In Africa, a good proportion of women contribute largely to the welfare of the household through both remunerated and unremunerated work, household and community engagements. Some of the rural women in Uganda and probably in other developing countries contribute the greatest labor force in agricultural production while the husband determines how much is to be left for home consumption as he takes the biggest portion of produce to the market and decides how the money is to be spent. We need to change the mindsets of our communities through empowerment of women while improving their access to basic literacy and business education as well as economic resources.
To “Make it Happen” this year, the world celebrates the International Women’s day and I would like us to recognize and appreciate the contributions and achievements of women in the political, social and economic development spheres of society. On this day we look back at the struggles that women encounter and try to analyze the solutions employed to overcome them. This day is also used as an advocacy and lobbying platform for equal and fair treatment of women as well as their involvement and participation in decision making in the social, economic and political aspects of a country’s development.
While we “Make it Happen” in 2015, my reflection is on the efforts, commitment, and resilience of rural and the low-income earning women. Despite their limited access to resources, economic opportunities, information and decision making powers, they make a tremendous impact at the household and community level. Have you ever imagined the life of a single mother with 8 children and how she manages to give them an education, food, shelter, and medical care? Or the life of an adolescent rural girl growing up under hardships but has to maneuver through the trials and tribulations of life while the adolescent boy walks freely in the community? Having worked with women and girls on economic and women empowerment programs, Sexual Reproductive Health, Gender Based Violence in Uganda, I do appreciate their level of involvement, commitment and desire for change at every stage of implementation.
Despite, their challenges, these women and girls are optimistic and have always worked so hard to live a more fulfilling life. Women and girls do not ask for much. I have witnessed their lives being transformed through basic trainings on business skills development, apprenticeship, referral network system, saving skills and management a successful household. They need protection, freedom of speech and expression and an opportunity to explore and exercise their leadership potential. Nonetheless, men engagement is crucial in working towards gender equality and making greater achievements beginning at the household level. It is through joint responsibilities and balance of power that we can better develop our communities. In that way we can proudly say we are moving towards gender equality.
Drawing from the Beijing Declaration, there are many other issues affecting the independence and freedom of women that have obtained insufficient attention. These include among others, the persistent and increasing burden of poverty on women, violence against women, inequality between men and women in sharing of power and decision making at all levels, lack of respect for and inadequate promotion and protection of the rights of women, persistent discrimination, and violation of the rights of the girl child.
Addressing these issues calls for combined efforts from the respective governments, development agencies, NGOs and everyone to take action this year and make a difference. Get involved through conducting awareness campaigns to raise awareness about violence against women and girls in your communities, support counseling programs that will heal the wounds of adolescent girls that have experienced torture, sexual violence and neglected by communities. We have to let men understand why they need to be part of these campaigns. Make it Happen now, make a commitment. My commitment is to continue working with and empowering adolescent girls to make meaningful and healthy choices in order to secure a bright future for themselves and their communities. What is your commitment!