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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Social Reintegration of Women: Reconstructing Womanhood and Moving Past Post-Conflict in Sierra Leone


Because post-conflict contexts are highly complex, the ways in which women both fit within accepted modern discourses of development and maneuver through more traditional systems of development and reconstruction are not fully understood. In Sierra Leone this dynamic is particularly true because of the small size of the population and the extended length of the conflict. Since the end of the civil war in 2002, transnational interventions have been highlighted as having successful programs that have been key in increasing stability in the country. Using the framework of women’s reintegration successes, this research aims to show that much of the stability in the country can also be attributed to linkages between past socio-cultural and political practices and institutions. This research shows that these linkages are spaces of strategic manipulation which women use to increase their economic and social standing. I argue that these manipulations between discourses and practices of the past, the present, and the proposed future have contributed to new ways of identity formation for women in Sierra Leone. Explorations in secondary data and theory pertaining to gendered social transformation in post-conflict settings are further informed by two months of intensive fieldwork using ethnographic research methods of participant observation and informal interviews in Sierra Leone in the summer of 2008.

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