Date: 6th March 2018

The International Women’s Day (IWD) is commemorated on the 8th of March every year in recognition of the contribution and the different roles women play in the development process of the Country. While women in Uganda have come a long way at the same time, women still have quite a long way to go before they attain full and equal dignity and equality with men in all spheres of their lives. Women in Uganda constitute over 51% of the population, it is therefore critical that issues affecting them are prioritized for laws, polices and regulation if they are to reflect the citizen’s needs.
The global theme for 2018 is “Press for Progress”. The theme lays emphasis on the strong global momentum striving for gender equality. It is realized that gender equality is a goal and women have progressively made positive gains towards achieving it. A strong growing global movement of advocacy, activism and support is growing. In addition, there is a strong call-to-action to press for progress towards full gender equality. In this regard, there is a call to motivate, unite friends, colleagues and whole communities to think act and be gender inclusive. At country level, the theme chosen for this year’s commemoration is “Empowerment of Rural Women and Girls: Opportunities and Challenges”. The theme recognizes the fact that women are not a homogenous category and neither are girls. Rural women and girls who form the majority of the rural population require special attention to eliminate challenges that hinder their progress
Uganda is one of those countries that are steadily making progress towards gender equality especially in Africa. Government has promoted women empowerment in governance, education, politics and decision making, health and as well as adopting affirmative action strategies in some cases. Over the years there has been commendable progress for women’s empowerment in general and economic empowerment specifically. It is evident that the contribution of women to the economy is significant and it is therefore important to promote women’s education, literacy levels and employment in the formal sector in order to reduce their vulnerability to poverty. The lower levels of women’s education, concentration in the informal sector and low level jobs for salaried employed women has placed them in vulnerable positions

Uganda’s population is predominately rural though urbanization is on the rise. According to the National Population and Housing Census Analytical Report, 2017, 76% of the population resides in rural areas while 24% is in urban areas. Like elsewhere in the world, rural women in Uganda constitute a larger portion of the people whose activities include economic production, care and support to families as well as engaging in community management activities.
In Uganda, one in every seven of households obtains their livelihood from subsistence farming, with a majority (82%) being found in rural areas. (NPHC- main report). Households that depended on employment earnings from their livelihood constituted 16% while those depending on commercial farming were only 2%. Close to 80% of all households in Uganda are involved in agriculture. More rural households (90%) participate in agriculture compared to the urban households (46%).

Government has in place legal and policy frameworks as well as interventions which have created a favorable environment for women and girls to realize their rights. The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda (1995) provides for protection and promotion of the rights of women and girls in all spheres of life. Some of the Laws include the Local Government Act, 1997 which provides for women’s representation in decision making at all levels of governance. Women are represented on land boards at 33%, area land committees at 34% and water user committees at least 1/3 representation. Women are also represented at decision- making levels during planning and budgeting processes. The Land Act, 2010 Cap 227 and Land Policy (2013) contain provisions for security of tenure and safeguard of land rights of women and children. It outlaws discrimination against women and children in respect of ownership, occupation and use of land, and section 40, which provides for mandatory consent before disposal, mortgaging or transferring of land where the family derives sustenance. Despite these opportunities, there is still a big gap in land ownership with 16% of women against 56% for men with registered land (LIS Report, 2015).

National Development Plan II (NDP II) provides an overarching framework for socio-economic empowerment. In addition, there is the Uganda Gender Policy (2007), and the Equal Opportunities Policy (2006) which is used to guide interventions for progress towards equal participation of women and men, boys and girls. Efforts to address the needs of rural women are ongoing in all sectors. Most sectors have in place either gender specific policies, strategies or action plans which guide their investments and operations.

Investment in health infrastructure across the country has improved accessibility of women to health facilities to obtain specialized services such as antenatal care, immunization, family planning, adolescent reproductive health services and HIV/AIDS care and counseling.
Regarding water and sanitation, over 78% of the households accessed improved water sources in 2016/17, an increase from 68% in 2012/13. Seventy seven percent (77%) households in rural areas had access to improved water sources compared to 80% in urban areas. Policies that support girls’ education such as the Universal Primary Education (UPE), the Universal Secondary Education (USE) and the Gender in Education Policy have led to increased literacy rates, enrollment ratios in primary and secondary schools as well as attainment ratios. The literacy rate of persons aged 10 and above increased from 71% in 2012/13 to 74% in 2016/17. More children aged between 6 – 24 years old in rural areas (73%) compared to 67% in urban areas were attending school during the 2016/17 UNHS. Progress has been made towards narrowing gender gaps in education participation, with gender parity in enrollment at primary level.
According to UNICEF (2013), in rural areas, 24% of the girls experience teenage pregnancy compared to 16% of wealthier households and 21% of girls in urban areas. Teenage pregnancy and child marriages are some of the major causes of high maternal mortality. Children in general, girl children, and specifically orphans and vulnerable children have challenges associated with nutrition, education, care and support, poverty and legal support. Other areas of concern include: health, child growth, child protection, child survival and development. Female genital mutilation is still a problem for some girls and women in north-eastern Uganda.
Rural women still find it more difficult to get access to lifelong learning opportunities and vocational (secondary) education. As girls they are expected to assist with family routines such as fetching and carrying fuel and water. According to the UNESCO (2016) Global Education Monitoring Report some 63% of women have not attained even minimal literacy skills. It should be noted that education provides a major key to lifting women and girls out of poverty and enabling them to achieve their true potential
Call for action
• Strengthen the legal and policy framework to address the socio-cultural and traditional barriers that hinder the realization of women and girls rights generally but in particular ownership of land, property rights, and inheritance. These may include policy and legislative measures as well as training and public awareness.
• Widen the capacity for accessing financial services for women since its evident that women can put even some small capital to effective use.
• Promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in all the sectors of the economy particularly in the areas of governance, education, health, employment, agriculture, trade and industry as well as access to justice.
• Enforce labour laws to follow up and formalize employment for the majority of women to ensure proper salary structures and defined working hours.
• Focus on the priority areas of NDP11 which are; Infrastructure, Agriculture, Tourism, Human Capital Development and Mineral, Oil and Gas development to ensure that women fully participate and benefit from the programmes within these sectors.
• Prevention and respond to of any kind of violence against women and girls.
• Strengthen existing literacy programmes and facilitate (Technical-Vocational Education and Training) TVET Programmes for rural women including indigenous women.
• Revamping and strengthening agricultural extension systems to be more responsive to and inclusive of women, addressing structural barriers to women’s access to productive resources, like finances and respond to the needs of rural women producers and entrepreneurs.
• Increase public and private investments in infrastructure in rural areas, including roads, waterways and transport systems; appropriate, accessible, affordable technologies; storage and market facilities; livestock facilities, irrigation systems, affordable housing, water and sanitation services, electrification facilities, and information and communications networks
• Increase investments in research and development, in particular on sustainable practices and (agricultural) technologies, and accelerate the transfer of such technologies, information, methods, and practices to reach all users, including rural women farmers.
• Eliminate negative cultural attitudes and practices that promote violence against women and girls such as child marriages, early pregnancies, forced marriages, Female Genital Mutilation, and unfair distribution of property and other forms of gender based violence.
• Improve gender disaggregated data in order to track progress of implementation of interventions targeting women and girls particularly those in the rural areas.

Chairperson UWOPA