By Elvis Basudde
In Nakasongola District the host of Women’s Day, most women are illiterate housewives engaged in agriculture and with no control over resources
Women are worst hit by chronic poverty in Uganda. They are the most illiterate, the most involved in ungainful employment or work where they don’t get paid.
They bear the brunt of bringing up children and ensuring they go to school.
A report entitled - Chronic Poverty in Uganda; The Policy Challenges - reveals that over 8 million of 30.7 million people is chronically poor, with women forming the bulk.
“Overall, 27% of the chronically poor households in rural areas are headed by women with the percentage rising to 40% in the urban setting,” says the report.
Today Uganda marks the International Women’s Day under the national theme of “The Gender Agenda: Connecting Grassroots Women to Development”. The global theme is: “The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum.”
The national theme recognises the achievements towards gender equality and women empowerment and the contributions of grassroots women to equitable and sustainable development.
It draws the attention of all development actors in government, civil society, faith based organisations and the private sector to examine the extent to which their respective policies and programmes have responded to the needs of women, in particular grassroots women.
Rukia Nakadama, minister of State for gender and culture, further explains that the theme emphasises the importance of connecting grassroots women to development while taking into consideration the gender agenda.
“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,” she emphasises.
Equally important, connecting grassroots women to development entails ensuring that they are included in decision-making processes that affect their lives and that they are able to contribute to and hence benefit from development.
Jane Mpagi, director, Gender and Community Development, says the day is celebrated to focus attention on issues, challenges, successes and achievements of women regardless of their national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic or political differences.
It is an occasion for looking back on past struggles and accomplishments, and more importantly, to look ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await future generations of women, she explains.
Nakasongola district is hosting this year’s celebrations. Fiona Sanyu, principal assistant secretary who is the chairperson, of the Nakasongola district organising committee for Women’s Day, says the district requested to host the day.
The granting was also on rotational basis. Nebbi district in north western Uganda last year hosted the event and this time round central region, where Nakasongola falls, was offered the opportunity. Sanyu says they are well set to host the event.
Women in Nakasongola making mats
Status of women in Nakasongola
Nakasongola has various categories of people, the fishing community, farmers and the pastoralists, and the women in these categories have somehow been left out.
They are housewives, most of them doing agriculture but on a small scale.
Ahebwe Christine Kwatotyo, acting community development officer, Nakasongola Town Council explains that most of the women are illiterate. They don’t have power over resources as they are controlled by men.
She says most of the women are engaged in agriculture, but it is the men who determine what type of crop to grow. The woman clears the land, does everything plus cultivation, but when it comes to harvesting, selling and marketing, it is the man who benefits.
“The woman doesn’t get anything after doing all that work. Another thing is women have no control over land. The woman uses that land knowing that it doesn’t belong to her,” explains Ahebwe.
However, Ahebwe explains that they have come up with many government programmes specifically for women. Women have been given grants from government, like the Community Driven Development (CDD) grant.
“This grant targets women groups. We give them money and they procure what they want. We don’t influence them to buy what they don’t want. They make a proposal in which they set their problem and why they need that project,” says Ahebwe.
“We also empower them with skills training so that, apart from that government grant, they can still make their own projects to earn some income out of that. Through the National Agricultural Advisory Services, women are supported in agro-processing and marketing of their products.”
Sanyu explains that through such programmes including the Universal Primary Education and Universal Secondary Education, at least they have seen a number of girls studying and making their way to various universities and graduating as doctors, lawyers and professors.
Even parents today appreciate the need to educate both boys and girls, which was not the case when Nakasongola was under Luwero district. Since Nakasongola was granted district status in 1997, the status of women has changed.
Sanyu says they want to ensure that women are involved in government programmes. She also says they are making women’s health a priority and increasing attention to non-communicable diseases, reproductive health services including family planning, as well as HIV/AIDS prevention and response.