1. The Republic of Uganda
MINISTRY OF GENDER, LABOUR AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY (IWD) 2013
THEME: THE GENDER AGENDA: CONNECTING GRASSROOTS WOMEN TO
8th MARCH 2013
Ministry of Gender,
Labour and Social Development
P.O.BOX 7136, Kampala
2. Theme: “The Gender Agenda: Connecting Grassroots Women to
Each year around the world, International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on
the 8th of March. Various events take place to highlight the economic, political
and social achievements of women. Governments, Civil Society Organizations,
Institutions, Development Partners, Women’s Groups, the Private Sector and the
Media participate in commemorating the day.
International Women’s Day is celebrated in recognition of the contributions and
the different roles women play in the development process of their countries;
hence women from different ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic and political
backgrounds are united under a common cause and purpose.
International Women’s Day is observed under selected themes and the global
theme for 2013 is “The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum”. In Uganda, the
National theme this year is “The Gender Agenda: Connecting Grassroots
Women to Development”.
The national theme recognizes the achievements towards gender equality and
women empowerment and takes cognizance of the contributions of grassroots
women to equitable and sustainable development. It draws the attention of all
development actors in Government, Civil Society, Faith Based Organizations and
the Private Sector to examine the extent to which their respective policies and
programmes have responded to the needs of women, in particular grassroots
Further, the theme emphasizes the importance of connecting grassroots women
to development while taking into consideration the gender agenda. Grassroots
women, as ordinary people in society, on whose behalf decisions are made,
3. require that their needs and interests are considered in the policies, laws, plans
and programmes in order to attain the universal goals of gender equality and
empowerment of women. Equally important, connecting grassroots women to
development entails ensuring that they are included in decision making
processes that affect their lives and that they are able to contribute to and hence
benefit from development.
The Government of Uganda has signed and ratified key frameworks that define
the global gender agenda. These include the 1995 Beijing Declaration and
Platform for Action, the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW 1979) which is recognized as the
international Bill of Rights for women, as well as the Millennium Declaration and
Development Goals especially Goal No. 3 which is gender equality and women’s
empowerment. At the regional level, Uganda is a party to the Protocol to the
African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights on Women in
Africa (2003), and is signatory to the African Union Solemn Declaration on
Uganda aligns itself to the regional and global agenda while defining the National
Agenda through the existing laws and policies. The Constitution guarantees
equality between men and women. The Uganda Gender Policy (2007) is a guide
to mainstreaming gender in all development programmes. The National
Development Plan identifies gender inequalities, negative attitudes, mindsets,
cultural practices and perceptions as some of the constraints that must be
addressed to achieve sustainable and equitable development. One of the
objectives under the Social Development Sector is to promote gender equality
and women’s empowerment by ensuring equitable access to opportunities and
their participation in the development process.
2.0 Challenges of Grassroots Women
4. Uganda’s population currently estimated at 30.7 million is predominantly rural,
with only 15% living in the urban areas (UNHS 2009/10). Women constitute
51.2% of the population with the sex ratio of 95 males per 100 females.
The majority of Ugandan women live in rural areas as subsistence farmers and
hence form the bulk of grassroots women. These women have limited access to
and control over the natural, human, financial, physical and social resources.
They have limited skills due to high illiteracy levels as reflected in the literacy rate
of 66% for females compared to 79% for males. The situation is worse in rural
areas with illiteracy rates standing at 74% males and 58% for females. (UNHS
Given the low levels of education, most grassroots women are engaged in low
income jobs or are self employed in the informal sector. Studies have established
that among secondary and tertiary graduates, those in wage employment are
generally better off than those in self employment, yet the share of women in
wage employment in non agricultural sectors is only 40%. (UNHS 2009/10)
In the employment sector, women comprise 74.7 percent of employees in the
lowest paying sectors such as agriculture and quarrying, in comparison to 65% of
men. (UNHS 2009/10) The meagre incomes of women therefore subject them to
economic dependency and contribute to among others unequal gender power
relations at the household level, which affects decision making at family level.
Other factors that affect development of grassroots women include the
patriarchal system that dictates women’s subordination to men. Societal
expectation influence women’s roles where women work longer hours (12-18hrs)
as compared to men (8-10hrs) as evidenced in women providing 80% of the
agricultural labour force while also undertaking work in non-farm activities such
as arts and craft and road side vending to supplement household incomes. In
5. addition, women are responsible for the non-paid care work within household and
within the community.
Gender based violence in the form of physical, sexual and psychological abuse
is prevalent in the country. According to the Uganda Demographic and Health
Survey (UDHS) 2011, 28% of the women have ever experienced sexual
violence. 43% of women have ever experienced physical violence at the hands of
their husband or partner, 26% have ever experienced sexual violence, and 43
percent have experienced emotional violence. Overall, about three in five of ever-
married women (60%) have experienced any kind of violence (physical, sexual or
emotional) by a husband or other intimate partner. This is a reduction from 68%
reported during the 2006 UDHS. Physical violence among women aged 15-49
reduced slightly (by 3.8%) from 59.9% in 2006 to 56.1 in 2011 while sexual
violence reduced from 39.0% to 27.7% in the same period (UDHS 2011). Female
Genital Mutilation (FGM) is still being practiced in some communities.
Despite the active involvement of grassroots women in food and crop production,
most of them do not have control over the proceeds of their labour. Only 25.5%
of women control the land they cultivate and, the percentage of women holding
titled land is 20% (UNHS 2009/ 10).
Furthermore, women’s health indicators are still poor as reflected by the high
maternal mortality rate of 438 deaths per 100,000 live births (UDHS 2011).
Although there is a downward trend in maternal mortality rate, the improvement
is too small in comparison to the MDG target of 131 deaths per 100,000 live
births. This is due to many factors including early pregnancies, short intervals
between pregnancies, prevalence of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and TB in pregnancy,
among other factors. Besides, women’s health is in some cases compromised by
their inability to negotiate for safe sex as well as make critical decisions about
their sexuality. In some instances, women require permission from spouses in
order to get medical attention including family planning services.
6. 3.0 Opportunities for Grassroots Women
Government of Uganda recognizes the empowerment of women and attainment
of equality. In this regard, Government has formulated and implemented gender
responsive policies with a view of attaining its commitment.
The Agriculture Sector has been prioritized for funding, focusing on transforming
subsistence farming to commercial agriculture. Through the National Agricultural
Advisory Services (NAADS), women are supported in agro processing and
marketing of their products. These initiatives have been successful and
contributed to improved production.
The “Prosperity for All” (PFA) programme supports grassroots community-led
development. Under this programme, the Savings and Credit Cooperatives
(SACCOs) are being promoted as the main mechanism through which financial
services are channeled to communities. At sub county level, community
members, including women are organized to join SACCOs through which they
are able to obtain loans. The interest rates are reasonable at about 13% for
agriculture and 17% per annum for commercial activities, as compared to up to
35% interest charged on loans from commercial banks. SACCO members also
have the benefit of acquiring new skills and knowledge from training which is a
major component for development of savings and credit cooperatives.
Protection of women’s land rights has been addressed through legal provisions
particularly the Land Act (1998) and the Mortgage Act (2009). Section 39 A of the
Land Amendment Act (2004) details security of occupancy on family land, while
section 40 prohibits the sale, transfer, exchange, pledge, mortgage or lease of
family land except with prior consent of the spouse (CEDAW Report 2009).
Affirmative action, as enshrined in Article 32 of the Constitution of Uganda has
encouraged more women to venture into areas of decision making. The provision
of one third representation of women at local government levels has brought
7. grassroots women into decision making positions. Some have progressed to
higher levels. Consequently the proportion of women in Parliament has risen
from 19.2% in 1996 to 30.4% in 2006 up to the current 34% in the 9th Parliament.
In the Education Sector, the affirmative action for female entrants to public
tertiary institutions has enhanced gender equity in access to education, thus
increasing their opportunities to participate in development. The Universal
Primary Education (UPE) programme has increased overall enrollment of boys to
50.6% and girl’s enrollment to 49.4% (UNHS 2009/10). The introduction of
Universal Secondary Education (USE) in 2007 has improved school enrolment at
secondary level as reflected in the boy’s enrollment of 54.5% and girls’
enrollment of 45.5 %.( UNHS 2009/10). The Functional Adult Literacy
programme has over the years enrolled a total of 974,855 learners with women
being the main beneficiaries contributing over 70% of enrolled participants while
men form 30% of the beneficiaries.
Government has intensified the response to eliminate gender based violence
(GBV). Laws have been enacted such as the Domestic Violence Act (2010), the
Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act (2010) and the Prevention of
Trafficking in Persons Act, 2009. A national policy on elimination of GBV is in the
offing and mechanisms for effective coordination of stakeholders at national and
local government levels have been established.
As reflected above, the national gender agenda supports the effective
involvement of women, particularly grassroots women in the development
process. Significant gains have been made, but more is still to be done in order
to attain the global gender agenda.
4.0 Recommendations and Way Forward
• Promote women’s economic empowerment through mobilizing them to
participate in programmes such as NAADS and joining Savings and Credit
8. Cooperatives (SACCOS). Support women to engage in income generating
activities through trade, commerce and access them to regional and
• Prioritize grassroots women’s health and increase attention to non
communicable diseases, reproductive health services including family
planning, as well as HIV/AIDS prevention and response.
• All actors should endeavor to scale up interventions to prevent, respond and
end impunity to violence against women so as to cover the whole country.
• The Functional Adult Literacy Programme should be scaled up to target more
grassroots women. The curriculum should include business skills with specific
focus on entrepreneurial development, business planning, value addition,
marketing and pricing.
• Energy and time saving technologies should be promoted and availed to
households to enhance conservation of the environment as well as facilitate
improved wellbeing of families.
• Leadership skills development for women in political and decision making
positions should be prioritized to enhance their ability to effectively participate
in making decisions that lead to political, economic and social development.