Gender perspectives on decentralisation and service users’ participation in rural Tanzania

Z.S. Masanyiwa, A. Niehof, C.J.A.M. Termeer

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2 Citations (Scopus)


Increasing participation in decision-making processes by service users is one of the objectives of decentralisation reforms in Tanzania. The argument is that decentralisation enhances participation by all sections of the community, and by women in particular, and results in decisions that better reflect local needs. This paper examines the impact of decentralisation reforms on service users’ participation for delivery of water and health services in rural Tanzania, using a gender perspective and principal-agent theory. The paper investigates how decentralisation has fostered spaces for participation and how men and women use these spaces, and identifies factors that constrain or encourage women’s participation. It shows that decentralisation reforms have created spaces for service users’ participation at the local level. Participation in these spaces, however, differs between men and women, and is influenced by the sociocultural norms within the household and community. Men have gained more leverage than women to exercise their agency as principals. Women’s participation is contributing to addressing practical gender needs, but strategic gender needs have been less adequately addressed because gendered power relations have been largely untouched by the reforms.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-122
JournalThe Journal of Modern African Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • citizen participation
  • health systems
  • decision space
  • lessons
  • government
  • africa
  • uganda
  • accountability
  • women

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