In May 2016, Action for Development, under the Women’s Democracy Group that comprises five civil society organizations in Uganda including Center for Women in Governance, Forum for Women in Democracy, Women’s Democracy Network-Uganda Chapter and Uganda Women’s Network, trained over 250 newly-elected women leaders in 10 districts.
The training was intended to equip the women leaders with various skills and knowledge to enable them effectively participate in the district Council. As a result of the trainings, district women caucuses were formed in the districts to advance gender equality in and outside Council.
In order to understand the structures of the caucuses, progress, challenges and capacity gaps, in August ACFODE organized mentoring and coaching sessions for the elected women leaders under the project ‘Strengthening Women’s Political Leadership for Political Accountability and Gender Equality’.
These mentoring sessions took place in Masaka, Lira and Rukungiri, with 144 participants from the districts of Kalangala, Rakai, Sembabule, Masaka, Dokolo, Oyam, Lira, Amolator, Rukungiri, Kanungu and Kisoro.
Ms. Yossa Daisy, the Programme Officer ACFODE, said the sessions were intended to further build the councilors’ capacity, particularly the caucuses, to legislate for their key constituents-women and girls.
The councilors recognized that gender-based violence was still one of the biggest issues affecting women and girls in their communities. Hon. Santa Angela notified the participants that Lira district has a gender-based violence shelter which has accommodation and medical assistance for victims of such violence and advised other districts to learn from them.
The councilors were informed of the various laws that address gender-based violence, such as the CEDAW and the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, the Uganda Constitution and other laws enacted by the Parliament of Uganda, such as the prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act (2010) and the Domestic Violence Act (2010). They were encouraged to get conversant with these laws in order to be able to serve their constituents better.
Councilors were cautioned to continuously monitor the budgets and spending in order to ensure that the districts didn’t spend outside the allocated budget as well as ensure that items were indeed gender sensitive.
“Allocation of 30 million shillings to construct a toilet in a school might seem like gender budgeting, but we must look closer and ask ourselves, are there separate stances for boys and girls? Are there washrooms for the girls? Those are issues we have to look out for,” said Hon Agnes.
On the issue of the low number of women in the decision-making spaces, Mr. Nicholas Akwang, facilitator in Lira, urged the councilors to reflect on the way boys and girls are raised in families, reminding them that both sexes should be given equal opportunities in education.
“We always talk about numbers, but do we have enough women to fill the vacant posts or even compete for them? A large number of them are unqualified,” he said.
Besides gender and finance, other sessions covered lobbying and influencing decisions in council, report writing and documentation. The participants also watched a documentary, ‘Speak Out’, which was meant to teach the participants the value of speaking out on pressing issues (gender-related issues) in the communities without fear of male intimidation.
Participants gained knowledge on the different national legal policy and planning frameworks for mainstreaming gender and equity; international conventions like UDHR and the Sustainable Development Goals as well as the different tasks of the gender budget working group.
They pledged to implement the caucus work plans and activities that they developed, strengthen the women caucuses and champion women and girls’ issues back in their communities.
The Rukungiri district LCV chairperson, Mr. Kateebire Andrewson Charles, thanked ACFODE for its support and empowerment of female leaders in the district.
“The fact that the targeted group comprises only women leaders is an indicator that non-governmental organizations highly recognize the role of women in families, communities and Uganda at large,” he said. He urged the women leaders to fully utilize the opportunity given to them.