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Female Parliamentarians Decry Constituency Burden on Their Purse

Written by SAMUEL MUHINDO.

Female Parliamentarians have decried the growing financial burden of constituents on their purses. These concerns were raised at a 3-day retreat organized by the Forum for Women in Democracy for the first-time female MPs under their Strengthening Citizen’s Engagement in Elections (SCENE) programme held at Lake Victoria Hotel Entebbe.

The MPs say whereas some of their colleagues are re-elected without becoming charitable to their constituents, they are forced to contribute the larger portion of their purse to the constituents to buy their way back to Parliament in the next polls.

They asked that instead of using their own money, FOWODE helps them connect with organizations that can donate towards their different activities.

Speaking on the sidelines of the training, Kassanda District Woman MP Flavia Kalule says there should be constant sensitization of the voters about the role of Parliamentarians since they are not in charge of direct service delivery.

“What we can do within our power is to lobby private partners and government to fill the service delivery gaps within their constituencies…” said Kalule.

Elizabeth Ampaire, the programmes director of FOWODE says the retreat was organized specifically targeting first-time female parliamentarians to conscientize them about the true roles of a Member of Parliament.

She adds that after the retreat, the female parliamentarians shall be able to nurture a value-driven and transformative leadership, and also encourages them to establish a safe space for sisterhood and solidarity for sustained engagement.

Ampaire says they appreciate the highly commercialized nature of Uganda’s politics where some women leaders have been forced to become more charitable yet their purses cannot fulfill the demands of the community.

“…as FOWODE, we acknowledge that our female legislators face this challenge and we also appreciate that constituents are poor. We want them to acknowledge their roles as legislators. We are helping them realize that the needs of the constituency are insatiable. Let them focus on legislation…” said Ampaire.

Ampaire adds that for legislators to succeed in their roles, they should build networks amongst themselves and also strengthen partnerships with different civil society organisations in line with the interests of their constituencies.

“…these CSO’s already have necessary information that the MPs need. Let the MPs go to these CSO’s and the media shall then help them to build their brand as a good representative for the interests of the people…” says Ampaire.

Solome Nakaweesi, the lead facilitator, requested women to assert themselves in their positions as leaders of the people. She requested the female parliamentarians to indulge themselves in collectively handling societal issues as it is the best means of dealing with society.

She adds that instead of female parliamentarians having political power, they should go an extra mile of getting economic power which shall grant them more independence while making decisions. She added that the parliamentarians should read through the feminist charter and report so that they can see what speaks to their leadership as parliamentarians. “…as leaders, you should deliberately walk the journey of working on yourselves. We need leaders that will commit to something and then work upon it…”

Speaking at the same event, Prof Josephine Ahikire requested that society deals with the barriers to gender equality. She said that a levelled playing field for all helps to ensure a better society that shall be favourable for all.

This article was first published by https://observer.ug


 

Steady Progress Yes, But Let’s Not Forget Rural Women.

By Patricia Munabi.

In recognition of the critical role and contribution of rural women in improving agricultural and rural development, bettering food security and eliminating rural poverty, the UN General Assembly in its resolution 62/136 of December 18, 2007, earmarked October 15 as the International Day of Rural Women. 

This year’s theme is, ‘Rural Women Cultivating Good Food for All.’ For starters, production of good food is something that both genders should be involved in. No impression should be created that this is a women’s ‘job’. 

The context and background to this day is the fact that, as UN Women notes, “Rural women and girls play essential roles in food systems – from production, to processing, preparation, consumption, and distribution of food – as well as in securing household and community nutrition.”

This day is of monumental importance, at least at the level of reflection on our progress as a nation, considering that in Uganda, farming is a source of livelihood for 66 per cent of the working population and accounts for a quarter of gross domestic product (GDP). Majority of the population in this Uganda live in rural areas which have higher concentration of poverty and subsistence agriculture is the main source of sustenance. 

Suffice to note is that women play a vital role in Uganda’s rural agricultural sector and, as the World Bank notes, “contribute a higher than average share of crop labor in the region. They also make up more than half of Uganda’s agricultural workforce, and a higher proportion of women than men work in farming—76 per cent versus 62 per cent. Yet compared to men, their productivity is low.”

The catch is in the fact that women’s productivity is, at least when compared to men, low. How to improve the productivity of women involved in agriculture is a question with no easy answers but we recognize efforts that have been geared at, in part, addressing the unequal power relations between men and women in society, violence against girls and women, disproportionate access to affordable credit, among others. 
To my mind, efforts such as the Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme (UWEP) are a step in the right direction in our bid to economically transform Ugandan women.

A study conducted by the Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE), titled: ‘Accelerating Women’s Economic Empowerment,’ which mapped out what has been achieved under UWEP and what barriers persist, demonstrated that although a lot has been achieved, more work needs to be done to eradicate the barriers that have blocked Ugandan women from being fully empowered. 

The  barriers that are blocking women’s full economic empowerment range from failing to acquire the financial resources necessary for investment, control of women’s morbidity by some husbands, women not owning property out of fear that it will be grabbed by their husbands to lack of innovation of products and services.
With women failing to acquire financial resources for investment, they are forced to be bound in the cycle of poverty, with low income, low investment ultimately leading to low income.

As we join the rest of the world to mark the International Day of Rural Women, my considered submission is that government, civil society and private sector actors should pay ever more attention to addressing the constraints that bar women from achieving their full potential in the agriculture sector.

It follows, therefore, that addressing these structural challenges is pertinent in our country’s efforts to reduce poverty and the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as our own Vision 2040.

Ms. Babiiha is the Executive Director, Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE)

This article was first published in the Daily Monitor on Sunday 17th Sunday 2021

UGANDA@59: Impressive Strides by And for Women or Drop in The Ocean?

By Patricia Munabi.

As we mark 59 years of Uganda’s independence today, it is an opportune time for us to, as a country, take stock, look ourselves in the mirror and ask the tough questions on what our motherland Uganda has done for its women in the last 59 years.

This year’s celebrations will be held under the theme: “Celebrating our 59th Independence Day as we secure our future through national mind-set change.” Indeed, as a country, we need a mind-set change if we are to enjoy inclusive, sustainable development.

This year’s independence offers an opportunity to put the government to task over what has been done towards the betterment of the lives of our women and girls. This is important because the 1995 Constitution of Uganda and a wide range of international human rights statutes to which we are party, make it a duty of the state and society in general to correct mistakes from the past that disadvantaged women and other vulnerable groups. Clearly, over the past 59 years, our women and girls have been served a raw deal by their motherland as the different statistical evidence on gender inequality across the private and public sectors demonstrates. That is not to acknowledge the remarkable progress we have made as a country and the human race in this regard. We have, for instance, achieved significant mileage with the affirmative action policy and legislation. The point is however, that like Oliver Twist in Charles Dickens novel, ‘Oliver Twist,’ we want more.

I will use education and health as yardsticks to illustrate my point. Just as we are making baby steps out of the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government shocked us by announcing that the health sector budget in the 2021/22 Financial Year would reduce by 9.3%. We all know that women have unique health requirements that will be negatively affected by cuts in the health budget.

The reduction of funding to the health sector flies in the face of the Abuja Declaration where African governments, including Uganda, committed to allocating 15% of their budgets to the health sector.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the health pressures on women and girls with cases of teenage pregnancies soaring to worrying levels like 296,314 girls aged between 10 and 19 years reporting for their first antenatal care clinic visits between March and December 2020. If we cannot invest in the health systems, then it’s clearly a raw deal for our mothers and sisters. The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered more cases of Gender-Based Violence, which require robust health systems.

Just this week, a report by the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development indicated that gender-based violence (GBV) cases increased from 2,386 in 2019 to 8,203 in 2020. Uganda’s women cannot be happily independent when they are still victims of the life-threatening effects of GBV.

We cannot celebrate independence in full throttle when health care providers still spend about Shs18.3b annually to deal with the effects of GBV, while the police spend Shs19.5b and local councils spend Shs12.7b.

On education, we have still not fared better, with low girl enrolment in schools, low uptake of science subjects by girls and low completion rates for girls. As we celebrate 59 years of independence, we must ask ourselves what we need to do to improve the quality of education for the girl child because education goes to the root of human capital development. 

If we are to use the last UACE results as a measure, it is sad to note that there were 56,440 male and 40,782 female candidates meaning that there were 15,658 more male than female candidates who sat the exams.

The performance of girls in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) was particularly worrying because only 26.7 per cent females sat for Mathematics, 6.9 per cent for Physics, 13.2 per cent for Chemistry and 12.3 per cent for Biology.

At the Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE), we pay keen attention to gender equality. It is our considered view that equality and inclusive development cannot be achieved if there is no meaningful and consistent investment in women’s access to quality healthcare and education.

The low investment in quality healthcare and education for women has a ripple effect as it leads to political systems that are as male dominated as the one in Uganda where men are at the helm of all the three arms of government and the public service structures. 

Therefore, as we celebrate 59 years of independence, we must make efforts to invest in bettering the lives of our women and girls not out of courtesy but as a sine qua non for inclusive development of mother Uganda. Happy 59th!

Patricia Munabi is the Executive Director of Forum for Women in Democracy

This article was first published by https://voxpopuli.ug on Monday 11th October 2021 b

MPs Disappointed by Girl Child Negligence.

Women Members of Parliament (MP) Have Expressed Disappointment Towards Parents And The Government Over The Continued Negligence Of Girls, Especially During The Lockdown.

Addressing the media on Friday during a three-day workshop at Lake Victoria Hotel in Entebbe, Gulu District Woman MP Sharon Laker Balmoyi said she is seriously disappointed by the negligence that parents have exhibited most especially during the lockdown.

“The country is recording an increase in child mothers and these have become a burden to the families and in the end, they don’t get married to the men that impregnate them,” Balmoyi said.

She said the major cause of the child mothers is the continued closure of schools by the government.

When the children were still at school, they were engaged by their fellow peers and classwork but currently, they are just roaming around the villages and are growing at a very rapid speed because all they do at home is eat and do some little housework.

Balmoyi also said Uganda is a gifted country but as leaders, they have failed to see their worth yet it’s all just about a mindset change.

“When the colonists left Uganda, they left the country with a dependency syndrome which has made us forget what God has given us and as leaders, we still believe that we are poor. When shall this stop and when will this ever change,” she asked.

Worker’s MP Margaret Rwabushaija said the country should start appreciating teachers are doing well in society because what is happening is a result of the lockdown.

She said due to the lockdown, negligence from the parents resulted in many things that included increased teenage pregnancies, incest, rape, sex, among peers.

Rwabushaija said the old men that have impregnated the young girls need to be worked upon by the law and also the local leaders need to beef up their efforts and do what they are meant to do.

“These young girls that you impregnate are not a free harvest that you just go and get any person’s child and start having sex with them. They need to be acted upon by the law,” she said.

Rwabushaija said she is really worried that some of the people that are arrested after impregnating the girls are usually released from the police after paying some money to the police officer.

Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE) Executive Director, Patricia Munabi Babiiha, said the three-day workshop had brought over 30 leaders from different political parties which included the National Resistance Movement (NRM), National Unity Platform (NUP), Democratic Party (DP), Forum for Democratic Change (FDC), among others.

She said although they are harnessing demographic dividends, they are saddened by the skyrocketing teenage pregnancies in the country.

“Although we are talking about harnessing demographic dividends as a country, we are worried about the increasing number of teenage girls getting pregnant and giving birth at a tender age.

These girls' future has almost been destroyed,” Munabi said.

She said a number of opportunities are being missed, implying that there is a vicious cycle of poverty because these girls won’t be in a position to take care of them but only increase the dependency burden on the already constrained resources at a household level.

Munabi said their interest is to advance the women’s agenda which includes girl child education, maternal health, safe and clean water for children among others and we want to see the benefit.

She said they wish to advance the priority for women and girls, center their needs in policies, debates, plans, and budgets irrespective of their political affiliations.

She appealed to the government to open up schools because they have always been the safe haven for girls.

The executive director of Uganda National NGO Forum (UNNGOF), Dr. Moses Isooba, said most women leaders tend to believe that their fellow counterparts are always stronger than them.

He said according to research, it indicates that female leaders display more transformational leadership qualities than their male counterparts who tend to be more transactional.

“At the NGO forum, we believe that power in the hands of women is an essential ingredient in building a just and peaceful society and women leaders should start embracing it and change their mindset about various things,” Isooba said.

Monica Azimi, an official from USAID commended the Parliament of Uganda that has played a historical role and held the government accountable and gave a voice to the Ugandan People.

She said just like any other country in the world, Women in Uganda have had their demand right to participate in the public sphere.

“I do appreciate the difficulties that the women in politics face but it is important that they use their positions to empower women and also fight for gender equality,” Azimi said, adding that the United States mission is looking forward to making a partnership with the government of Uganda.

This article was first published on https://www.newvision.co.ug

https://www.newvision.co.ug/articledetails/117713