By Sanyu Phionah
Women remain vulnerable to poverty and most women rely on agriculture as a source of income. The Gender policy brief for Uganda Agriculture sector highlights that out of the 72% of the employed women, 90% are rural women employed in agriculture.
Agriculture remains the main source of income for the Ugandan population with subsistence farming dominating and contributing 42.2% earning.
The fact that the majority of rural women rely on agriculture as their main source of income, this increases their likelihood to poverty owing to the fact that rural poverty is 25.4% compared to 10.5% urban poverty rates.
On one hand women participation in agriculture is stifled by the nature of agriculture in Uganda: agriculture is characterised by limited access to market information and financial services, poor road network, which limit access to input and output markets, prohibitive land tenure systems and rights, and low reach of extension services.
As a result, agriculture is neither sustainable nor productive enough to lift the poor out of poverty and stimulate growth. On the other hand, the Government of Uganda policies are not engendered to facilitate women participation.
For example, the midterm review of the National Development Plan (NDP) reveled that gender is not adequately considered in certain Government activities, This serves to restrict the contribution of women to the economic growth and hence a call for an urgent need to address women poverty and inequality.
Globally, gender mainstreaming and equality has been a considerable feature in the development agenda over the last decade, Ugandan efforts to achieve gender equality and women empowerment through development programmes is grounded in country priorities, recognising that gender equality and women’s empowerment are critical to achieving development results.
This means that reducing gender inequality is both an end in its own right and a prerequisite for sustainable and inclusive growth. In the recent past, Uganda activists’ debates focused on gender equality and gender mainstreaming and currently, the debate has shifted to promotion of women rights.
The shift means that the feminist’s efforts to promotion of women empowerment has not been achieved hence a development concern. While it is true that woman rights, if promoted and advocated for, will promote women empowerment, women rights do not, however, necessarily eliminate inequality.
Additionally, the feminists argued promotion of girl child education as a tool for empowerment; however it is also a form of promotion of the existing inequality gap between men and women given a number of initiatives and programmes that have been implemented to bridge the gender gap.
Like promotion of democratic governance and social accountability, respect for woman rights cannot solve women inequality but rather engender gender inequality. There is, therefore, need for a mechanism that can be adopted as a means to women empowerment beyond the viable need for promotion of women rights.
Social protection is a form of social transformation that can be adopted along with the post 2015 agenda or all development agenda as a means to strengthening women voices in the post 2015 development processes.
African countries where social protection instruments are being used to empower women like Mauritius, Uganda women movements need to engage with the social protection debates for promotion of women dignity and empowerment.
Social protection is not just an instrument but it is a tool that can be adopted to fight the culture of violence that has manifested among the women especially the rural poor women. Above all social protection, if adopted, is a means for women economic empowerment.
The writer is a staff of Development Research and Training, an organization working towards the elimination of chronic poverty in Uganda
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