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By Elizabeth Ampairwe.
Annually, representatives of UN Member States, civil society organizations and UN entities gather at UN headquarters in New York for a 2-week meeting dubbed the Commission of the Status of Women (CSW). This event aims to discuss progress and gaps in the implementation of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. It is also a platform to deliberate on emerging issues that affect gender equality and the empowerment of women around the world. Under the Advancing Women’s Engagement: Strengthening Opportunities to Mobilize for
Equality (AWESOME) consortium, FOWODE joined CSW67 to amplify the contextual realities on the rights of diverse rural girls and women in Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia from an intersectional feminist movement strengthening perspective.
Teamed with my colleague, Patricia Munabi, we arrived in New York on Sunday 12th March 2023 ahead of the second week having failed to raise adequate funds to attend week one of the discussion. This was my third in-person CSW and the first post-COVID-19. It was exciting to be in the apple city contributing to yet another global conversation on gender equality and the promotion of women’s and girls’ rights. CSW67 was organized under the priority theme “Innovation, technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.” The review theme was “Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls.”
Because FOWODE derives its mandate from the grassroots, on the 15th of March, 2023, we co-hosted a parallel event under the theme “Rural girls and women’s feminist movement
strengthening, experiences from southern women’s rights organizations.” During the discussion, I shared about FOWODE’s advocacy on gender-responsive budgeting and women’s leadership; and how this has influenced national action for the respect and protection of women’s rights in Uganda. Some of the landmark contributions that I highlighted were not limited to the fact that; In 1998, FOWODE pioneered gender-responsive budgeting in Uganda and the effort culminated to the enactment of the Public Finance Management Act in 2015. This Act introduced a certificate of gender and equity to mandate all key Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) to integrate gender and equity in their plans and budgets.
In 2021, FOWODE commissioned a study titled ‘Budgeting for Peace’ to assess the extent to which gender and conflict are addressed in planning and budgeting, at both national and local government levels. This study revealed that Uganda loses approximately 44.5 million US dollars annually to the effects of violence in just two regions in western Uganda. Using this evidence, FOWODE has been able to stimulate discussion on budgeting for peace and further influence increased resourcing for the redress of SGBV. This has yielded an 85% increase in reporting on SGBV in Kabale and Sheema, improved community response and demand for accountability especially on case backlog among other things.
Over the last 28 years, FOWODE has replenished the pool of transformative leaders through its annual leadership camp which boasts over 20,000 alumni; the majority of whom are leveraging their platforms to advance the women’s agenda at micro and macro levels. Reflecting upon FOWODE’s gains over the years, I shared the following key lessons on strengthening the women’s movement in the rural areas of Uganda.
The author is the Director of Programmes at FOWODE.