“I don’t see any problem with people being equal! Women are more Accountable than men!” These remarks were made by the Rukungiri District Speaker, Mr. Henry Ndyabahika during a Regional Consultation meeting on the National Women’s Manifesto. The meeting was part of similar consultative meetings held in Lira and Masaka districts.
The Consultative Meetings were implemented under the Women’s Democracy Group, a coalition of civil society organizations in Uganda comprising of Action for Development, Center for Women in Development (CEWIGO), Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE) and Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET) and Women’s Democracy Network (WDN). The consultation aimed at building consensus on common issues affecting women, their empowerment and advancement to inform different political party manifestos as well as the National Women’s Manifesto.
Over 50 women legislators, representatives of civil society and the Private Sector from the districts of Lira, Amolator, Dokolo, Oyam, Rukungiri, Kanungu, Kisoro, Rakai, Sembabule, and Kalangala participated in the Consultative meetings. The women raised a number of concerns affecting both women and girls in Uganda which should be considered in the women’s manifesto for the 2016 general elections.
Molly Abang from Dokolo District presents the District’s issues
Among many others, they noted that women are usually left out when it comes to land and property inheritance and sharing whereas some are not aware of their land rights. “If a woman is married to a man with two children, then there should be a law that enables the woman to have a right to property sharing in case of a divorce,” commented Adrine Kabariga, Councilor Nyakagyeme Sub County, Rukungiri district.
During the Northern Region meeting, legislators raised the issue of political representation; especially in regard to the qualifications for Local council five (LCV) chairpersons. Ms. Molly Abang, LCV Councilor Dokolo district noted that the mandate of Local Councils requires that leaders are able to communicate clearly, understands and interpret different technical council documents. Participants also pointed out the issue of funding and budgetary constraints of Local Councils that needs to be addressed.
In the same meeting, it was discovered that in most cases, unlike girls, boys are considered first to receive education by their parents; when it comes to property inheritance, boys are considered eligible to more shares than girls. Unless a girl receives property from her mother’s side, she ends up with nothing to her name. The women also complained about government discouraging division of land yet this often leads to domestic violence and land wrangles.
Another major concern raised was poor infrastructural development especially in UPE schools where girls and boys share toilets, essential materials such as sanitary towels for girls are not provided; schools lack nurses and drugs in addition to inexistence of child day care centers at schools. In other cases, UPE funds delay and pupils are taught in local languages yet exams are set in English.
In the Central Region; the women raised health concerns such as inadequate and untimely medical supplies to health centers and the poor infrastructures such as bathrooms for maternal wings. Participants recommended increased staffing, remuneration of health workers and ensuring that health center threes are established in every sub county. “As women we need to understand the Women’s Manifesto will help us to advocate for health rights”-Nakamaate Agnes, Local council five Councilor Rakai District.
A cross section of participants during the event
The women also noted that fighting sexual abuse at the workplace and in learning institutions should also be included in the women’s manifesto. Most female graduates fail to get jobs due to failure to give in to sex with the employers. In other cases, women are not taken up for some jobs for example teaching. Female students in universities are sexually abused by lecturers in order to get good grades.
As a way forward, women were advised to be exemplary and support each other and follow up on the issues they had raised. “Experience has shown that women do not support each other. You find that even in elections, men are the ones who vote for women,” noted Mr. Henry Ndyabahika, Rukungiri District Speaker.
They were future advised against accepting bribes from perpetrators of sexual violence and marrying off their daughters at an early age for dowry. They were equally advised not to actively participate in politics; “You must not shy away from deliberations in meetings. Some women don’t say anything while in meetings. I want to call upon you to be very active in meetings. At all levels (local and government), participate in budgeting. Experience has shown that women are more accountable than men,” commented Mr. Henry Ndyabahika, Rukungiri District Speaker.
“The manifesto is going to help us lobby and advocate for services from the government, this should be the opportunity that all women leaders should embrace for inclusive development”-Nakakande Annet Local Council five Chairperson.
In her closing remarks, Ms Yossa Daisy, a Programme Officer with ACFODE said that the Women’s Manifesto belongs to all women and men in Uganda who can identify with its demands. Until such women and men from every village, parish, sub county, district and at national levels across Uganda adopt the manifesto and demand its implementation, bodies charged with ensuring that women can live in dignity and enjoy their full human rights will not take the manifesto seriously.
We must therefore take full ownership of the manifesto and ensure its implementation.
Volunteer – Gender and Economic Policy Department