Strides made to empower women

What you need to know:

  • In 2022, Uganda reaffirmed its commitment to gender equality as part of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were integrated into the National Development Plan. 

Uganda has registered tremendous success in uplifting the standards of women over the past 37 years of the National Resistance Movement (NRM). This has been achieved through multifaceted approaches.

In 1995, the Government of Uganda domesticated the 1979 UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). It then introduced the National Equal Opportunities Policy 2006, the National Gender Policy 2007, and the amendments of the Customary Marriage Act, which legalised customary marriages in the country. 

The Customary Marriage Act recognises the legality of traditional marriages in Uganda and has played a great role in the empowering Ugandan women by according legal rights and protection in the event of the dissolution of marriage, especially where children are involved.

Relatedly, in 1990, the government introduced 1.5 extra points for all female students joining public universities. Since then, the number of female students graduating from public universities has increased tremendously outpacing that of male counterparts. 

Notably, the completion rates for girls have risen steadily. In the recent 2023 Primary Leaving Exams (PLE), Uneb statistics show that there were a high number of females (391,499) compared to 357,755 males. Similarly, in the UCE results, 183,998 females sat exams, higher than 180,471 males.

Politically, Uganda has one of the highest female representation rates in elective politics in parliament on the African continent. 

Every district in Uganda is entitled to a woman member of Parliament (MP). This has seen an increase in the number of women MPs to 34 percent in Parliament, 43 percent in Cabinet, and around 46 percent in local councils. Women are consistently appointed to positions of leadership, and the country has the first female prime minister. 

Additionally, the country has had two female speakers of Parliament and two vice presidents. These milestones are a testament and indicative of an impressive record in women’s empowerment.

Likewise, the number of Ugandan women dying in childbirth has reduced significantly over the years. According to the Uganda Health and Demographic Survey, maternal mortality decreased from 418 deaths per 100,000 live birth in 2006 to 336 deaths per 100,000 in 2016. In 2022, the ratio also decreased from 336 to 189 per 100,000 live births, while infant mortality declined from 43 to 34 per 1,000 live births. This is credited to significant investment in maternal and infant health particularly for women at risk. 

In 2022, Uganda reaffirmed its commitment to gender equality as part of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were integrated into the National Development Plan. 

The World Economic Forum (WEF), gender gap index 2023, measures the extent of gender gaps based on four key dimensions of economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, health and survival, and political empowerment. 

Uganda rates 68.4 percent above the sub-Saharan average of 67.2 percent. In terms of educational attainment Uganda scores 92 percent and 98 percent for health and survival, respectively.

Although, Uganda has made significant progress in women empowerment, notably in areas of political representation, educational attainment, and reduction in maternal and infant mortality, significant gender gaps in areas of water, sanitation and hygiene; menstrual hygiene management remain prevalent which is a hindrance to the educational attainment of girls particularly in rural areas. 

Equally, there are gender gaps in areas of access to credit, gender wage gap, STEM, labour force participation and domestic violence.

Amos Sanday and Jude Sebuliba are Researchers at the Economic Policy Research Centre, Makerere University.