UN Resident Coordinator's remarks at the 10th Parliament Women Legislators Capacity Building Session

Jul 15, 2016

I am profoundly honoured to be part of this gathering today and I want to reiterate our most profound thanks to the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (MGLSD) but also to the Parliament of Uganda for inviting us to join you in this very important event – this inaugural session of capacity building for Women legislators of the tenth parliament.

Honourable Minister with your permission, I would like to invite us all to observe one minute of silence for all the women, children and men who are perishing as a result of violence in the world today – and unfortunately in some locations very close to us including South Sudan, Burundi, Central African Republic and Somalia.

Thank you very much.

I commend the United Nations Secretary General who has demonstrated his commitment to promoting, supporting and nurturing women in senior positions.

But I am also here today because at UNDP’s helm, we have the Administrator who has demonstrated her commitment to appointing, mentoring, defending and supporting women in senior leadership positions. So within the United Nations, we have leaders we have shown us the way and now we have an obligation to sustain that.

I am delighted to note that the United Nations system in Uganda which includes 19 agencies, eleven of which are resident in the country – at least 6 of these are led by women.

I am particularly honoured to demonstrate today that at UNDP we are leading by example and both myself and the Country Director – Almaz Gebru – are women.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As a woman and a leader, training sessions such as the one we have here today, have helped me to perform better in my office. I therefore consider it essential for us as we grow as women leaders at the forefront to attain transparent and accountable governance if we want to make our lives better and our communities going forward.

But these training sessions are not just about governance and leadership opportunities. It’s also about sharing a responsibility that we have to inspire the next generation of women leaders. We must equip ourselves with the necessary skills, knowledge and partnerships if we are to promote a dignified life. Let our girls be girls today so that tomorrow, they can be exemplary women.

Last year was a watershed year for global development efforts including gender equality and women’s empowerment. We celebrated the twentieth anniversary of the landmark Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which calls for achieving greater equality and opportunity for women.

It has also been over 20 years since Uganda, as a follow-up to the commitment made in Beijing, recognised equality of women and men before the law and made provisions in her exemplary Constitution to ensure women’s participation in decision making at all levels.

As we have already heard today, Uganda was the first country in Africa to appoint a female Vice President in 1994.

Congratulations!

It is also the 15th African country to elect a female Speaker of the Parliament in 2011 who has just been re-elected for a second term in office.

Congratulations madam Speaker upon your re-election!

But let us not forget, these women were not elected or appointed because they are women.  They were elected because of their diverse capabilities and a proven record of leadership to deliver lasting results. This message of qualifications, commitment, of your track record to deliver results, is what takes you forward.

I would like to share with you a remark made by Helen Clark, the UNDP Administrator in her speech to Women’s International Forum last year. She said, “I believe it is important for women who do reach the top despite the odds to help build an overall environment in which all women can thrive.”

As a female leader, our skill set and capabilities are very important. We are role models for other women, our performance is constantly being observed with an intensity and scrutiny that our male colleagues do not undergo. It’s important that we recognise this and take this opportunity in this session today to reflect how we are going to manage this in our day to day lives. It has not just begun and it’s not about to end.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It’s humbling to note that the women MPs constitute 32 per cent of the 10th Parliament of Uganda. This figure is significantly higher than the global average for women’s participation in national politics of 22.7 per cent as indicated by Sweden.

As was mentioned by my colleague from UNWOMEN, it is absolutely critical that in introducing ourselves we recognise our achievements. So please, 10th Parliament highlight the fact that you are about the global average everywhere you go and every opportunity you get.

With a critical mass of women in Parliament, we have seen a difference in the laws and policies that are passed, thereby domesticating the global gender norms that were enshrined in the Convention for all Discrimination against Women and the 1995 Beijing Platform of Action.

We have a few examples. The 1995 Constitution prohibits laws and traditions against women’s dignity. More recently, the collective and skilled engagement exhibited by women leaders and gender advocates ensured that Public Finance Management Act (2015), contains provisions that guarantee that policies are gender responsive and specific measures are taken to ensure equal opportunities for men, women, persons with disabilities and other marginalized groups.

Let me use this opportunity to remember that only a woman would look out to ensure that everyone catered for first. So let us recognise this as a strength and skill in everything that we do.

While these efforts are commendable, a lot remains to be done to guarantee that women are fully included in the achievement of national dividends. As women leaders and legislators, we need to address the disconnect between Uganda's extremely positive legal framework and the lack of effective implementation of gender-responsive laws.

This disconnect means that various issues that affect women such as maternal mortality, early child marriages, teen pregnancies, sexual and gender based violence and unemployment among others remain a challenge for Uganda for that wants to become a middle income country very soon.

In addition, access to power, decision making and leadership for women still remains a work in progress. Without our active participation and the incorporation of women's perspective at all levels of decision-making, the goals of equality, sustainable development and peace cannot be achieved. It is therefore important that women’s political participation at all levels is strengthened so that they can have a strong voice in the setting of development policies and priorities.

Allow me to use this moment to call upon you to please leverage and empower our colleagues at the local level - the women in the local councils, the women in their churches, the women in the health centres. What can we do to make sure that they have the knowledge and the right policies to deliver the services that will improve the quality of life of our families, communities and ultimately for the nation of Uganda.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This is why the UN supports efforts such as today to ensure that you have the skills and the partnerships needed enhance decision making where ever you are and whenever you are there.

In September 2015 - last year - Uganda led United Nations General Assembly to adopt a new agenda for development, known as Agenda 2030 and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals. That was Uganda. 193 member states agreed to have a human rights development agenda. What that means is that 192 member states are now looking at Uganda to see how it leads in implementing this new development agenda.

This agenda gives us opportunities and has the potential to make a real difference for gender equality and women’s empowerment. It acknowledges gender equality, which is Goal 5, as a fundamental right and a key driver of progress across all development goals.

We cannot talk about protecting the environment, inclusive business if we do not talk about the role of women in this regard.

The Sustainable Development Goals include targets on eliminating gender-based violence, child marriage, and female genital mutilation; and calls for equal rights to economic resources, including access to land and property which is a critical challenge for women everywhere; equal leadership opportunities; and a more prominent role for women in peace and state building.

I invite you to think as you are here, what can you do from your position to make this a reality for the constituencies that you represent in the tenth Parliament.

As elected leaders of the people of Uganda, you are not only valuable role models but are also champions for these goals. These are not foreign goals. These are natural goals for your constituencies and all nations in the world. I implore you to use your platforms, networks, friends, children and the leaders that you have worked with to get the message of the need for equal opportunities and access in order to improve the quality of life for all in Uganda.

Reach out to the former MPs, leverage their knowledge to get things done. Just because they are no MPs does not mean they forgot everything that they did. So let’s make sure that we reach out and figure out how to expand further, the number of women who are leaders, who can bring change to Uganda at all levels today.

How you use these platforms will be important to determine how Uganda can become an inclusive, sustainable and resilient society where no one is left behind as envisaged by Agenda 2030. And it can also remain a safe haven for so many who come here seeking protection in their time of need.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As I conclude, allow me to reiterate that the United Nations system in Uganda remains committed to;

  • Promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment across all areas of our work;
  • Making sure that the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals makes a difference for every woman, man and child in Uganda.
  • Establishing a strong partnership that transcends our institutions.

Honourable Minister allow me to offer, that as we meet here today, it is my dream and my hope that this gathering will transform itself into a living network. Let us not only connect ourselves because of our votes. But let us become a community of women committed to working together to promote a dignified quality of life for all we meet in our path.

I thank you all.

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