By Patrick Ocaido
This Sunday, March 08, 2020, Uganda will join the rest of the World to celebrate the International Women’s Day-an annual event that is marked to signify the milestones registered in achieving gender equality and women's empowerment.
This year’s celebrations will be held in Malukhu Grounds, Mbale District under the theme: “Celebrating 25Years of the 1995 Constitution: Milestones on Promoting Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment in Uganda.” Therefore, this year marks 25 years since the promulgation of the 1995 Constitution which has guided the national agenda on women's human rights and 36 years since Uganda started celebrating the International Women's Day as a national day.
25years since women’s human rights were enshrined in the Constitution, government has registered considerable milestone worth celebrating; meant to bridge equality and dignity gap between men and women including social and economic welfare. This has been successfully achieved through formulation of policies and programmes meant to benefit women and girl child.
In 2015, government introduced the Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme (UWEP), an initiative meant to improve women’s access to financial services, equip them with the skills for enterprise growth, value addition and marketing of their products and services.
Indeed, the results are written on the wall. By July 2019, statistics from the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development show that 9,660 women projects had been financed, directly benefitting 120,873 women, including those in rural areas who comprise 80% of beneficiaries.
Other government projects that have seen women benefit favourably include; the Youth Livelihood Programme (YLP) that has since 2013 financed 20,159 projects reaching 241,799 beneficiaries of which 110,322 (46%) are female youth.
The other notable project that has successfully been implemented is the Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE). By July 2019, SAGE had reached 149,091 older persons in all the target areas, of which 60% (88,890) were female.
In terms of education, the introduction of Universal Primary Education (UPE) in 1997 and Universal Secondary Education (USE) in 2007 has bridged the school dropout levels between the girl and boy child. In fact, the milestone is so enormous that the new Archbishop of Church of Uganda Stephen Kazimba Mugalu on Sunday during his installation decried that the boy child has now been neglected. He said that in commitment to educating and empowering the girl child, the boy child has been neglected.
With 92% of all parishes and 7l% of all sub-counties having a Government-aided primary and secondary school respectively, girls now have easy access to schools within a walkable distance. Records from Education management information system show that the Primary school enrolment has since then increased from 49.9% for girls and 50.1% for boys in 2008 to 50% for both girls and boys in 2015 and completion from 47% for girls and 51% for boys in 2008 to 72% for both girls and boys in 2015.
Similarly, Secondary school gross enrolment for girls has increased from 228,755 in 2000 to 652,859 in 20l5, while tertiary education enrollment of females increased from 43% in 2008 to 44.2% in 2015. These statistics have greatly improved the country’s literacy levels which is one of the major determinants in reducing poverty levels. Statistics show that in 2016, the literacy rate for female increased to 69.9% compared to males at 77.5%, from 51% compared to that of males at 70% in 1997.
However, despite outstanding achievements registered by government in achieving gender equality and women's empowerment, the country still grapples with several challenges such as persistent patriarchal patterns of behavior, high levels of gender based violence including defilement and child marriages and delayed passing of gender responsive laws such as the law on marriage and divorce among others. These among other challenges are some of the issues that need to be urgently addressed as Ugandans celebrate International Women’s Day this Sunday.
The Writer is a communication assistant at the Government Citizen Interaction Centre (GCIC), Ministry of ICT and National Guidance.