Women economic empowerment key to achieving social justice

1 Members of Branch womens group display Irish potatoes harvest at tarak upper village Kitewoi Sub County in Kween district ActionAid Photo by Stephen Wandera Ojumbo  Eastern Region Uganda.

What you need to know:

“Until women are empowered, we shall continue to have recurrent issues in WEE. When women are economically empowered, they will uplift the entire household,” he says

While Uganda has laws and policies to foster gender equality and women economic empowerment, their implementation suffers from limited baseline data and a general lack of evaluation.

Women make up more than half of Uganda’s population, and 46 per cent of its workers although their earnings, and job security lags behind men.

The existing policy and legal reforms have largely focused on improving employment prospects in the formal sector, yet more women are concentrated in the informal sector and unpaid employment.

Gender inequality still exists in the different sectors of the economy, including agriculture where rural women account for nearly half the workforce in the developing countries.

Despite their crucial roles in household food security, women face discrimination, lack of access to the security of land tenure, and limited bargaining power.

According to Mr Frank Mugabi, the communications officer at the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, women play a pivotal role in agriculture, especially when it comes to labour. 

He says when it comes to strengthening agriculture, women are key and they need to be given all the support such as mechanisation and improved seeds.

“Many of the seed outlets are urban-based, the government needs to put in place channels in rural areas where seeds and agricultural inputs can be accessed by rural women. Government through the Ministry of Gender has supported women under UWEP since 2015 targeting rural vulnerable women with financial capital for enterprise development,” he says.

“Until women are empowered, we shall continue to have recurrent issues in WEE. When women are economically empowered, they will uplift the entire household,” he says.


Sydney Namutebi, former street child, GBV survivor, Kawala, Kampala. ActionAid  Photo - Stephen Wandera Ojumbo  Central Region, Uganda

Women in Uganda constitute a large percentage of the informal sectors as domestic workers, caregivers, agricultural workers, and/ or part-time employees. According to International Labour Organization (ILO),   almost 40 per cent per cent of all employed women work in hard-hit sectors by the pandemic while 42 per cent of these women work in informal sectors.

Mr. Joshua Kyalimpa from Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Program (UWEP) says women are the majority of the population and they control the issues that can lead Uganda to achieve development and Vision 2040.

He says women provide 80 per cent of the labour force on farms in Uganda.

“Women control the informal sector. The argument is how we transform women from the informal sector to the formal sector. UWEP targets the most vulnerable women such as widows, slum dwellers, and those living with HIV/AIDS in rural areas,” he says.

Mr Kyalimpa adds that government interventions through UWEP are looking at how women can best be supported in their start-ups.

“We believe UWEP should be boosted, women need more money now than yesterday because of Covid-19. We see goodwill and commitment from the government. We need a concerted effort from the different stakeholders so we can achieve WEE,” he adds.

Ms Stella Akutui, the Capacity building, and networking officer at LANDnet, says just like any other people, rural women are protected under the constitution and have a right to own land and property.

 “We have good progressive laws but they are only known by urban women. We sensitise rural women to know their rights and laws and advise them on where they can report to in case of any infringement. We conduct research that aims at identifying issues that affect women's access to land and bring them out for a national-level discussion like we did with the Succession Amendments Bill,” she says.

According to Ms Akutui, LANDnet is fronting the creation of platforms where women are given a chance to share their experiences and they are currently the hosts of the women’s land rights movement, a coalition of about 20 members with the view of ensuring gender equality on land matters.

“We are also developing training materials that we translate into local languages to ensure that all categories of people can be able to understand issues on women’s land rights.”

Ms Naome Wandera the Senior Research and Evaluation Specialist at International Centre for Research on Women (ICRW), says in their efforts of advancing WEE, ICRW is researching the impact of COVID policy on women workers in the informal sector.

She says ICRW provides evidence that helps organizations like ActionAid to develop ideas to address solutions.

Benefits

Jacinta Amongin, the Kumi District woman councillor is a member and leader of Kumi Otaaba Women’s Initiative.

The group consists of 36 women and four men and members are involved in farming, tailoring, and saving. The group strives for a poverty-free community and each member has a cassava plantation, which is used to learn the modern and best farming practices.

The group of 40 members was later selected by ActionAid for mentorship.

“When ActionAid came to our area, they looked for creative women groups and this was one of those that was selected. We took them to our gardens and they were pleased with the work we do as a group,” she says.

After receiving mentorship from ActionAid, members of Kumi Otaaba Women’s Initiative are united, confident and are doing group work because their sole mission is to get to another level to ensure the sustainability of both their homes and the communities they live in.

“Before ActionAid came to our community, we looked at girls as a problem since we did not know how to empower them but after receiving training on capacity building, we have managed to use the girls to empower the communities,” Ms Amongin says.

ActionAid runs a project aimed at developing a national central hub to drive evidence-based advocacy agenda WEE, inclusive of women's empowerment collectives into policy action in Uganda.

It works closely with other partners, such as Nathan Associates, International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), and CARE, to develop a WEE coalition.

WEE is essential in achieving gender equality and addressing the structural barriers that restrict women’s socio-economic opportunities.

In Uganda, creating livelihood opportunities for women not only enables them to have an equal opportunity to participate at all levels of society but also serves to protect women and girls from violence by eliminating economic vulnerability.

Ms Christine Adongo, the coordinator of Kasasira Women’s Group in Kibuku District, another woman impacted in the WEE mentorships says in their various interventions, they empower women on land rights and help them identify gaps in land ownership.

She says even when they hold a burden of their families, women are not consulted in the marketing process of the agricultural outputs yet they are pivotal in the agriculture chain.

“Women are utilising land but not owning it. The government should identify such gaps hampering WEE and address them accordingly. It should also join hands with NGOs to sensitise on WEE so that the issue is fronted at all levels,” she says.

Ms Adongo says the government should also put in place avenues where women are helped when they make alarms to the concerned authorities.

Background

The concept of Women’s Economic Empowerment was adopted as one of the strategies for advancing the agenda for gender equality at the fourth international UN Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995.

The adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action at the conference recognized that equality between women and men was a human rights issue and a prerequisite for social justice, attainment of people-centered sustainable development, and peace.

It is in this regard that the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) emphasize the need to attain gender mainstreaming and women’s empowerment under Goal 5 as a requirement in all development endeavors, given its fundamental contribution to reducing poverty.


 This article is sponsored by ActionAid

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