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By Georgia Tumwesigye.
Every September 18, Uganda joins the rest of the world to commemorate the International Day of Equal Pay. The objective of this day is to end the history of gender discrimination, a practice where women and/or persons with disabilities are paid less than their male counterparts for a similar job. According to the UN, this day indeed represents the longstanding efforts towards the achievement of equal pay for work of equal value.
At the Forum for Women in Democracy, we envision a Ugandan society where women and men equally participate in and benefit from decision-making processes in the public and private spaces. Promoting equality between women and men has been core to what we do since inception in 1995. Without equal pay, gender equality remains a façade! It is no wonder that UN Women’s 2023 report exerts that at the current rate of progress, it will take 286 years for the world to achieve gender equality! Per the World Economic Forum, it will take another 132 years to close the global gender gap!
Given these worrying trends, it is paramount that we undertake deep reflection on the aspect of equal pay for work of equal value. Equal pay is not just about closing the remuneration gaps between different genders, but ensuring that all workers, irrespective of gender, tribe, religion or any other distinct trait are paid fairly and treated with dignity, just like colleagues undertaking similar work.
As a key decision maker in your company, are you observing this? It is not uncommon to find women earning way less than their male counterparts whilst delivering on the same exact job description with the same qualifications and experience. Beyond women, are we ensuring that persons with disabilities, refugees and other usually marginalized communities are being paid equally?
The laws in place such as the 1995 Constitution of Uganda as amended recognize the right to equal pay for work of equal value. Similarly, section 6 of the Employment Act makes it very clear that every worker should receive equal pay for work of equal value. Article 40 of our Constitution stipulates for economic rights, in particular clause (1) (a), seeks to protect labour rights in Uganda, by ensuring that persons work under satisfactory, safe and healthy conditions. Equal pay is part of healthy working conditions.
We also have in place the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) which is working to implement the Equal Opportunities Act, and the State’s constitutional mandate to eliminate discrimination and inequalities against any individual or group of persons on the grounds of sex, age, race, colour, ethnic, origin, tribe, birth, creed or religion. Are these laws being implemented and respected?
Uganda’s economic recovery will be faster, stronger, and more sustainable if it brings more women into the center of profitable economic activity, according to the 18th edition of the Uganda Economic Update (UEU). Uganda continues to face gender inequality in economic empowerment and economic outcomes, despite closing gender gaps in rates of labor force participation and entrepreneurial activity. The UEU emphasizes that increasing women’s earnings to match men’s would boost national wealth by 11.8% (USD $1,619 per capita)!
So, as we mark this day, there is a need to collectively address and close the gender wage gap. The government should start by implementing the legislation already in place and encourage wage transparency (clear renumeration scales). Additionally, women’s time poverty should be addressed so that they can complete their education, acquire marketable skills, and work for pay outside the household. A common factor to making all three possible is easing the care burden that women and older girls disproportionately carry in households. Men can be encouraged to take parental leave, pay women for their care work in households and offer flexi working hours, including working remotely for tasks that can be remotely accomplished.
Ensuring equal pay will accrue benefits not only to women, but to their households and, by extension, the whole country.
The writer is a Women and Leadership Programme Manager at FOWODE.