Youth in Lango creating labour law awareness in workplaces

Monday December 9 2019

Employment. A woman at her place of work in

Employment. A woman at her place of work in Lira Town last week. Young people are now leading positive change in workplaces in Lira and Alebtong districts. PHOTO BY BILL OKETCH 

By Bill Oketch

In October 2012, a 27-year-old man was fined Shs3m and two goats for urinating on his employees at Lira-based Mount Meru Millers (U) Ltd.

This was after the victims – James Okullu and Jamal Obua – lodged a complaint at Lira Central Police Station, accusing Mr Panthani Laxman of urinating on them.

Mr Laxman was then subjected to traditional justice system, where he admitted to the offence, asked for forgiveness and accepted to pay compensation.

In July 2014, a woman at the centre of sexual harassment allegations against managers of Lira Main market was beaten into coma after appearing on a radio talk show.

Ms Nancy Akaki Opeto, 40, alleged that managers were demanding sex from market vendors before allocating them stalls.

In May 2018, an Indian national was arrested in Lira Town over allegations of torturing his employee.

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A number of such cases that violate the rights of young women and girls in workplaces in Lira and Alebtong districts are being tackled by young people.

Private sector actors commend Restless Development, a youth-led development agency, for positively impacting workplaces in the districts.

Today, many private companies in the districts have started complying with national labour legislations, which protect them from unwarranted litigations and provide a conducive working environment.

Ms Anna Gracious Auma, the director of St Anne Elementary School in Alebtong, says she learnt about the organisation in August last year.

“It was during 16 days of activism against gender-based violence when I vowed to Restless Development that I will issue out appointment letters to all my employees this year and I did that on February 14,” she says.

Ms Auma has also started giving her employees leave.

“I have issued three leaves –one paternity and two maternity leaves to my workers. I gave them out because they also need to enjoy time with their babies,” she says.

Purpose
According to Mr Kenneth Agutamba, the organisation’s communications manager, the agency is implementing a Girls Advocacy Alliance (GAA) programme that aims at promoting the protection of young women and girls from all forms of gender-based violence and economic marginalisation.

He says the programme also focuses on ensuring that girls and young women have increased access to and engage in safe and gainful economic activities.

Ms Magdaline Kasuku, the managing director of Radio Wa in Lira, says the narrative that the young people are the future of tomorrow is inconsistent. “Our young people are more exposed than before. There is a lot of knowledge that they have. I see a lot of potential in young people and we cannot continue saying that they are the future of tomorrow. The tomorrow starts now,” she says.
Ms Winnie Adur, 22, the GAA programme officer for Lira and Alebtong, says they have advocated for the private sector actors to ensure they adopt employment policies.

“Before young people came at the forefront of positive change in the communities, adults used to view us a spoilt generation. They would say young people of the 21st century want everything on the silver plate,” Ms Adur says.

“We have been pushing for employment laws to be adopted at the workplaces, for a girlchild to be employed without bias. For them to ensure that the sexual harassment policy is in place to protect her from sexual exploitation,” she adds.

Mr Paulino Ogwal, Alebtong labour officer, however, says many people are not aware of the employment laws and regulations.

“We need to constantly and widely disseminate some of these laws and policies that do really exist but people are not aware of,” he says.

Mr Ogwal says their labour department cannot effectively deliver services due to inadequate funding.

“Even the sector conditional grants that we receive from Ministry of Gender do not even cater for labour,” he says.

Ms Harriet Auma of Federation of Uganda’s Employers, says increasing awareness on labour laws should be a collective responsibility for all concerned citizens.

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