Uganda as a country has made significant strides in putting in place systems, structures and policies that enable citizens get involved in their governance. Notably is the promulgation of the 1995 Uganda constitution, the decentralisation policy alongside Local Government Act 1997 among other policies. Decentralization is expected to contribute to development by empowering the people and institutions at every level of society including public, private and civic institutions; improving access to basic services; increasing people’s participation in decision-making; assisting in developing people’s capacities; and enhancing government’s responsiveness, transparency and accountability (Mugabi, 2004)
The legal frameworks for women’ rights promotion in Uganda is largely enshrined in the 1995 Uganda constitution and a number of regional and international instruments such as the Maputo protocol and international convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW 1979) that the government of Uganda ratified in 1985.
Even with such legal regimes cited above, enormous challenges still prevail that limit citizen’s participation in governance processes and curtail the enjoyment of rights by women and girls. The country largely is still struggling to ensure that the essential tenets of democracy and good governance such as accountability, rule of law, and respect of human rights, including citizen’s participation take place. Duty bearers, rights holders, civil and social actors are not adequately informed about their roles in ensuring tenets of good governance are respected. On the other hand, marginalised and special groups such as women, youth particularly girls and persons with disabilities are ill equipped to effectively participate in governance processes beyond elections.
The above withstanding, in the Northern region women and girls’ human rights, denial of land and property rights, widow inheritance, early /forced marriages for girl children still remain major issues affecting women and girls in the region. Women still face discrimination; have very little say over decisions that affect their lives both at home and in the public spheres and they still face high levels of Gender based violence.
It is against this brief that ACFODE has launched a three-year project on “Strengthening Community Participation in Local Governance and Promotion of Women and Girls’ Rights in Lango Sub-region particularly the districts of Amolator and Oyam. The project seeks to strengthen civil actors and rights holder’s participation in governance processes including promotion of women’s and girl’s human rights. The key project targets are; Rights holders; over 2000 local citizens, women and men, child mothers, girls and boys; women groups; civil society actors and duty bearers; elected and appointed at both local and national levels.
“This intervention is very timely. Amolatar is a peninsula district surrounded by lakes Kyoga and Kwania. There are very few non-governmental organisations in the district targeting women and girls and yet they face many challenges notably high school dropout, illiteracy and early marriage” Remarked the Deputy Chief Administrative Officer- Amolatar District Ms. Ayo Juliet Okwir during the project launch. Similarly, the LCV chairperson of Amolatar Hon. Ongom Simon Peter affirmed the need for the project intervention by asserting that; “Good Governance and its related tenets such as rule of law, transparency and accountability are conduits for good service delivery”
In Oyam District, the Chief Administrative Officer Mr. Ouma Steven in his remarks during the project launch in the district stressed that “while women emancipation is of great significance, interventions geared towards poverty eradication were similarly of importance since violence against women was a very common occurrence in poverty stricken homes”.
Among the project interventions earmarked are; Capacity building for rights holders on Gender, advocacy, accountability and local governance; Women’s and Girl’s Rights Promotions and Protection; Women’s Economic Empowerment and social entrepreneurship and Capacity Building for duty bearers (elected and appointed) on gender accountability and local governance.
The strategies ACFODE plans to employ for this project include; Working directly with rights holders/Citizens; Stakeholder engagements and dialogue between duty bearers and rights holders; Media; Partnerships and linkages; Capacity building; Engagement of formal and informal institutions; Dance and Drama; Women’s economic empowerment through social enterprise Development; Men and boys engagements and Start awareness, support action (SASA)
In attendance during the project launches were; The LCV chairperson’s of both districts, Chief Administrative Officer’s, Resident District Commissioners, The District Speakers, The District Police commanders, LCIII chairpersons, Councillors who constitute the District Executive Committees, the chairpersons of committees, Heads of Departments, District Community Development Officers, Gender officers, Community Development Officers, religious and clan leaders, sub county chiefs, heads of institutions, private sector actors, leaders of women groups and representatives of likeminded Non-governmental organisations and community based organisations.
It envisaged that at the end of the three-year project period, Rights holders (Marginalised girls and women) will enjoy their fundamental human rights and contribute in local governance and democratic processes.
This project intervention has been made possible with support from Diakonia.