to achieve women’s legal empowerment, especially for rural women. Against this background, this study examines the opportunities and challenges of digital transformation of access to justice as a means of legal empowerment of rural women in Northern Uganda. Data for the study was collected in the rural Gulu area, through focus groups discussions with selected women. The data was then analysed through the lens of Legal Empowerment (LE) and Access to Justice frameworks, to make sense of information generated. Findings suggest that digital technology can play a significant role in addressing the unmet legal needs of rural women in Uganda. Many women have reported being able to use digital interfaces to access legal help, evaluate their problems and decide whether the problems have legal solutions. These technologies have also helped women with preparation of evidence and making sense of laws and legal documentation. However, oobstacles remain. These include lack of legal knowledge and awareness, poverty, lack of access to mobile phones, illiteracy, lack of telecommunication infrastructure, power inequalities and the attitudes of some lawyers. These factors still hinder some rural women from using digital technology to access justice. Some women also emphasized that introducing digital technologies to secure women’s legal empowerment may put the cart before the horse, so long as corruption of Uganda’s legal and court system remains pervasive.

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Hintjens, Helen
Social Justice Perspectives (SJP)
International Institute of Social Studies

Okello, Robert. (2021, December 17). Rural women’s legal empowerment through digital technology: a case study from Northern Uganda. Social Justice Perspectives (SJP). Retrieved from