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“Equip us with skills and more educational programs” the Women in Namagera Town Council Cry Out – UG Standard

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The Women Gathering on 8th of March 2024 in Namagera Town Council, Photo credit: ESAFF UGANDA

International Women’s Day is celebrated on March 8th every year around the world. In honor of this day, the Eastern and Southern Africa Small-scale Farmers’ Forum (ESAFF) Uganda organized a Women’s Gathering against gender inequality in Namagera Town Council (T/C), Jinja district, Uganda. Under the theme “Promoting women economic empowerment for development” to support women to achieve sustainable development and gender equality.

This Gathering brought women together from different walks of life, including community leaders, women small-scale farmers, farmer leaders, and professionals who engaged in critical conversations around key inequality issues affecting women such as access to production resources, and socioeconomic and political circle issues.

The event provided a platform for the women who shared their experiences, perspectives, and ideas on how to accelerate progress toward gender inequality.

The Small Scale farmers

During the farmer discussions on existing gender inequalities, and gender issues in their community, Mpabulungi Sarah Namukaya a married woman with 6 children, a small-scale farmer, and a farmer group leader shared her experience as she had never celebrated this day but had always heard about it therefore she had never understood the meaning of the day until ESAFF gave her a podium to share her challenges. “On this day I am lucky to be part of this gathering to share the inequalities we face as women in our families and the community at large,” she appreciated

Mpabulungi who got married as a young girl at 19 years said she was not mature enough to know what to do at the time for example preparing a garden early enough for planting but ended up missing out on planting seasons and this caused fights between her and her husband since he ended up buying food. “He reached a point where he got tired and always compared our home to other families where other women were farming and rarely bought food. At one time, he refused to buy food and asked me why it was only him who bought food,” she narrated

As a woman, she had to find a solution because they kept fighting and with time she was able to join farming groups where she learned how to practice better farming. “I can testify that it has been years of having plenty of food for my family from season to season and I prefer planting maize at most because my children enjoy eating posho” she added

Mpabulungi narrates that her husband never allowed her to find a source of income as she tried rearing poultry and other domestic animals like goats and sheep but he always sold them off for his gains. Being a woman, she could never question him. “If I happened to complain, he always asked me if I was rearing them from father’s land. In this case, he never assisted in feeding them. I never understood why he always restrained yet whatever I was doing was for the benefit of the entire family,” Mpabulungi continued to narrate

However, she attributed her achievements to date as a result of patience, and being part of the ESAFF women’s group where she has been receiving educational programs on how to go over such challenges.

“I have been able to sit with my husband to discuss where he goes wrong. I also never gave up for example even when he sold off my chicken and goats, I kept rearing more and it reached a point where he adjusted and I was able to sell them off myself,” According to Mpabulungi, this is a result of knowledge empowerment she has received over time.

Her call to women especially rural women is to be patient in whatever they do because patience defines who a woman is as well as to take the initiative to talk to their husbands when they feel they are not satisfied by the decisions taken by the men by giving an insight into what benefit it will bring to the family though it is a big challenge as there men who are always resistant to advice.

Margret Mukama, a 56-year-old catechist and a single mother of 6 also shared her experience as she has spent 38 years celebrating this day. “However, on this day in 2009 when I lost my mother, it reminds me of pain,” she painfully said

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Mukama however said that the unfortunate experience was when she was still in her marriage where her husband always restrained her from attending women’s gatherings on this day. But since 2007 when she divorced her ex-husband, she has been free to celebrate the day to which she attaches a lot of value.

“For the time I have spent as a single mother, one greatest lesson I have learned over time has been endurance and patience where I have lost most of my colleagues who were not patient and acting out anger and revenge,”. “I call upon the young women to be patient and trust in God and always forgive because “with God everything is possible” and always be considerate in raising their children.”

Tizomu Colne, who represented the disabled women said that they have not been considered and helped. “On days like this, we are never considered at all,” She shared the painful experience as the men have taken advantage of the disabled women whom they impregnate and abandoned as they never want to associate with them framing them as “unfortunate”.

At the end of the day, these women are unable to take care of the children while some men have taken the children away and have not given a chance to them to enjoy motherhood.

“Therefore, I ask the authorities at all levels to be considerate of us and put specific projects for us as the disabled because I believe that we are all equal. Considering that some can dig while others cannot. According to me, projects like poultry rearing are favorable,” she asked and suggested the local breeds since they are affordable to rear.

She also requests the government of Uganda to bring educational programs because most of them need to be trained and have not been equipped with skills to effectively run such projects, but also be able to sustain them. “I also ask ESAFF to consider more disabled women in my community than it is now.”

Zeridah Ikaali the chairperson of the ESAFF group in Jinja heading the 30 women in the “Ndiga Kweya” which means they are there to wipe each other’s tears in times of challenges pointed out the lack of land to enable them to carry out farming as women where land has been divided especially in families as everyone is on their own. In addition, women are always not considered to be given or own land.

“As ESAFF, we are trying to encourage women to work together, for instance, we requested a piece of land at the Town Council where we have a banana plantation and I have continued to encourage a few of the women who own land to work together with those that do not have,” the chairperson of the ESAFF group in Jinja said

She however encouraged her fellow women to keep on practicing farming since it is the most source of income regardless of the challenges they face.

Irene Nakijoba Chairperson, ESAFF Mukono District Board member, ESAFF Uganda observed that women in Namagera lack a lot in terms of skills to back up agriculture. She suggests making pads as a skill that would uplift the women in this area. “This is a typical village where it is a long distance to Jinja town to buy pads but if we train these women and they go back to their fellow women and practice these skills, they can earn an income and train others enabling the whole community to benefit. This will help the girl child as they cannot afford to buy monthly pads.” She suggested

She called for support from the local government and the central government to work with ESAFF Uganda to equip them with more skills like making bags out of poly sacks that are locally available in shops because school children need bags to carry their books but also to generate income.

The women participants during the gathering

Zulaika Nakagolo, a 19-year-old and mother of one benefiting from the tailoring programs under ESAFF appreciates the skill as it has enabled her to sew clothes for her child and she hopes to own her machine one day.

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She asked for the addition of machines as they are not enough for the population of girls in the area. “There are two machines where one can get spoilt and one cannot enable us to have enough time to learn efficiently as well as provision of materials to make the clothes.”

A word from the local leaders of the area

Peter Ayazika, the Town Clerk Namagera T/C thanked the government for recognizing this day however much it is international. “Some days are not recognized when offices and schools close, and all of us get focused on this day. Without the government efforts, and budgets most programs, would not be in place to empower women,” he thanked

According to Ayazika, before women were empowered there was a lot of segregation that went on where very many men around the world and in Uganda in particular, women were looked at as inferior kind of gender.

“For us in Busoga, we have a saying that says Omwani Kyakoba, Omukyala Kyajilaku, to mean whatever a man says must be followed by a woman”. This depicts the situation where the women were and of now. “I am very sure women have shifted from that position to a better place,” he added

The Town Clerk also informs that the women in his T/C are engaged in different activities for instance they have a catering project whereby they have touched so many people concerning the improvement in their homes in terms of cooking, nutrition, and household income.

Within their group they have had several occasions or functions they have organized where they have supplied food and given a service which later they are paid and that money is taken to their homes to give to their children to go to school because most men have left the responsibilities for women.

So they have ensured that their homes have some income to make sure the children are going to school, and the families are feeding and uplifted in so many aspects even in terms of agriculture. “Because whatever little income comes to the woman serves the entire family but the little that may come to the man may not serve the entire family because a woman is a mother,” Ayazika stated

“My call to men is to embrace this trend and not look at women as tools or inferior people but as copartners in bringing up a home and in decision-making that whatever decision is being made concerning a home, let the woman lead because a woman looks at the entire family, she goes a step ahead. For most of us men there a things we do not know about our daughters which women do and even our sons, they confide in their mothers at times, they know a lot that we may not know,” he called upon his fellow men

“Let us bring them back on board and discuss a way forward on major issues in a home. By having this day we are celebrating the achievements of a woman where they have come from to where they are.”

He also asked the women to look at this day as precious and cherish what has brought them this far but again should not misuse it. According to Ayazika, there is empowering women and misusing it but they should always remember that there are different roles a gender is supposed to play. “Let them still respect men as heads of families but become partners to make sure their families move ahead.”

Paul Balidawa, the Mayor of the T/C admits that as a T/C they have good plans for the women where the girls are being trained in different skills like hairdressing, and tailoring though it is not sufficient.

According to Balidawa, in the Parish Development Model, government programs like Emyooga and Parish Community Association, women are actively participating in all the programs and he argues all the women get involved in groups so they can be supported.

“We are very happy they are active in almost all groups. We pledge to continue supporting women even on my council as the representation of women has been highly considered as arranged by the government. Particularly in Namagera T/C, where my executive has the biggest percentage of women as the deputy mayor, secretary for fiancé, secretary for social service are all women,” he added

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He thanked ESAFF for gathering women on the day to educate them.

Climate Change effects

Isaac Merino the agriculture officer commented on the climate change in the area which has greatly affected the women since they provide the biggest labor on farms. He attributes all this to climate change and global warming.

He said the crops are no longer performing the way used to due to soil depletion as a result of human activities for instance trees, and swamps have been cleared and the fertility of the soils has declined over time.

“For instance, in the 1970s and 80s, Busoga used to be a food basket where we used to have a granary in Jinja town and maize was a food security crop but due to the overgrowing of sugarcane, today Busoga is no longer a food basket and the maize production has gone low and the production in this sub-county or T/C is no longer as it is used be to during those years,” he commented

He called upon the government and Civil Society Organizations to encourage the public to plant more trees by providing tree seedlings to homes that can call back the ecological environment to normal.

The male figure in attendance

Nicholas Bukone, a small-scale farmer explained why he joined the gathering as one of the reasons was to learn about the issues that affect women. “What I have learned today is that we as men make a lot of mistakes but we never realize them since we think men in the African Society can never be questioned. I promise I will leave this place as a changed man,” he admitted

He said to have learned that women indeed deserve a chance to work so that they can earn little money to facilitate their needs and also there is a need for them to encourage and support the women to work.

He also recommended that even if a day like this is for women, men should also be involved especially in such gatherings to learn because it never ends.

“Let’s not only empower women but also consider men as the only way they can change and treat women better.”

In Uganda;

Chapter 4 in the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda guarantees both men and women equality before the law, The National Gender Policy (2007) and Gender Action Plan (2007-8) were put in place to eliminate gender inequalities for stance poverty eradication programmes and The National Development Plan notes that gender inequality has led to uneven distribution of resources, opportunities, and violations of human rights and stipulates measures for redress, National Development Plan (2015-2021).

According to Gender and the Law: A New Perspective to Equality in Uganda authored by Abel Nuwamanya. As a country it faces a key challenge where policies and plans are just on paper, implementation lacks coordination, or is non-existent. Issues of gender inequality have persisted due to negative customs and cultural constructs in our society; a paradigm shift in the approach should focus on religious and cultural institutions as important change agents to fully achieve gender equality and safeguard the girl-child‘s rights and fulfillment of their potential, right from childhood (UNICEF Uganda, Child Poverty Report: 2015).

The current situation in Uganda concerning gender equality is reflected in these aspects which affect both men and women differently; gender and law, legal and policy, Land law & property ownership, Gender-based violence, and literacy level.

History of Women’s Day

March 8, 2024, the  United Nations Organisation declared it a global day for to women be recognized for their achievements without regard to divisions, whether national, ethnic, linguistic, cultural, economic, or political.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 






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