Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment is key for the achievement of Sustainable Development – 2016 Africa Human Development Report (AfHDR) says

Sep 29, 2016

Kampala - The United Nations Resident Coordinator, Ms. Rosa Malango has called on Government and various stakeholders to commit to delivering high quality innovative services and investment environment in which women and men can participate equally in Uganda, African and around the world.

This call was made during the national launch of the Africa Human Development Report (AfHDR) whose theme focuses on “Accelerating Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in Africa.”

“Accelerating gender equality must be seen as a core function of government. In addition, it also requires efforts across national and local government, civil society, and the private sector,” Ms. Malango, who is also the UNDP Resident Representative to Uganda pointed out.

She further stated that said policies and programmes, which leave out or disenfranchise women are counterproductive for the achievement of Vision 2040 as well as Agenda 2030 and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) particularly Goal 5 on gender equality.

“Can we agree therefore to develop new behaviours that enable girls to be girls and enable women to share their full potential as productive and constructive members of society?” Ms Malango requested the large gathering of participants from Government, Private Sector, Civil Society and Academia at Serena Hotel in Kampala.

The AfHDR analyses the political, economic and social drivers that hamper African women’s advancement and proposes policies and concrete actions to close the gender gap.

Presenting the report, Ms Yemesrach Workie, the UNDP Uganda Senior Economic Advisor pointed out that Africa’s Human Development Index has improved with East Africa being the fastest improving region on the continent.

“Some countries such as Ethiopia, Uganda, Republic of Congo and Sao Tome and Principe gained in human development as a result of the efforts they have done to reduce inequality. However, many other countries of sub-Saharan Africa have lost over 33% its human development outcome due to gender inequality,” she explained.

Ms. Yemesrach said in Uganda women achieve 88% of the human development outcomes while countries such as Rwanda achieve 96%. This means that Uganda needs to do more across all sectors to achieve gender parity.

To close the gender gap, the report proposes some solutions including; - addressing the contradiction between legal provisions and practice in gender laws; breaking down harmful social norms and transforming discriminatory institutional settings; securing women’s economic, social and political participation.

Uganda’s State Minister for Labour, Herbert Kabafunzaki, who presided over the launch, said the theme of the report speaks to the priorities of the National Development Plan and the NRM government manifesto.

“These strategic frameworks acknowledge that investment in gender equality in Uganda is a means to social economic transformation and attaining a middle income status that is beneficial to us all,” Mr Kabafunzaki said.

Japan’s Ambassador to Uganda, Mr Kazuaki Kameda whose government funded the publication of the report disclosed that the cabinet of Japan developed a new development cooperation charter in February 2015 which provides that “no one should be left behind, aiming at gender equality and women empowerment.”

“As Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kushida mentioned in his speech during the regional launch of the report in Nairobi last month, accelerating gender equality and women empowerment is critical to investing in the future of Africa,” he said.

He added that in Uganda, the Japanese government commitment to gender equality has seen them build girls dormitories and support programmes that save girls from sexual harassment.

Experts speak

An expert panel to disucss the report which included Prof. Maggie Kigozi, a board member of the Uganda Manufacturers Association (UMA) and SDG 5 Ambassador, Mr Richard Ssewakiryanga, the executive director of the Ugandan NGO Forum, Hon. Margaret Komuhangi, the chairperson of the Parliamentary committee and Ms Victoria Byenkya, the Women in Business manager at DFCU bank called on men to become more active in promoting gender equality and women’s advancement

Mr Richard Ssewakiryanga expounded this saying that said gender equality benefits the men more. “Actually men lose more by having unequal relationships. They don’t gain more!” Mr Ssewakiryanga said drawing applause.

“If you are talking about productivity and increasing it, we have to think about the people in the production, be it in agriculture or business,” he said. “If two people are fighting each other, you cannot tell me they will wake up and have that productivity. I think it’s a basic rationale we should start giving to all men so that they become more progressing.” 

Prof. Maggie Kigozi added to this saying that men’s involvement is important because the reason why women achieve only 87% of the human development outcomes is because of the patriarchal society we live in.

 “We were only 5% of us at medical school…women were not allowed to work and all those things that civil society and UNDP have been fighting. So we come with baggage, but we have come a long way,” Prof Kigozi said. “With the gender seal, businesses have signed on, it’s going to be better,” she added.

Hon. Margaret Komuhangi explained that blamed capacity and attrition of female MPs at every election cycle was the reason why it was difficult for them to use their numbers to tilt legislation in favour on gender laws.

“The numbers of women in parliament are few and not all of the will support the gender laws. There also many dynamics involved with politics coming into play. Some of the women MPs may be easily compromised, while others who are strong enough to push the agenda will not make the numbers.” She added.

Ms Victoria Byenkya, described women in Uganda as the harassed gender.

“They lack access to business information, finance, they don’t have collateral, they lack access to business premises; they can’t collect their debts and in some cultures, women are marginalised in education and the human capital is affected,” Ms Byenkya said.

“That is why at DFCU, we are giving them business skills and mentorship,” Ms Byenkya stated.

As pointed out by the experts, the report notes that, women are not paid equally for the same work as men and are mostly likely to be working in vulnerable employment particularly in the informal sector - what it describes as the pervasive gender gap in economic activities that constrains the continent’s achievement of its full economic potential – averaging a loss of about $95 billion annually since 2010 in sub-Saharan Africa.

Bringing this closer to home, the cost of the gender gap in Uganda’s agriculture sector alone is estimated at US$67 million per year, which could construct about 134kms of tarmac road or 8 general hospitals at an estimated cost of approximately US$8 million.

Ms Rosa Malango, UN Resident Coordinator in Uganda, said that while we celebrate the successes, the report was important for Uganda because it “provides an opportunity to start a conversation on gender equality and women’s empowerment.”