Uganda will on 11th Oct join the world to commemorate the third ever International day of the girl child. The national celebration premised on the global theme “The power of the adolescent girl, Vision 2030,” is based on one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that were launched on 25th Sep
By Yeka William
Uganda will on 11th Oct join the world to commemorate the third ever International day of the girl child. The national celebration premised on the global theme “The power of the adolescent girl, Vision 2030,” is based on one of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that were launched on 25th Sept.
This year’s theme is rationalized on the need to attain gender equality. The notion that educating the girl child is building the nation has been popularized in account of the fact that the girl child is very instrumental in nation building.
Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 3 of the recently expired MDGs calls for gender equality and women empowerment. Uganda being a signatory to the United Nations (UN) has made positive strides in meeting some requirements of the goal.
Government should be commended for its effort in ensuring affirmative action. Women are visible in top leadership positions across the country, the speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga and the Commissioner General of Uganda Revenue Authority, Doris Akol are key examples. Whereas this can be celebrated, a lot is still left to be desired.
The current status quo in relation to gender relations portrays the female sex as a marginalized group. The patriarchal nature of Uganda’s society has put men to exert control over females. Cases of gender based violence where women in most cases suffer have been fuelled by disparity in power between women and men.
The high teenage pregnancy rate is another disheartening indicator that calls for drastic action. According to Women Deliver, more than 25,000 girls under 18years are globally married each day. This violates their fundamental human rights.
In Uganda, 1 out of every 4 girls aged 15-19years is pregnant. Teenage pregnancy prevents girls from acquiring education and ultimately shuts them the door to a prosperous future. Besides, pregnancy and child - birth related complications are the leading causes of death among girls aged 15-19years.
A 2011 report by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) revealed that Uganda has the highest school dropout rate for females in East Africa. The reasons are many, among which is teenage pregnancy and early marriage. Some cultures have facilitated the prevalence of teenage pregnancy and early marriage that is greatly limiting girl’s potential from achieving their dreams.
As such, the involvement of cultural leaders in efforts to curb gender inequality is vital. Their participation has seen Uganda register a success story in ending female genital mutilation that used to prevail in some parts of the country.
Furthermore, male involvement should be embraced if any efforts to achieve gender equality are to succeed. Through this, men will appreciate that women are not competitors but development partners.
Much as it is important to prosecute perpetrators of sexual gender based violence like defilement and rape, girls should as should be empowered with the knowledge of how to avoid them. Empowerment of the girl child with skills like decision making, self esteem and assertiveness helps her denounce sexual advances from men.
The poor health indicators among adolescent girls can also partly be attributed to lack of accurate information about sex and sexuality. Therefore, government with the involvement of parents needs to speed up the introduction of sexuality education in primary and secondary school’s curriculum.
It is even important that women in privileged and influential positions get pro-active. They should not just sit and enjoy the comfort of such positions. Let them use it to benefit fellow women and girls by influencing policies and decisions in favor of women empowerment.
The silence of some women legislators on gender issues which most times affect women have raised questions about the need for woman MPs. Speaking out against issues of women marginalization based on gender by women in positions of authority is a matter of utmost importance if gender equality is to be achieved.
If such efforts are taken up by relevant authorities, the girl child will gain knowledge and skills to make correct life choices. Step 5 of the 17 steps to sustainable development calls for gender equality and women empowerment. Should Uganda domesticate SDG 5, there is no doubt that the country’s overall productivity will increase.
The writer works with Straight Talk Foundation
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