In Summary

  • Just as a tale akin to a layer of cream on top of spoilt milk, the larger proportion of women and girls remain lurking in the patriarchal past of Uganda and we must work more honestly to change this reality beautified by political make-up!

Across the world, the commemoration of Women’s Day is met with excitement and cheer as governments account for their contribution to the plight of women.
In Uganda, the focus of Women’s Day has always been to celebrate the ever-increasing number of women in political spaces such as Parliament and Cabinet, as well as the number of women who are heading government agencies and occupying civil society spaces.
These are indeed indicators of many strides taken thus far toward undoing inequality between men and women which has for long characterised the political and socio-economic narrative of our country.

While the quantitative success of affirmative action is clearly visible, especially with regard to political representation, a lot of gaps still lie in the way of achieving true gender equality in Uganda. Sectors like education continue to haunt us with fissures in talk of girl child emancipation. For many of our rural girls, acquiring an education is still but only a privilege as many parents in most rural areas still put to contest the question of valuing education between the girl and boy children; more often than not, the lot being cast in favour of the boy child.

Our country boasts of gender parity at enrolment in Primary education that is quickly followed by a sharp decline in the number of girls who proceed through the seven years of primary education. The tale gets even more saddening when it comes to enrolment at secondary level where almost half the girls fail to proceed beyond primary education, this disparity between the girl and boy child is simply unacceptable. With today’s largely privatised education sector where access to quality education is very expensive, the failure to access food while at school under the UPE scheme makes it further impossible to study long hours with maximum concentration. And very recently, the contentious issue of access to sanitary towels and sanitary facilities for girls who are at school is yet another glaring indicator of how far down the girl child has been placed in the emancipation ladder.

It is a notorious fact that during the 2016 election, among the numerous pledges made by the President was that of providing sanitary towels to girls as a means of cubing the dropout rate and enable the girl child stay in school through their challenges of nature. Thirteen months later, the pledge stands unfulfilled. Parliament itself held a debate on the fulfilment of this pledge even after they had done so in 2015, maintaining the same conclusion; that girls must be supported to stay in school through government provision of these services. As we celebrate the big numbers of women in high political offices, we must realise that their numbers tell an illusionary story about the position of girls and women in society.
Just as a tale akin to a layer of cream on top of spoilt milk, the larger proportion of women and girls remain lurking in the patriarchal past of Uganda and we must work more honestly to change this reality beautified by political make-up!
Anna Adeke,
annaadeke@gmail.com