Among other things, the Women’s Manifesto makes five major demands, which were agreed upon as critical in achieving gender equality and empowerment for women.
The five include women’s health; land and property rights; women and education; economic empowerment; and women, politics and decision-making.
WDG comprises Action for Development (ACFODE), Center for Women in Governance (CEWIGO), Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE), Women’s Democracy Network-Uganda Chapter (WDN-U) and Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET).
It is an accountability tool
Patricia Munabi, Executive Director- FOWODE:
FOWODE is a non-partisan women’s organisation which believes that if women are empowered to participate at various political levels, then the resulting policies, laws, and budgets would favour and strengthen the women’s empowerment process in Uganda.
With the campaigns gathering steam, there will be all sorts of manifestos; the timing of this document is suspicious.
What is its relevance?
Actually, we did not come out of the blue with a manifesto. Every five years, towards the general elections, we come up with a document that highlights women’s issues that aspiring leaders need to address.
The only difference is that the previous document was called The Women’s Agenda, and it was always launched a month or two to elections.
We decided to call the current one a manifesto, and launch it a few months earlier; before the Citizens and Youths Manifestos are launched.
The Women’s Manifesto is a tool for women to hold their leaders accountable on critical issues.
The electorate is drowning in so many issues such as electing party presidents and the electoral reforms. Do you think they will pay attention to this document?
There will always be a whole lot of issues to be discussed towards a general election. Everything in this country ties in with politics.
Even as politicians look for votes, women will also be looking to see how these politicians address the issues that affect us.
But bringing the demands in the manifesto to the electorate depends on how sensitisation is done because our issues are going straight to the candidates, be it for presidential positions or local council positions.
This manifesto was developed by a number of women organisations in Uganda who are currently talking to women in different regions of the country to sensitise them about their rights.
What has been the impact of the various Women’s Agendas?
Our assessment of the 2011 Women’s Agenda last year revealed progress in various issues.
For instance, there has been quantity increase in UPE, but little improvement in the quality of education given. In the current manifesto, we are demanding for more.
There has been an improvement in women’s health. The number of women dying in child birth has gone down. But we still maintain the progress is slow. More effort needs to be made by whoever will next be in power to improve women’s health issues.
Sex education for teenage girls is a polarising topic, especially with religious leaders, yet it is one of your demands.
Actually, the debate on sex education for both boys and girls is not localised. It is a global debate. My personal view is that we should not turn a blind eye to this issue.
We must pay attention to reality. And the reality is that the percentage of teenage pregnancies in Uganda is one of the highest in the world.
We need to get out of the clouds and religion we live in and realise that girls are having sex. This sex has consequences such as botched abortions, STDs, and teenage pregnancies.
The manifesto does not clearly demand for sex education for teenagers but it is one of the things we are working towards.
For a corporate woman who can get everything they need, what is the importance of this manifesto?
We did not sit down as women’s organisations to come up with this document. There were a wide range of consultations made from a cross section of women, countrywide who we felt covered a critical mass.
From their views, we picked out the most critical. It is true that this Manifesto would appeal to the downtrodden women because they are the ones who suffer most when it comes to land and property rights, health, and education issues.
However, this is not to say that the corporate woman should not be concerned. Our aim is to get these women interested because they have the capacity to read and understand issues and convey them to the other women in the villages who may be their relatives.
After the elections, how will this manifesto be implemented?
We want to influence political parties to include some of our demands in their party manifestos. This way, we can monitor if they are serious about following our demands or not
If not, after the elections these demands will be used for advocacy purposes with these political parties. This is a living document that will not die. Instead, it will continue to be used even after the elections.
It is a demand for what is owed to us
Rita Aciro Laker, Executive Director - UWONET
UWONET is an advocacy and lobbying network of national women’s NGOs and individuals which targets policy and decision makers and the implementers of laws and policies to improve the status of women and attain gender equity and equality.
The fact is that men occupy most of the policy making positions in this country. How are you going to engage them?
We know that being a leader actually means that one is a servant. A servant needs to listen to the voice of the women who voted him into that position. This manifesto does not only benefit women.
If a woman has good health then her family is happy. If she is economically empowered or has property, then she can contribute to the needs of the family.
We are advocating for fundamental human rights, like the right to health, education, and to own property. These rights are enshrined in Uganda’s Constitutions and in many other international Statutes that Uganda is a signatory to. Government has a right to protect the rights of its citizens – in this case, women.
So, there is no leader who is doing us a favour. Citizens need to get what they deserve. They need to buy into the issues raised by this Manifesto.
In fact, we are encouraging women that if these issues are not raised by a politician, then he or she is not worth being voted for.
You demand that 50 per cent of the finances of political parties be channelled towards women activities. Isn’t this blackmail, considering that some parties are cash strapped?
No it is not. If these political parties want membership, then our demands are not unfair.
You cannot reap where you have not sown. Invest in the right place and you will have support. And the right place is in women. Women form 51 per cent of the population, so, demanding 50 per cent does not even cover our needs. It is just the bare minimum.
Women do not vote as a block. How do you plan to convince the politicians?
To a small extent, they do. The thing is that issues form a block. So, we need to have our own issues as women before we can place them on the table as a block vote. Now that we have the issues in the Manifesto, we are going for a block vote.
So the Manifesto is out. Where do we go from here?
We are going to engage political parties as they draft their party manifestos. We want to sell our Manifesto to the presidential candidates.
We also want to sell it to the citizens so that these issues can become points of demand for them to raise with politicians who will come to them looking for votes. We will also be using it to hold politicians accountable to their promises.
These are needs of every Ugandan. Why do you feel women should be treated separately?
There is not a single Ugandan that gets anything on a silver platter. So, we have a right to demand for what we need.
Women are the most marginalised group in any society and yet they contribute a lot to the development of these societies. We are demanding that our voice is heard, so that we are visible to the politicians.
Does the rural woman benefit? Isn’t this a ploy for elite women to feed off their plight?
Women like you and me can afford to go to IHK if we are sick. If we want to buy a piece of land, we can do so. So when we are talking about women’s health, we are not talking about us, the elite women.
We are basing these demands on rural women, who cannot afford to go to a hospital or who are not empowered to own land. We are talking about your aunt who spends the whole day selling tomatoes in the market and returns home with only Shs 1,000.
You and me don’t go to the worst hospitals because we can even afford to travel abroad for treatment. But what about that rural women who goes to the hospital but there are no drugs?
When we talk about girls dropping out of school, we are not talking about your daughter or mine. If this manifesto is followed, rural women will be the main beneficiaries.