Issues and recomendations from the Women's Parliament 2015

INTRODUCTION
Parliament of Uganda held the first ever Women’s Parliament on Tuesday, 7th July 2015 in the Parliament Chambers. The Women’s Parliament was held under the theme: “Women Participation and Empowerment: addressing the Challenges of CEDAW Implementation”. The aim of the women’s Parliament was to provide a platform for dialogue on gender issues. The event was organized by the Parliament of Uganda in collaboration with Uganda Women Parliamentary Association and funded by the European Union through the Westminster Foundation for Democracy. In attendance were 200 delegates comprising Members of Parliament, Development Partners, Ministries, Departments and Agencies, Local Government, Community based organizations, Media, Academia, Faith based organizations and women from the grassroots.
The Presiding Officer representing the Speaker, Rt. Hon. Jalia Bintu Lukumu Abwooli, took the Chair at 9:40 a.m. She recognised the contribution of the West Minster Foundation that ensured a successful and historic event that had together different stakeholders including; MPs, Cabinet and state Ministers, Development Partners, representatives of women leaders from grassroots, CSOs, media, religious leaders and the entire UWOPA family.
The Government was commended for giving women space to fight for their rights and the Speaker for supporting the cause. Special recognition was made of the first Lady and Minister for Karamoja for promoting elimination of mother-to-child transmission.
The presentations and discussions provided a basis for a comprehensive report that would be presented and debated in the House in the near future.

PRESENTATIONS

STATEMENT ON THE STATUS OF THE UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION ON THE ELIMINATION OF ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN (CEDAW)

Hon. Olivia Kwagala Kabaale, Woman MP – Iganga and Member of UWOPA, presented an overview of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

STATEMENT ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF GENDER-RELATED LAWS:

A. THE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT, 2010
B. THE PROHIBITION OF FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION ACT, 2010
C. THE PROHIBITION OF TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS ACT
D. THE LAND AMENDMENT ACT, 2004
E. THE MORTGAGE ACT, 2009
F. THE EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES COMMISSION ACT, 2007

Hon. Betty Amongi, Chairperson (UWOPA) presented the Statement on the above-mentioned laws.

CRITIQUE TO THE PRESENTATIONS

A. ON THE DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT, 2010
By Ms. Tina Musuya – Executive Director, CEDOVIP

B. ON PREVENTION OF TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS ACT, 2009
By Mr. Moses Binoga – Coordinator, Prevention of Trafficking in Persons (Ministry of Internal Affairs)

C. ON THE RIGHT TO OWNERSHIP, ACCESS AND CONTROL OF LAND AND PROPERTY BY WOMEN
• By Mr. Eddie Nsamba-Gayiiya – Secretary General, Shelter and Settlements Alternatives
• By Ms. Pamela Angwech – Executive Director, GWED-G

D. ON THE PROHIBITION OF FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION ACT, 2010
By Ms. Beatrice Chelengat – Director General, Reproductive Educative and Community Health (REACH)

BELOW ARE THE ISSUES GENERATED FROM THE SESSIONS AND THE PROPOSED SOLUTIONS?
a) CEDAW
Uganda has good policies however enforcement is lacking partly because Government departments have low budgets for enforcement and local revenues are very low. Few people have access to the enacted legislation and some are not able to read or understand the various provisions.
MPs have enacted the laws and need to take special audit of the certificate of financial implication. Put up committee to steer implementation of law. Make a step without waiting for Govt, donors others such as buying a copy of the Act
Solution: (i) Need for popular versions and translations of the Acts into local languages. (ii) Need for community libraries, extended to schools, (iii) Develop additional tools to ease situation at lower levels e.g Utilization of women lawyers to interpret laws for the women (iv) Government should support training of leaders to promote understanding of gender, (iv) action should be taken to sensitise people (v) NGOs should be encouraged to continue supporting the networks to increase effectiveness of women (vi) Ensure equal access to education and support girls to attain the highest level possible (vii) eliminate disparities in provision of health services (viii) facilitate development of rural areas and strengthen the agricultural sector.

b) Women’s rights/equal opportunities
Barriers and participation in labour market; Very few women and girls have access to education because of cultural reasons and therefore more women are in informal sectors. In the formal sector, positions for Managing Directors and deputies are usually offered to men while employment of women, which is at times based on sexual harassment, is mostly seen at lower cadre positions including casual basis. This may not attract maternity leave and other benefits. Women also experience poor conditions during employment. Worse still, employers fire women when they get pregnant. Maternity and paternity leave is not granted in all work places.
Other issues include: Women with disabilities are not given enough and proper attention during labour, demand for sex by men all the time and no permission for family planning. Women represent 3 counties in council and yet receive same amount of allowance as others.
Solution: Rights of women should be protected; Women are vulnerable and government should intervene. Trade unions should be able to protect the female worker members. Affirmative action should be extended to all levels. Midwives and special beds are required for women with disabilities.
c) Girl Child
The girl child is exposed to poor sanitation conditions while in school. Teenage pregnancy is also on the rise. The perpetrators of defilement are usually the people with resources and always pay their out. There is the issue of early marriages and child labour which is hindering education of girls.
Solution: (i) Deliberately carry out community meetings to make parents aware of the girl child education. (ii) JLOS should devise ways of addressing the defilement cases (iii) Need to address the culture of paying dowry so that girls are not seen as sources of wealth which makes them susceptible to torture in the marital homes.
d) Domestic Violence
Emphasis is usually placed on physical violence and yet emotional violence is equally important. Drinking of alcohol and poverty are some of the causes of domestic violence and polygamy, and has culminated in high divorce rates. Very few cases of DV are prosecuted because people do not report. Women do not appear to know their rights, fear the perpetrators and testify in court. There is a tendency of settling cases out of court. There is also a limited number of judicial officers to attend to the cases.
Solution: (i) Need to step up sensitization campaigns (ii) issues of gender equality should be incorporated in school curricula and taught to both male and female students (iii) Government should intervene in post conflict areas (iv) provide a one stop centre for cases of domestic violence (v) Government should tax the spirits especially those in sachets (vi) Report cases to police for prosecution (vii) Encourage income generating activities (viii) women should speak up.
e) Trafficking in Persons
Some of the people involved in trafficking come as NGOs and there appears to be no protection from Government.
Solution: Government should ratify the protocol, enhance protection mechanisms and provide shelters for people who are rescued.
f) FGM
FGM activities are seasonal. Some of the target places are hard to reach areas where teachers are unable to reach and doctors practically not available. FGM activities spread beyond Uganda to the neighboring Sudan, Somalia and Kenya.
Solutions: Team work is required in addressing FGM; Government needs to put effort to ensure access to education in the remote areas especially secondary schools; Funding agencies should provide timely resources to create impact and save the girl child; CSOs need to make timely interventions in order to create impact; Regional intervention on FGM is important.
g) Land and property
Women have been denied access to land and property. They own nothing at the parents’ home and in the marital homes. Women issues are not heard at the grassroot level because they lack access to productive assets: while the poverty levels do not permit the women to access the necessary help, men bribe the police because they have money. Secondly, despite the laws, spousal consent does not happen in practical terms; men sell off assets without the consent of women, men refuse to develop land belonging to women, beat them up. In other cases women do the saving but men access all the money and use the money for drinking alcohol. Men neglect their responsibility and leave the agricultural work for the women.
Solution: Women should be empowered economically. Community campaigns should be promoted right down to village and parish level. Government should consider laws regulating marriage.
h) General
1. Poor roads and long distances to health centers. Solution: Government should lift ban on construction of health center IIs.
2. There is low participation of women in different sectors because of HIV. The rate is on the rise and women are infected, affected and are usually caretakers. Solution: Build capacity of women to increase knowledge and skills.
3. Articulation of issues by women is lacking. Solution: mentoring and coaching approach for leaders to effectively represent women.
4. Women messages negatively portrayed. Solution: Use media positively, Campaign for women with decency to positively portray women issues, and participation of women in media programs targeting females.
5. The National Drugs Authority has excess mama kits. Solution: UWOPA to follow up issue
6. Widows and orphans suffer after death of bread winner/head of household. Solution: Sensitization for making wills by men.
The following recommendations were made by the House:
i. Ensure there is a gender and equity sensitive budget under the Public Management and Finance Act
ii. Women councils should support Government in implementation of legislation
iii. UWOPA to support screening of women in constituencies for cancer.
iv. Fastrack funding of the Uganda Women Enterprise Program
v. Need for popular versions and translations of the Acts into regional local languages
vi. Members of Parliament need to take special audit of the certificate of financial implication
vii. Gender issues be placed on syllabus and taught in schools
viii. Use media positively in campaigning for women issues
ix. Government, local leaders, Development Partners and NGOS should collectively address issues of FGM
x. Take parliament at district level to allow other leaders get to know the issues.
xi. UWOPA to pursue a transitional justice mechanism for post conflict areas
xii. Women employees should join trade unions
xiii. Women should actively participate in the upcoming elections
xiv. Shelters should be set up for victims of gender based violence

CONCLUSIONS
The Women's Parliament 2015 was a total success. UWOPA intends to carry out the women’s parliament every year and right now the secretariat has embarked on resource mobilization on top of WFD to ensure that we target all the districts in the next parliament other than the 40. We also want to ensure that the policy issues discussed during the parliament are referred to the relevant government ministries, departments for inclusion for national