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Uganda National Farmers Federation (UNFFE) joined the rest of the country and the world on the 08th March 2024 to celebrate International Women’s Day. The National celebrations were held in Katakwi District under the theme, “Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress’ which is aimed at tackling economic dis-empowerment.”

International Women’s Day is significant and over the years, the Government of Uganda has used this annual celebration to underscore its commitment to applying inclusive approaches that facilitate women to participate in key decision-making, in both private and public investment, and governance and management at all levels. Women’s inclusion highly impacts how families are managed, how communities and eventually how our country develops. 

The Federation was represented by Ms Jolly Kateeba the Secretary for Women Affairs on the National Executive Committee, Rural Women farmer leaders from Tororo, Busia, Kayunga and Pallisa District Farmers Associations as well as some staff from the UNFFE secretariat.

Speaking at the national celebration, Hajat Faridah Kibowa the Chairperson for the National Women Council in Uganda indicated that in the last 30 years, Uganda has registered very positive achievements in terms of recognizing the contribution of women towards national development. She said that under the leadership of H.E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, structures of elected women leaders from the village to the National level have prioritized women’s economic and political empowerment by closing the gender gap leading to accelerated gender equality and ensuring meaningful women’s economic transformation in advancing women’s rights and gender equality through legislation.

Women are now holding top positions in senior management such as in politics having the Vice President, the Prime Minister, many cabinet ministers, heads of government agencies and many more have seen women receive an equal share of the available leadership opportunities

Her Excellency Dr. Katja Yvonne Kerschbaumer – Head of Mission at the Embassy of Austria noted that in a world grappling with numerous challenges, the importance of achieving gender equality cannot be overstated as communities face unprecedented pressures securing women’s and girls’ rights across all facets of life.

She said that for the sake of equality, it is necessary for building prosperous and just economies and ensuring a healthy planet for future generations if Uganda is to attain the aspirations as laid out in Vision 2040, the sustainable development agenda 2030 and the African Union Vision 2063 amongst others.

She pointed out the need for women’s equal representation and participation as key to inclusive economic growth highlighting the case today where many advancements in leadership in the private sector, women now lead in some of Uganda’s largest sectors including finance, telecommunications, agriculture and others.

She commended the government of Uganda for putting a strong legal and policy framework in place to enable and drive these advancements however, she noted that the progress must also reflect on the areas that continue to experience large gender gaps in labour force participation and skilling labour force participation stands at 58% for men compared to only 39% for women furthermore, the gender pay gap persists with women earning just a little bit over half of what men make there are also alarmingly persistent gender gaps in economic empowerment amongst young people where 2.3 million youth that are not in employment.

She indicated that in terms of education or training, the rate amongst young women is almost 80% lower than that amongst young men, in addition, women and girls continue to face significant disparities in wealth, asset ownership, access to markets, availability of finance, and technology.

These challenges are compounded by overarching obstacles that hinder their progress including persistently high levels of gender-based violence, restricted access to sexual and reproductive health services and prevalent social and cultural norms which block women’s advancement, especially the social and cultural norms.

Hon Betty Among the Minister of Gender Labour and Social Development noted that the government will continue to invest in programs and initiatives that are tailored to the needs of women highlighting that current statistics show that women own 38 % of

businesses in Uganda yet only 44% out of these are registered. To support these, she called for more business support services and an easy process of formalization including gender-responsive tax policies we welcome initiatives such as the growing program and look forward to additional measures that Foster growth formalization and economic policies supporting women’s businesses.

Secondly, the minister added that the government is trying to address the social and cultural norms that undermine gender equality and women’s advancement must be addressed as key enablers for eradicating poverty this includes continued efforts to address gender-based violence both at home and in the workplace, which hampers women removing themselves from poverty.

Thirdly, the government working through the Parish Development Model is providing affordable financial support targeting women at the parish level. Besides this, the government is providing entrepreneurship skilling hubs targeting women.

Before inviting the President for his official remarks, H.E Major Retired Jessica Alupo the Vice President of Uganda and Woman Member of Parliament for Katakwi District noted that through government programmes like Universal Primary Education(UPE), Universal Secondary Education (USE) and also most importantly the 1 point 5 points that are extended to all girls after completing their higher secondary education is a component that has brought the girl children to the limelight because it has enabled them to compete favourably with the boys.

In his remarks, H.E. Yoweri Kaguta T. Museveni was happy to note that women have been given key priority areas at socio-economic and political platforms. He noted that this includes all planning, budgeting and implementation of government programmes and more efforts will be put into skilling, training and scaling up interventions such as the PDM, Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme (UWEP), emyooga and the new GROW’s initiative-focused on Social Inclusion and Sustainability, Social Protection and Jobs and Finance, Competitiveness and Innovation.

H.E Yoweri Kaguta visiting different stalls during the International Womens’ Day celebrations in Katakwi district

The President mentioned that similarly, the initiative represents a comprehensive effort to support women’s economic empowerment in the country under the leadership of the Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development in conjunction with the Private Sector Foundation in Uganda.

He also added that the NRM government has emphasized massive education through the strengthening UPE and USE programmes, skilling the girl child through the presidential skilling hubs across the country, ensuring equal representation in all government arms such as having a woman MP representing women affairs in parliament and many key interventions.

Before inspecting the parade, the President visited a mini-exhibition where UNFFE rural women entrepreneurs joined other women to showcase final products that they had added value to such as hibiscus wine, spices, lotions, crafts, honey, peanut butter and milk by-products. The exhibition was a good opportunity for business-to-business networking, sharing experiences and learning more opportunities.

Key lessons and recommendations

  • Building stronger and sound women’s advocacy platforms to lobby for accelerated gender parity
  • Entrepreneurial and business skills to advance efforts to liberate women from poverty
  • Raise awareness about all government programmes that support women
  • Work together not in silos
  • Raise awareness about the remaining facts hindering women from accessing and owning property

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