Focus on women as beneficiaries, champions for parish development

Patricia Munabi Babiiha

What you need to know:

  • The proximate causes of poverty, the scholar argues, include the following: low income; low assets (physical or human capital); lack of opportunities (whether from adverse location or other reasons); and social exclusion (often but not always associated with ethnic minorities). 

Last month, all roads led to Kibuku District where President Museveni launched the Parish Development Model (PDM). The PDM is yet again another effort by post-independence administrations in Uganda in the ongoing battle against poverty. Some segments of the population have had misgivings about the model, while cynics have called it another scheme destined to fail like several others before it. 

At the Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE), our firm conviction is that development is not a sprint but a marathon. It is rarely a destination but a journey and along that path, there are bound to be mistakes and even catastrophic failure as well as measurable success. We, therefore, commend the leadership of the country for this effort aimed at increasing household incomes of Ugandans right from the parish level, enabling them to join the money economy. PDM is an exemplification of the-whole-of government approach to development envisaged under the National Development Plan III that places the parish as the lowest administrative and operational hub for delivering services closer to the people and hence fostering economic development. 

As an organisation that works to build a Ugandan society where women and men equally participate in and benefit from decision-making processes in the public and private spaces, we wish to offer some feedback and counsel to government on PDM.

We contend that the development process is a complex one in more ways than one, essentially because it is never a linear process. Therefore, the different contours of society’s multi-faceted inequalities and inequities must be factored into consideration in the formulation and execution of any development intervention. Against this background, I submit that PDM should pay keener attention to the gender complexity of the poverty situation in Uganda. 

Hazel M. McFerson in the paper, Poverty Among Women in sub-Saharan Africa: A Review of Selected Issues, discusses what is aptly described as the ‘feminisation of poverty’. This, McFerson writes, is a feature of much of the developing world where females account for half of the world’s population but 70 percent of the poor. In a discussion on the major causal factors of poverty among women in sub-Saharan Africa—mainly rural women in the countries of the tropical belt, the writer argues that there are significant differences in the condition of different groups of women in the various countries. However, “they share a common predicament, rooted in the interaction of three major factors: weak governance, traditional restrictions on women property rights, and violent civil conflict.”

The proximate causes of poverty, the scholar argues, include the following: low income; low assets (physical or human capital); lack of opportunities (whether from adverse location or other reasons); and social exclusion (often but not always associated with ethnic minorities). The worst forms of poverty are those that combine all four of these aspects: income poverty, asset poverty, opportunities poverty, and access poverty. 

This gendered poverty, in other words, poverty with a gender eye, is not unique to Uganda. It is noticeable that government has, to an appreciable extent, been alive to the need to have a gender-specific approach to these poverty alleviation programmes. 

In the past, we have had the promotion of a Functional Adult Literacy programme targeting women, and poverty reduction mechanisms such as the Poverty Eradication Action Plan, Poverty Action Fund, and Poverty Reduction Strategic Plans. More recently, government put in place the Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme aimed at improving access to financial services for women and equipping them with skills for enterprise growth, value addition and marketing of their products and services. FOWODE carried out a study on this programme and found major gaps in its implementation but was elated to find positive stories too.

It appears, therefore, that we are preaching to the converted. Accordingly, we invite government to build on and consolidate the success points from the few programmes that have been designed for women, pick lessons on the low points and use this knowledge to ensure that the Parish Development Model contributes more to better the Ugandan woman at every parish.

Patricia Munabi Babiiha is the executive director, Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE).

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