Is government responding to citizens’ unique gender specific needs?

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By Sophie Kyagulanyi

Posted  Monday, December 9  2013 at  00:00

On December 4 Kampala woke to the fourth fire that gutted Nakivubo Parkyard Market. While listening to news on radio, I heard a woman crying and amidst her sobs she laboured to explain how her property/ stock had been destroyed in the fire. She had just acquired a loan from a Women’s Sacco which money she invested in buying second hand clothes targeting the Christmas season. In her narration, she wondered how she would pay back the loan yet all her stock was destroyed. Worse still she has a family to feed and yet her only means of income had gone with the fire. She is one of the many women suffering due to the park yard infernal whose causes are not yet known.

I wondered about other women petty trading in this area and how this fire has affected their wellbeing. Majority vend foodstuffs, newspapers, airtime, plastic bags, etc. The same group has in the past weeks experienced violence on these very streets as the police engaged Erias Lukwago and Kizza Besigye supporters.

This leads me to question; how ready is the government in responding to the unique gender specific needs of its citizens? Particularly at KCCA, women are seen sweeping roads in the middle of the night. What safety nets exist to safeguard them against any form of violence while on duty?

Women need to understand implications of this impeachment on their livelihoods, their petty trade in Kampala, etc. For instance, what does it mean to the ordinary woman who on November 25 was vending newspapers in front of KCCA main gate? I wonder if she even realises how it will affect her work and majorly her survival on the streets. The city’s leadership as its drawing battle lines, whether political or administrative, have accountability roles to play here in addition to involving citizens in decisions they are taken as it’s a Constitutional duty for citizens to partake in the way we are governed.

Women are the biggest percentage of petty traders in Kampala hence key contributors to city revenue and economy. It is by their ‘sweat’ that urban dwellers survive as these women make it cheap to live in Kampala by selling inexpensive food and vegetables by the road otherwise you would be buying “Malkwang”, “Nakati” and “Amukeke” from the ‘supermarkets which not all of us can afford. As a result, they should be listened to, protected and consulted. One will ask protected from what? Tear gas, live bullets, effects of court orders, impeachments, heavy deployment, cordoning off streets where they sell foodstuffs, the kiboko squad violence, etc.

These women need explanation as to what all this means and who should take responsibility if it gets “bloody”.

Leaders including the police, KCCA, among others need to be accountable to Kampala women. This gives leaders an opportunity to consult them on the nature of decisions to be taken especially if they will affect women’s livelihoods. For example, the decision to stop people from accessing park yard, how was it explained to the affected women who thought they would rescue some of their stock, the one day closure of KCCA didn’t it affect KCCA women casual labourers and women accessing KCCA Health Centres? So all in all, involve women in decision making as the results have multiple effects on their survival in “Kampala City Yange” and take responsibility for actions resulting from these decisions.

Ms Kyagulanyi is a programme manager Women in Leadership/ Forum for Women in Democracy