Monday June 16 2014

Naads is being restructured to empower rural women

By Richard Tadwong

While delivering the State-of-the-Nation address, President Museveni elaborated on the need for the masses to actively get involved in modern agriculture as an avenue to socio-economic transformation. The President reemphasised the four-acre model where a household can carry out different activities on each acre.

People living in swampy areas could maximise on fish farming. It has been observed, according to success stories, that a household can earn a minimum of Shs20 million a year following this model.

The story of socio-economic transformation cannot be successfully complete without the active participation and support of the womenfolk to carry out most of the activities highlighted in the four-acre model that the President is preaching about.

Experience has shown that women can go a long way in transforming societies if given the chance and the necessary support. To this, I have carried out an experiment with some women in my constituency of Nwoya with remarkable results.

I have supported more than 350 women groups in Nwoya with monetary support ranging from Shs200,000-Shs400,000 per group depending on the level of activities they are involved in and each group has between 25 to 70 members. The model has worked well because they use group solidarity approach and from within the same village, members know each other’s characters.

Some are now asking for tractors, ox-plough and oxen. They have managed to build a network of inter-group support. The economy of Nwoya has changed drastically because of this.

The youth who are educated and have no jobs have since gotten jobs in these village saving groups as accountants and secretaries.

Many of the women are now buying iron sheets to change the grass-thatched houses they live in and their husbands are becoming more responsible for fear of belong kicked out by the empowered women!

It’s not only in Nwoya where women have proved successful with a little support but there are other success stories in other parts of the country. The womenfolk have proved good stewards of money and other resources.

They are meticulous in their businesses, hardworking, persevering and with a fighting spirit. Women, most especially in the rural households, are the pillars of their families.

They are the ones who work the most hours to feed their families and also bring in a little income which is often abused by their husbands.

Unfortunately, the rural woman is denied access to resources including property and land from which they could derive sustainable livelihoods.
Available statistics show that 90 per cent of all rural women work in agriculture sector compared to 53 per cent of rural men. Women own only 17 per cent of productive land. This means men own 84 per cent of agricultural land!
Article 26 of the Constitution provides that, women have the same right as men to have property that they can keep alone or share with other people and no one should deprive them of their property.

Having ratified several international human rights instruments on gender equality and protection of women’s rights, Uganda is hailed for having some of the best policy, constitutional and legal framework relating to gender, and particularly to women’s land rights. However, the implementation and enforcement mechanisms are still lacking.

Although traditions, customs and practices which discriminate against women in matters of access, use and ownership of land have been outlawed by both the Constitution and legalisation, the practice does not acknowledge these changes.

Culture and custom, for example, continue to support transmission of land to men, as women’s inheritance rights in land remains tenuous, thus only enjoyed at the mercy of their male relatives.

To its credit, the NRM government is redirecting its focus on the empowerment of rural women, especially when it comes to access to soft credit mainly for commercial agricultural production. This is also partly the reason as to why NAADS is being restructured because it’s not meeting the needs of the intended beneficiaries- women and youth.
Mr Tadwong is minister Without Portfolio in charge of political mobilisation.