Sunday March 30 2014

Women in rural areas need help

By Stephen Mugabi

I have read articles and claims by women activists and non-governmental organisations about how they are fostering child care, women and maternal healthcare!

But recently on a tour to eastern Uganda particularly Iganga District and specifically Kigulu North in the sub-counties of Nawandala, Nabitende, Nambale and Namungalwe, I saw women living in abject poverty.

Some are HIV-Positive widows who think they are merely victims of witchcraft and are, therefore, not receiving any treatment. Those who know their status can’t access anti retro-viral drugs. I was in one area where I met parents and pupils in a school meeting. When I was invited to speak, I told them bout condom use and the meeting almost ended with all parents clearly frightened and ashamed of such talk.

Later, I met some girls and interacted with them about sex and they expressed total ignorance and the need for sex education.
With poverty at its peak, girls cannot afford sanitary towels. Many skip classes to avoid embarrassment.

When went to a few health centres like St Stephen’s Kabuli, I was shocked at the state of the facilities. I found a woman in labour lying on a papyrus mat due to lack of mattresses and beds.

When I spoke to the In-charge, a well qualified mid wife at the centre, she said she tries to refer patients to the main hospital but they do not go. She said if they are forced to go, they instead resort to traditional birth attendants which worsens the situation. She is, therefore, forced to let them stay at the under equipped centre.
Are women activists groups genuine? If yes, are they for the poor village woman or only for the elite urban woman?

What about the numerous NGOs claiming to be helping people at the grassroots? Do they move to all areas or are they limited to only a few?
Do they really give equal share, care and opportunities to all areas? Are they motivated by need and demand or politically driven? These and many more questions need to be answered.