A thesis submitted by Kalyango Ronald Sebba in fulfilment of a PhD: RETURNING HOME: GENDER AND CHOICE AMONG IDPs




Kalyango Ronald Sebba

A thesis submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of doctor of philosophy in Gender Studies of Makerere University


The study examines how gender influences the choice of women and men to either return to or stay away from pre conflict homes. This study, carried out in Northern Uganda Gulu District, specifically set-out to explore how gender relations between women and men influence the decision to return or not within given spaces, that is, the IDP camp, transit site and pre conflict homes. In addition, to assess how social institutions influence women and men’s decision to return and to examine how women and men cope with and or adapt to challenges they experience in the process of returning. To examine these factors, a qualitative methodology was used to illuminate the subtle interconnections in the multilevel interactions between displaced persons and institutions to reveal how individual goals, motivations and preferences are in turn influenced by institutional commands and a complex set of gendered and non-gendered factors.

The study fills a gap in knowledge by providing an explanation of the factors which influence women and men’s decision to either return or not after years of displacement. In particular how return to pre-conflict homes is never a linear movement from place of asylum to original home but a cyclical one. The study also highlights how gender relations within households interface with community and institutional factors to influence when, where and how women and men return to after years of displacement. Using a sustainable livelihoods framework, the study further examines the strategies of returning women and men and how women in particular cope with exclusionary policies and programmes which obscure their agency and consider them passive victims and recipients of aid.

The findings bring to the fore how gender influences when, where and who returns first to pre conflict homes. In addition how differences at the interface between displaced persons and institutions result into divergent meanings of return. While institutions approach return as a linear movement, for displaced persons return is essentially a cyclical process permeated with changing gender and power relations.  Lastly how the choice to return is largely informed by social processes which are in turn conditioned by human agency, livelihood strategies, gender roles and entitlements in pre conflict homes.