Women’s Press
Canada’s leading academic feminist publisher
Canada’s leading academic feminist publisher

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Canadian Scholars’ Press,Women’s Press
258 pages
6.75 x 9.75 inches
May 2017
Print ISBN: 9780889615885


Women’s Voices from the Margins explores the coping strategies, agency, and resilience of women living in Kibera, Kenya—one of Africa’s largest slums. Based on a multi-year research project in which the author analyzed the diaries of 20 young women from Kibera, this thought-provoking book describes the women’s lives, the realities of gender-based violence, and their responses and coping strategies. Drawing on both qualitative journal accounts and quantitative surveys, Elizabeth Swart reveals the agency and strength of these women, who create opportunities for themselves and their children despite the violence and extreme poverty that are a daily actuality of life in Kibera. Taking a global feminist perspective, the author considers the women’s lives in the larger context of urbanization, globalization, and neo-liberal social policies. By presenting the voices of the young women alongside rich scholarly analysis, this engaging text will be a valuable resource to students and scholars of gender and women’s studies, sociology, international social work, and global studies.

Related Titles

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Kenya and Gender
Chapter 2: Kibera in the 21st Century
Chapter 3: Ethnographic Reflections and Decolonization

Chapter 4: Working with Diaries as Texts
Chapter 5: Hoping God Agrees
Chapter 6: Escape
Chapter 7: Betting Against the House
Chapter 8: Gender and Political Violence in Kibera

Chapter 9: Learning from the Diary Data
Chapter 10: Learning from the Survey Data
Chapter 11: Moving Forward


Elizabeth Swart

Elizabeth Swart is an Adjunct Lecturer of Social Work at the University of Southern California.


“This is a must-read book if you want to understand and contribute to the fight against extreme poverty and gender-based violence in the lives of real women. It allows 20 women to tell their own stories of creative daily agency in their fight for survival—not as passive victims of male and economic and political violence, but as key actors struggling, and succeeding, to survive as best they can…. This is truly a story about how the personal is political and vice-versa.”
—  Natalie J. Sokoloff, Professor Emerita of Sociology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY, and editor of Domestic Violence at the Margins

“In this detailed, self-reflective study of how to engage across difference and listen to the knowledge of women in settings of gender-based violence and poverty, the author offers insights into her and the research participants’ journey of working for more than seven years in the Kenyan slum of Kibera. She reveals the nuanced ways women survive, and the possibilities of feminist methodologies for peeling back Western assumptions and changing how we think about learning in the university classroom.”
—  Erin Baines, Liu Institute for Global Issues, University of British Columbia

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