Localising the Global: Women’s Perspectives on Gender and Rights in Botswana

Anne Griffiths' paper explores an ethnographic approach to law and the advantages of such an approach when documenting people's experiences of law in daily life and the implications that human rights' discourse, especially CEDAW (the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women), has for local people. It is based on narratives derived from the life histories of Bakwena living in the village of Molepolole, in Botswana, southern Africa. In contrast with formal legal narratives, of the kind promoted by a centralist or formalist model of law and the more abstract propositions enshrined in international conventions on human rights, her paper highlights "other" narratives through a presentation of life histories that portray village people's perceptions of law, the circumstances under which they do or do not have access to formal legal forums, and, in particular, the conditions under which individuals find themselves silenced or unable to negotiate with others in terms of day-to-day social life. This approach represents a more anthropological approach to the study of law, one that highlights what conventional legal discourse ignores, namely, the gendered world in which women and men live that many feminists argue operates to the detriment of women.