This e-journal is an initiative of the Pathways of Women’s Empowerment Research and Communications Programme – a collaborative initiative of BRAC University in Bangladesh, the Centre for Gender and Advocacy Studies at the University of Ghana, the Social Research Center at the American University in Cairo in Egypt, the Institute of Development Studies in the UK, the Nucleus for Interdisciplinary Women’s Studies at the Federal University of Bahia in Brazil and UNIFEM.

Pathways’ aim is to discover what it is that can best support the processes of positive change in women’s lives that can lead to wider social transformations that create greater justice and equality for all. We seek to do this in ways that remain grounded in particular cultural, historical and political contexts, rather than contribute to the fetish of one-size-fits-all blueprints and magic bullets that are so common in development.

In each of the areas in which we work – work, politics and sexuality – there have been heated debates amongst feminists. And the concept of empowerment itself is one that is contested. Rather than dampening the passions that animate us by seeking consensus on our perspectives on any of these issues, and on empowerment itself, the Pathways programme seeks to actively create spaces for dialogue and debate.

This e-journal is one of these spaces. Its aim is to elicit lively disagreements and to offer a platform for argumentation. It is inspired by a vision of deliberation that is about people feeling able to air their views, listen to a plurality of positioned responses and take from that what they will – without any pressure to arrive at a consensual conclusion. And it is, above all, about the freedom to dissent with any of the orthodoxies that exist in this field – and there are many – and take the opportunity to provoke others to think again about the things they take for granted.

Contestations aims to be a space for dialogue that extols diversity and empowers through inclusion. Join us in a lively debate that will ask you to suspend judgment as you listen to others, and use your own voice in shaping new insights and possibilities.

Andrea Cornwall and Hania Sholkamy, editors

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