Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right but a pre-condition for sustainable development. Providing women and girls with quality education, health care, decent work, access, ownership rights over property and technology, equal participation in political and economic decision-making processes will lead to social, economic, and environmental sustainability. Devdiscourse is running a research project, Participatory Monitoring of SDGs with an aim to generate the data needed to close the information gaps and achieve the evidence base needed for robust implementation of the SDGs. Some feedback nodes from the participatory monitoring data stream indicate that the economic opportunities for women in Uganda have increased compared to previous years and this article gleans through the objective interventions that catalysed the process of empowering women in the country.
Uganda is a low-income country, with a young population and relatively high levels of poverty and under-employment. The labour force is characterized by low skills and low productivity. The majority of Ugandans live in rural areas and the economy is highly dependent on the agricultural sector, which is the largest employer. Only 13.8% of working women are in formal employment, compared to 27.9% of working men.
According to results from the Uganda Household Survey 2009/10, 75.9% of Ugandans were self-employed, including 86.2% of working women and 72.1% of working men. According to the 2010/11 Census of Business Establishments (COBE), there were 458,106 businesses with fixed premises in the country, 44% owned by females, and 56% by males (256,539). There was a 19% increase in the proportion of women-owned enterprises, up from 37% in 2001/02. The female share of all businesses is lowest in agriculture, fishing, transport and storage, and information and communication technology industry.
The government has taken several steps to increase economic opportunities for both men and women. The initiative started with the study named "Gender and Economic Growth in Uganda: Unleashing the Power of Women" carried out by the World Bank and Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development. The report reflected the concern of the government that without the full economic contribution of both men and women, opportunities for job creation and economic growth are being missed. The report highlighted the need for reducing the cost of business registration and approvals, increasing women's access to finance, increasing women's access to land and site development, streamlining tax administration and customs, reforming labour laws, and increasing access to justice.
As a result, a series of legal reforms were seen which included Equal Opportunities Commission Act 2007, the anti-trafficking in Person Act 2009, the law on Domestic Violence 2010, the anti-Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2010, and Domestic Violence Regulations 2011, etc.
Uganda Women Empowerment Program was another program initiated by the Uganda Government to help improve the Social and Economic well-being of rural women. Also, several international agencies have been providing assistance to the government to increase gender equality and women empowerment. Women's Entrepreneurship Development (WED) Programme of International Labour Organization (ILO) is under operation since 2002 to increase economic opportunities for women entrepreneurs by supporting them in starting, strengthening, and expanding their enterprises. The programme is focused on increasing knowledge about women's entrepreneurship and provides a platform for the voice of women entrepreneurs to be heard and contribute towards shaping policymaking. The WED programme is built on gender equality policies.
UNDP is focused on gender equality and women's empowerment by integrating it into key programme areas on Sustainable Inclusive Economic Development (SIED) as well as Inclusive and Effective Governance (IEG). UNDP supported the Government of Uganda in domesticating global gender norms and standards and implementing the National Gender Policy (2007). UNDP supported the Government in localising and aligning the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including goal number 5 on Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment. SDG 5 has been aligned to the second National Development Plan (NDP II, 2015/16-2019/20) to focus on financing and monitoring women's economic empowerment within agriculture, tourism, and mineral development.
UNDP Uganda Gender Equality Strategy, 2014-17, was intended to upscale gender transformative programming by addressing the causes of gender inequality resulting in an improved status of women and gender equality. The mission of this gender equality strategy was to contribute to the eradication of poverty and the significant reduction of gender inequalities by empowering women, and promoting and protecting their rights.
FAO has launched a 5-year programme on Climate Resilient Livelihood Opportunities for Women Economic Empowerment in Uganda.
Uganda has made significant progress in gender equality and women empowerment, including the formulation of gender-responsive policies and strategies, institutionalization of gender planning in all sectors and increased availability of gender-disaggregated data and information from research.