Gender equality is increasingly being recognized by several communities as a fundamental element in development. Gender equality is very evident in the sustainable development agenda clearly marked at Goal 5. In Africa, the patriarchal society is very strong, especially in the rural areas where various forms of violence against women are evident. Ending all forms of discrimination against women and girls is not only a basic human right, but it is also crucial to accelerating sustainable development. It has been proven time and again, that empowering women and girls has a multiplier effect and helps drive up economic growth and development across the board. A study by the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development (MoFPED) showed that the Gross Domestic Product of Uganda can grow by 1.2% if gender is mainstreamed into the development agenda.
Several advocacy campaigns have been carried out by civil society organizations, international organizations, private sectors, religious leaders, and youth groups to ensure that gender is mainstreamed into the policies, laws, programmes and systems by politicians and as a result, the politicians have mastered the art of ‘good talk’ with regard to gender. The ‘good talk’ involves politicians speaking of gender equality and their undivided support for it and yet implementation or action is lacking on the same.
It is now mandatory for Ministries, Departments and Agencies to mainstream gender in planning and budgeting processes both at Central and Local Government levels. Mainstreaming gender does not mean having separate budgets for women and men but rather having the needs and concerns of men, women, boys and girls integrated into the planning and budgeting process. In as much as the Public Finance Management Act (2015) mandates all sectors to ensure that Budget Framework Papers and Ministerial Policy Statements to mainstream gender, there is nothing that binds other development actors such as civil society organizations, private sector organizations, religious leaders, youth groups among others to do the same.
In order to enhance members’ capacity in gender in programming, Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET) hosted a 2 day workshop. The discussions centered on understanding the key concepts of gender and women’s human rights; understanding legal and policy frameworks and processes for gender and women’s rights; gender planning needs; and gender in project planning. It was noted during the workshop that targeted programmes for women in development may not necessarily be gender sensitive, but programmes that focus on women and development are in most cases gender sensitive. The difference is that programmes for women in development focus on only women, while women and development ones put into consideration the different gender roles and ensure that women are not left behind in the development process. Several studies have proven time and again that integration of gender equality in the development process will increase the economic growth of the country.
Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE), a key member of UWONET, was present at the gender and programming workshop. Since 1995, FOWODE has been advocating for gender equality and equity in the development agenda. FOWODE’s work with regard to gender equality and equity is evident through her engagement on legislation to ensure that it addresses gender gaps and her advocacy for gender responsive budgeting, our contributions have been felt both at local and national levels. FOWODE is a learning organization and this workshop was of great importance to the organisation as it provided an opportunity for the new male program officers (including myself) to learn more about gender and also to share best practices with our counterparts from other organisations.