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Women and Gender in Global Perspectives
Upcoming Events

University YMCA Friday Forum
ON THE ISSUES: Analyzing The 2016 Elections

November 11th 12:00pm
Location: University YMCA in Latzer Hall


Bridging the Divide: Encouraging Civil Discourse Between Differing Political Perspectives
Joe Minarik and Scott Bidner, Program on Intergroup Relations at UIUC 

Sponsor: University YMCA
Co-sponsors: WGGP and others

WGGP Alumni Spotlight Series

Bala Saho
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Alumna
GRID Minor, 2007
MA in African Studies, 2007

Current Position
Assistant Professor, Department of History
The University of Oklahoma, Norman

What is the focus of your current work and/or subject of your current research?

My forthcoming book Contours of Change: Muslim Courts, Women, and Islamic Society in Colonial Bathurst, the Gambia, 1905–1965,examines the place of women in the formation of colonial Bathurst (Banjul), to the evolution of women’s understanding of the importance of law in securing their rights, as well as the ways in which women utilized the new qadi court system to fight for growing rights within the domestic sphere. Gambian women’s increased awareness is significant because it signals changes that were already underway in the Gambia colony and protectorate during the early colonial period. The research complements uniquely works by scholars of other African societies with similar colonial experience (Stockreiter, 2015; Burrill, 2015; Stiles and Thompson, 2015, Hanretta, 2009; Roberts, 2005; Fair, 2001; Hirsch, 1998). Clearly, records from the qadi court in the Gambia speak in agreement with these works that often qadis were sympathetic to women’s claims and the court opened up ways in which women negotiated conjugal and other forms of relationships and constructed a sense of self in African colonial societies

My current research Negotiating Womanhood and the Peril of Childless (Kañeleng) Women in the Gambia, explores how voluntary associations of childless women, or Kañeleng Kafo, shape perceptions of infertility in modern Gambia and how they counter the burden of childlessness and reflect – or help redefine – the cultural construction of “womanhood” in the Gambia.

Suntukunto bambaroo,

Wuluu M’fanaŋ ye,

Doolu niŋ I la bambaroo,

Nfanaŋ so kilinŋ na.

Garbage pumpkin,

Bear me a child,

Others have children,

Also give me one.

Although both men and women live with the pain of infertility, in the Gambia it is considered the duty of the woman to find solutions to the problem. This song is a mother-in-law's plea addressing her son's wife. The elder woman urges her daughter-in-law to make an effort to bear children rather than focus excessively on her individual beauty. The song shames women, blaming young women for their childless situations, and testifying to the community's investment in each woman's fertility. Above all, the song protests childlessness and illustrates the profound efforts infertile women ought to make to end the burden of infertility.

In the Gambia, the word Kañeleng refers to a woman who cannot bear children, whom society considers infertile, or whose children die at an early age. The association Kañeleng Kafo (Childless Women’s Association) is a voluntary organization that exists only in the Gambia, Senegal, and Guinea Bissau. Any childless woman can be a member of a Kañeleng Kafo. However, her decision largely depends on the encouragement and support from elderly women from her kin group and the husband’s kin group. Men born out of Kañelengyaa (the practice of childlessness) can also become members.

To become a member, the aspirant has to undergo a ritual that sanctifies membership and creates an opportunity for the woman to develop a covenant relation or joking relation (sanawu) with the public. The core of the ritual is a bath – to cleanse the body of any “bad” spirit. My research provides the first full historical analysis of these associations, interrogating how the kañeleng reconfigure female-male relationships, reproduction, and the social worth of infertile women. My study introduces the traditional processes and mechanisms (efforts and practices that lay outside modern day hospitals and clinics) by which the kañeleng struggle to cope with and challenge the issues of childlessness in the Gambia by participating in rituals, prayers, performances, songs, thieving, and transvestite role inversions. (Weil, 1971; Vansina, 1990; Spear, 2003; Saho, 2014). I examine how these infertile women assert themselves in a social order that rejects them, highlighting the creation and meaning of ritual space. I also explore how these infertile women’s societies function, generating a sense of worth and solidarity among their members. My study analyzes the specific mechanisms by which such women are marginalized, and evaluates the efficacy of women’s societies in countering that marginalization.

How has your GRID minor helped you in your career?

The GRID served as a foundation and as an instrument to study society through a multi-dimensional perspective. While it provided with me with knowledge about gender studies, it helped me to work with women and men in different capacities.

Do you have any advice or suggestions for current GRID Students?

GRID can be a surprisingly useful tool in life. I would take it more seriously even if I am not sure of what to do with it at the moment.

How can we learn more about your work through social media? (include website or social media if applicable)

WGGP Gender Relations in International Development Graduate Minor

WGGP offers a graduate minor in Gender Relations in International Development (GRID). The GRID interdisciplinary minor is designed to give students the analytical and empirical skills needed to address global human security and gender equity issues in research and policy analysis, as well as daily life. In this age of global economic transformation, it is especially necessary for researchers and practitioners to examine who gains and who loses from new policies, to assess the disparities in the impacts of reforms on women, men, and children, and to study the successful strategies and policies that appear.

To learn more about the GRID minor, please contact Anita Kaiser at or by phone at 333-6221.

SPRING 2017 WGGP Courses

WGGP 581 Gender Relations & International Development (64395) credit: 4 hours.

Interdisciplinary seminar examining theoretical and empirical research on gender and the transformation of social and economic structures. Students will develop a comparative perspective on issues of women and public policy by contrasting and comparing such policies in North and South America, Eastern and Western Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Same as GWS 512 and SOCW 581.

Course will be held Thursdays 2:00-4:50pm

For more information about the GRID Course or the GRID Minor, please contact Anita Kaiser at



GLBL 340 Global Health: Policy & Governance credit: 3 hours.
Identifies central and emerging global health issues and analyzes them through the lenses of governance, policy and gender. Focuses on structural, policy, and institutional perspectives on global health, with emphasis on how decisions are influenced and made. Prerequisite: GLBL 240 or consent of instructor.

63807 Lecture-Discussion
A 11:00 AM- 12:15 PM   Tuesday/Thursday                 145 - Armory               Sugrue, N

In this course, we use a set of interdisciplinary readings and discussions to identify central and emerging issues in the study of global health and analyze them through the lenses of governance, policy and gender. We focus on structural, policy, and institutional perspectives on global health, with emphasis on how decisions are influenced and made. Pre-req: GLBL 240 or consent of instructor.

Spring Courses of Interest


Certificate in

Global Health

Joint with WGGP and LAS Global Studies

Certificate Description

LAS Global Studies, in conjunction with Women and Gender in Global Perspectives (WGGP) is offering a Certificate in Global Health. This certificate is open to all undergraduate majors at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The Certificate in Global Health will prepare students to engage with issues and problems in global health policy, access, and delivery.

Students will gain fundamental knowledge, critical perspectives, and skills from a range of disciplines in order to understand the complex relationships between health and economic development, local, national, and global institutions, social and cultural norms, environmental sustainability, and the needs of marginalized populations.

This course of study emphasizes:

  • Global health theory and practice
  • Interconnections of poverty, human rights, resources, disasters, migration, displacement, gender, barriers to access and other pressing worldwide issues in Global Helath
  • Interdisciplinary course content including core social science disciplines in the liberal arts such as Anthropology, Economics, Geography, History, Political Science, and Sociology among others

The Certificate in Global Health affords students a credential that demonstrates their competency in interdisciplinary approaches to contemporary global health. Such skills are valued by a range of organizations including governmental and non-governmental organizations, consulting firms, philanthropic organizations, social enterprises, private sector firms, and educational institutions. The core sequence of GLBL courses also provides a meaningful avenue for pre-health students to meet medical school application requirements of social science coursework that demonstrates competencies within a single discipline and at the advanced level.

Students must complete 15 hours of course work that includes three Global Studies courses (listed below) focused on Global Health:

GLBL 240 Global Health (3)

GLBL 340 Global Health Policy (3)** Offered Spring 2017

GLBL 440 Global Health Intervention and Evaluation (3)

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