International Women’s Day: Truthful Reflection – It Will Take More Than Just a Day!

March 27, 2024

International Women’s Day: Truthful Reflection – It Will Take More Than Just a Day!

By Georgia Tumwesigye

For the 112th year this March, the world has come together to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD). It’s a day dedicated to honoring the achievements of women and advocating for global gender parity. Never mind that the UN says that it will take us almost 300 years to achieve this! In Uganda, as in many countries around the globe, this day is marked with various events, campaigns, workshops, pressers and conferences aimed at recognizing the contributions of women to society, reflecting on progress and strategizing to achieve more gender equal societies. However, amidst the festivities and rhetoric, one wonders: is International Women’s Day in Uganda truly inspiring change, or is it simply another emblematic gesture?

The Government of Uganda has made impressive strides towards gender equality through affirmative action policy and legislation and implementation of government economic empowerment programmes aimed at to increase participation of women in business development, increase their incomes, livelihood security and overall quality of life. Notably, the launch of a multi-year Spotlight End Violence Initiative – a global enterprise led by the European Union and the United Nations focusing on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls was a welcome move. Uganda also recently launched the new Generating Growth Opportunities and Productivity for Women Enterprises (GROW) Project that will support a multi-sectoral program of customized services aimed at empowering women and driving economic growth in the country.

The need for Gender Equity certification for budget approval – a process that was birthed through Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE)’s sustained advocacy for gender responsive budgeting is noteworthy! Additionally, there has been a remarkable increase in the number of women holding positions of leadership and influence in both the public and private sectors. We celebrate the numbers of women in influential positions as a step in the right direction, while acknowledging that more needs to be done to ensure a gendered agenda, that centres the priorities of women and girls in policies and plans.
Despite the rigorous interventions to promote gender equality through promulgation of laws, policies and women-targeted interventions; Uganda continues to register a low human development ranking on the Global Gender Inequality Index (GII). The country scores poorly in education attainment (126th) and economic participation and opportunity (78th) according to the 2023 Global Gender Gap Report. This further reflects how women and girls continue to be disproportionately affected by inequalities.

By 2023, gender parity was stalling due to multi-layered and compounding crises. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the socially constructed gender roles that impede the access of women and girls to supportive initiatives continue to hinder the attainment of gender equality. Moreover, feminized poverty; poor health and education; gender-based violence; and institutionalized gender discrimination combined with failure to implement the already existing policies and laws holds back the country’s national development agenda!
In this context, the significance of IWD in Uganda calls for deep reflection. While the day serves as an important opportunity to raise awareness about gender issues and advocate for change, its impact ultimately depends on the actions taken beyond 8th March. The first theme adopted by the UN (in 1996) was “Celebrating the Past, Planning for the Future”. Many years later, significant milestones have been achieved world over, but we can jointly do better. One-day celebrations are definitely welcome, but not enough to address the entrenched inequalities that women face in Uganda and around the world.

To truly harness the power of International Women’s Day as an inspiration for sustainable change, there needs to be an unrelenting commitment to ensuring that women and girls experience boundless gender equality at all levels of society. This includes implementing and enforcing existing laws and policies that protect women’s rights, investing in education and economic opportunities for women and girls, and addressing social norms and structural inequalities that keep women on the periphery of decision-making.

The Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE) believes that it is crucial to involve men and boys in the discourse and engage them as allies in the tussle for gender equality. Men continue to occupy positions of power and privileges in the social, political and administrative structures, and without their active involvement, a gender equitable society will neither be achievable nor be sustainable. Furthermore, through the Community Empowerment strategy, FOWODE is striving to build a critical mass of women and men who are vigilant on the promotion of good governance and gender equality. We continue to learn that the antidote to addressing social inequalities is concerted effort from all members of society, regardless of gender.

So, while IWD serves as an important reminder of the progress made and the work that remains to be done in advancing gender equality, its true impact lies in the actions taken beyond just one day. In Uganda, as elsewhere, it is imperative that the day serves as an inspiration for meaningful change as we refocus on addressing all the glaring gender gaps. Only then can we truly create a more equitable and inclusive society for all.

Happy Women’s Day / Month!

The writer is a Women and Leadership Programme Manager at Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE).

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