University of Connecticut

Events Calendar

Dissertation Defense For Selam Esayas Negatu

Friday, July 23, 2021
10:00am – 12:00pm


Clapping with One Hand: Conceptualizing Female Headship and Intersecting Inequalities in Farming in Ethiopia

Selam Esayas Negatu Dissertation Defense Friday, July 23, 2021 Via WebEx at 10:00 am -12:00 pm

Committee Members: Dr. Elizabeth Holzer (Chair) Dr. Manisha Desai Dr. Bandana Purkayastha Dr. Nancy Naples Dr. Mary Bernstein

What most development stakeholders and governments consider female-headed households have been used to denote a homogenous category of women. In reality, female-headed households represent a heterogeneous and dynamic group of women with varying experiences and resources. In this study, I used ethnographic observation and semi-structured interviews to examine this diversity and characteristics of female-headed households and people’s subjective understanding of female headship to identify interpretive factors that bolster or hinder the equitable access and distribution of agricultural resources and interventions in two farming communities in Dangishta and Gayta, Ethiopia. The finding of this study shows that female headship is primarily understood in relation to the marital status of women including those that are divorced or widowed. Intersecting factors such as the age of female heads, educational background and the presence or absence of male children also serve to determine varying access to resources and cultivation of crops. Difference in adaption to challenges in farming is reflected in the diversity among female-headed households as well. Female-headed households that have adult sons have a far better chance to access and utilize productive resources and cultivate field plots than female-headed households without sons. One of the differentiating criteria that set female-headed households apart from male-headed households is ox-ploughing, which created obstacles for cultivating field plots independently. As a male-centric practice ox-ploughing continues to be dominated by men and women’s inability to participate in this key aspect of the production process serves to construct what it means to be a “farmer” and by implication a female head of household. Further, it also restricts their access and use of scarce resources like high-value seeds. Female heads were found to be excluded from the decision-making process of limu seed distribution, which is mainly undertaken by male development group leaders and was allocated fewer shares of the variety. Implementation of such practices was explained as a necessary measure because female-headed households who mostly own smaller portions of land do not cultivate field plots and thus cannot use limu seed for its intended purpose. Thus, this study shows what way women can better benefit from agricultural interventions and what resources and changes are required to achieve this objective.


Dr. Elizabeth Holzer ( for WebEx link

Sociology Department (primary), College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, UConn Master Calendar

Control Panel