The Women's Movement spearheaded by the Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE) recently launched the Uganda Women's Agenda to inform government, political parties, and other stakeholders about the critical issues to be addressed if meaningful development and empowerment of women is to be realised within the next five years.
This agenda contains 11 pillars on education, health, economic empowerment, democracy and governance, information, communication and technology, environment, women with special needs, human rights and the law, peace, human security and dignity, institutional mechanisms for the achievement of gender equality and Uganda in regional and international contexts.
Ugandan women across age, livelihood, religious affiliation, and political ideology have since the 1996 elections presented priority issues to government and political parties and we are glad that this time, the youth and citizens have also presented their own manifestos. Women recognise the commendable measures the government of Uganda and other stakeholders have taken to promote women's empowerment; they are nonetheless concerned that while the status of women has significantly advanced, progress has been uneven and slow.
About 16 women in Uganda die every day from pregnancy and childbirth-related complications, many of which are preventable. There is rampant corruption in the delivery of drugs, including essential drugs for HIV/Aids patients and mosquito nets for pregnant mothers and children. Women want an improvement in the maternal healthcare system to save the lives of Ugandan mothers. Girls and women have lower literacy levels compared to men and boys, which limits their participation in many development processes.
The quality of education remains contentious, with key concerns on the inability to focus on education that enhances innovation and encourages people to explore their abilities. Women want an education system that equips Ugandan citizens with self-sustaining, competitive and employable skills. Women make up the biggest proportion of actors in agriculture and small-scale businesses who contribute to the economic growth of this country. Most women are not identifying with this growth because they are still among the poorest.
The government should strengthen the regulatory framework that promotes equal ownership and control of productive assets like land; they demand for increased access to favourable financial credit services, markets, and information on available opportunities. Women appeal for ‘fifty-fifty' gender parity for all elective and appointive positions within government and political party leadership structures.
Disasters and conflict-induced displacement often force rural women to migrate in search of shelter and livelihood exposing them to exploitation and maltreatment. Women must be involved in planning and implementation of environmental conservation and peacekeeping operations at all levels.
Women with disabilities, the elderly, women in detention and widows are prone to sexual abuse, land, and property grabbing, having their voices silenced in the name of morality, abuse by state and non-state actors. Women want enforcement of gender-sensitive laws and demand policy and legal framework reforms that protect women's rights. With 2011 elections approaching, women hope for violence-free and fair election process to allow men and women, people with special needs, people in hard-to-reach areas and people under detention to vote their leaders without fear or intimidation.
This agenda is of significant value to women and as we go into the 2011 elections women appeal to all political aspirants to adopt this agenda when elected into office in order to realise human rights development and an improvement in the lives of both Ugandan women and men.