Today 8th March 2013 is International Women’s Day and Uganda joins the rest of the world to celebrate this day. Each year, on the 8th of March, various events take place around the world to highlight the economic, political and social achievements of women.
Governments, Civil Society Organizations, Women’s Groups, the Private Sector and the Media participate in commemorating the day. It is an occasion to look at the challenges women face in trying to achieve their full potential for the benefit of their communities.
The International Women’s Day global theme for 2013 is “The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum”. In Uganda, the National theme is “The Gender Agenda: Connecting Grassroots Women to Development”. As a country, we have deliberately tailor-made the theme to reflect our priorities, policies and commitment to tackling the women’s issues.
The main venue for the national celebrations will be Nakasongola District. Grassroots women, as ordinary people in society, on whose behalf decisions are made, require that their needs and interests are considered in the policies, laws, plans and programmes in order to attain the universal goals of gender equality and empowerment of women.
The Government of Uganda has signed and ratified key frameworks that define the global gender agenda.
These include the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Millennium Declaration and Development Goals especially Goal No. 3 which dwells on gender equality and women’s empowerment.
At the regional level, Uganda is a party to the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights on Women in Africa (2003), and is signatory to the African Union Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality.
We also have the Uganda Gender Policy (2007) which is a guide to main streaming gender in all development programmes.
We still have many challenges facing women including illiteracy and patriarchal practices which dictate women’s subordination to men. Most Ugandan women live in rural areas as subsistence farmers.
They have limited access to and control over the natural, human, financial, physical and social resources.
The meagre incomes of women subject them to economic dependency and contribute to among others unequal gender power relations at the household level, which affects decision making at family level and ultimately at the national level.
We are thus marking International Women’s Day mindful of all these challenges and as government we are using this opportunity to reinvigorate our commitment to change the status of women for the better.
Opportunities for Grassroots Women
The Government recognizes the empowerment of women and attainment of equality and will thus continue to formulate and implement gender responsive policies with a view of addressing all bottlenecks to women emancipation.
The Agriculture Sector has been prioritized for funding, focusing on transforming subsistence farming to commercial agriculture through the National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS).
Women are supported in agro processing and marketing of their products. These initiatives have been successful and contributed to improved production.
At sub county level, women are organized to join SACCOs through which they are able to obtain loans.
The interest rates are reasonable at about 13% for agriculture and 17% per annum for commercial activities, as compared to up to 35% interest charged on loans from commercial banks. SACCO members also have the benefit of acquiring new skills and knowledge from training which is a major component for development of savings and credit cooperatives.
Protection of women’s land rights has been addressed through legal provisions particularly the Land Act (1998) and the Mortgage Act (2009). Section 39 A of the Land Amendment Act (2004) details security of occupancy on family land, while section 40 prohibits the sale, transfer, exchange, pledge, mortgage or lease of family land except with prior consent of the spouse.
Affirmative action, as enshrined in Article 32 of the Constitution of Uganda has encouraged more women to venture into areas of decision making.
The provision of one third representation of women at local government levels has brought grassroots women into decision making positions.
Some have progressed to higher levels. Consequently the proportion of women in Parliament has risen from 19.2% in 1996 to 30.4% in 2006 up to the current 34% in the 9th Parliament.
In the Education Sector, the affirmative action for female entrants to public tertiary institutions has enhanced gender equity in access to education, thus increasing their opportunities to participate in development. The Universal Primary Education (UPE) Universal Secondary Education (USE) programmes have also increased overall enrollment of school age going children in the country.
The Functional Adult Literacy programme has over the years enrolled a total of 974,855 learners with women being the main beneficiaries contributing over 70% of enrolled participants while men form 30% of the beneficiaries.
Government has intensified the response to eliminate gender based violence (GBV). Laws have been enacted such as the Domestic Violence Act (2010), the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act (2010) and the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act, 2009.
A national policy on elimination of GBV is in the offing and mechanisms for effective coordination of stakeholders at national and local government levels have been established.
As reflected above, the national gender agenda supports the effective involvement of women, particularly grassroots women in the development process. Significant gains have been made, but more is still to be done. I wish you happy celebrations.
Hon. John M Nasasira (MP)
Minister of Gender Labour & Social Development