University of Jyväskylä

Dissertation: Dissertation 3.12.2016 Attitudes hindering disabled Tanzanian women’s participation in higher education (Matonya)

Start date: Dec 03, 2016 12:00 PM

End date: Dec 03, 2016 03:00 PM

Location: Seminaarinmäki, RUU D101 (Juho)

Magreth MatonyaMA Magreth Matonya defends her doctoral dissertation in Adult Education on “Accessibility and Participation in Tanzanian Higher Education from the Perspectives of Women with Disabilities”. The opponent is Professor Serge Ebersold (Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers, Paris) and custos Docent, University researcher Elina Lehtomäki. The doctoral dissertation is held in English.

Magreth Matonya’s study investigated how women with disabilities participate in higher education, what challenges they experienced and how these women managed to successfully navigate through the challenges. Globally, women with disabilities experience gender discrimination as well as disabling and poverty barriers (WHO, 2011) and therefore, there are very few women with disabilities who have managed to be admitted to study in universities and effectively participate in learning.

The findings showed that realizing the importance of education motivated the women with disabilities to study in higher education. Self-acceptance, self-motivation and supportive home environment appeared as key factors to successful participation in higher education. The challenges such as attitudinal, environmental and institutional barriers were significant hindrances. To deal with these challenges and get support the women participated in students’ informal groups.

The information produced by this research can be applied to improve the life prospects of women with disabilities. Remedial measures to ensure sustained enrolment, retention and completion rates as well as awareness among families, society and education institutions are needed. Education has great importance for women with disabilities. The research calls for social, especially attitudinal, changes to promote the participation of women with disabilities in higher education in Tanzania and elsewhere in Africa.

Background information:

Magreth Matonya,
Communications Intern Katja Ketola,, 040 805 3638

Magreth Matonya completed her Master’s Degree in Education in 2008 and Bachelor Degree in Adult Education in 2006, both at the University of Dar Es Salaam. She has also a Diploma in Teacher Education. Magreth Matonya has worked as Geography and Kiswahili teacher. Currently she is an Assistant Lecturer at the School of Education, University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The research was co-funded by the Academy of Finland, CIMO through the University of Jyvaskyla and the World Bank through the University of Dar es Salaam. This study has been conducted in collaboration with the research project Educated Girls and Women in Tanzania: Sociocultural Interpretations of the Meaning of Education (Academy of Finland 2007-2011).

The dissertation is published in the series Jyvaskyla Studies in Education, Psychology and Social Science, number 568, 261p., Jyvaskyla 2016,ISSN 0075-4625; 568,  ISBN:978-951-39-6844. It is available at the University library’s Publication Unit, tel +358(0)40 805 3825, Read at JYX-portal:



The study investigated how women with disabilities participate in higher education and what enables them to succeed in their studies. The social model of disability guided the study emphasizing the removal of barriers which continue to exclude and marginalize women with disabilities from social, cultural and economic opportunities, including education. This study was conducted at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to identify the challenges and the enabling factors that contributed to enrolment and participation of women with disabilities at the university. The study involved 22 women with disabilities, the few who had managed to obtain a place at the university despite many challenges. The study employed qualitative methodology using semi-structured interviews. Thematic analysis was used to analyze the interview data. The findings of the study showed that women with disabilities who succeeded in getting a university placement were highly motivated to participate in higher education and believed that education was important for their social mobility and empowerment. The positive attitudes of their family and community members encouraged the women to participate in higher education. The most disappointing issue or challenge experienced by these women was social marginalization. At the university the women encountered inaccessible learning and physical environments. The majority of the women participated in informal group discussions as the key strategy for overcoming the challenges associated with the learning environment at the university. The study concludes that accessibility and participation of women with disabilities in education depend on social and attitudinal changes. An enabling and encouraging university environment and family support are important factors for successful participation and learning.

Keywords: Accessibility, Participation, Gender, Higher Education, Disability, Inclusive Education, Tanzania

More information

Magreth Matonya