M7 Urges Strong Partnership Between Men And Women

President Museveni with Medallists of the Uganda Police Force. PPU PHOTO.
President Museveni with Medallists of the Uganda Police Force. PPU PHOTO.

Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni called upon all women and men of Uganda to work together in partnership in order to address the challenge of poverty and move into a transformed and prosperous era.

The president made these remarks during the occassion to mark International Women’s Day, 8th March 2014.

Below is his full speech

Leaders of the Government and the Party, Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I salute you all on this International Women’s Day. I thank you for turning up in large numbers to the celebrations to commemorate the International Women’s Day.

I am particularly pleased that we adopted a guiding theme that is in line with Vision 2040 and the eight objectives of the National Development Plan. All these can only be achieved with strong partnerships between women and men at all levels.

Our National Vision Statement is “A Transformed Ugandan Society from a Peasant to a Modern and Prosperous Country within 30 years”. To achieve the aspirations as stated in this Vision, we need to have the right attitudes and mind-sets, particularly towards work, improving our competitiveness and collective participation in its implementation. Implementing Vision 2040 will not be merely by words but by actions at the level of every individual and every homestead.

Our major constraints which hinder our development are mainly gender inequalities, negative attitudes towards work, mindsets, cultural practices and perceptions. These must be addressed in order to achieve sustainable and equitable development. This can only be addressed through partnerships at different levels between men and women, boys and girls as well as partnerships between various sectors and actors in the development process.

In order to ensure wealth creation and prosperity for all as envisioned in the NRM ideology, building partnerships is a matter of urgency and of utmost importance. To take one example, partnerships in small business development between men and women is a foundation for community empowerment to enhance marketing and competitiveness.Uganda’s population currently estimated at 36.6 million is predominantly rural, with only 15% living in the urban areas. Women constitute 51.2% of the population with a sex ratio of 95 males per 100 females. This implies that if development is to be fair, women’s contributions in social, political and economic spheres should not only be solicited, but should be deliberately promoted for equitable and sustainable development.

Over the years, the NRM Government has put in place mechanisms for ensuring that women are at the centre of socio-economic transformation. The constitutional provisions for equality and non discrimination, the Affirmative Action policy, decentralization policy and all related strategies are proof of this.The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, Articles 32, 33 and 180 guarantee equality between men and women which is a good starting point for building partnerships for development purposes. The results of our efforts are very outstanding for all to see, and this is in almost all the sectors. For example;

• Women’s participation in decision making has improved during National Resistance Movement regime. Uganda’s current 9th Parliament comprises 375 members with 129 (34.4%) women Members of Parliament (MPs) – an increase from the 31% in the 8th Parliament and from 2% in the Independence Parliament of 1962. Uganda has a fair share of female representation at cabinet level. There is an increase in the number of women in the cabinet, from 16 (25%) in the last cabinet to 23 (28%).

• In the health sector, government has put in place the infrastructure and systems to deliver health services to all. The minimum health care package takes care of maternal needs and the health infrastructure reaches all levels. As a result of the improved health care infrastructure and system, 95% of mothers receive antenatal care from a skilled provider, 58% of births are assisted by a skilled provider while 54% of children are immunized.

• In the Education sector, the UPE and USE programmes as well as the Affirmative Action Policy of 1.5 points are incentives for households to send their children, particularly girl children, to school and this has led to increased enrolment of girl children. As a result of UPE and USE programmes, the literacy levels of women have increased from 56% in 2006 to 64% in 2011. In 1986, the women literacy level was 37.7%.

• Through education, training and advocacy, the number of female teachers has increased in schools and this increase has had a strong positive impact on girls’ education through attendance and completion. The presence of women in schools also impacts positively on girls’ retention in school and on their achievement. A female role model can support and encourage girls to successfully complete their studies and maybe even continue studying to become teachers, themselves.

• At the school policy level, women teachers act as advocates for girls, representing their perspectives and needs and promoting more girl-friendly learning. Thus women teachers play key roles in educating and socializing children beyond gender stereotypes and so are crucial agents of change.

• In the Land Act and Mortgage Act, we have protected women’s land rights as owners and users. As a result of these good laws, currently, four in ten (40%) of women own a house and /or land, mostly jointly with a husband.

• In the energy sector, the proportion of households with access to electricity has increased. Since 2006, access in urban areas has increased from 42% to 55% while in rural areas; the proportion of households with access to electricity has increased from less than 3% to 5%. This has improved the standard of life for rural women particularly since it helps them save time spent on domestic chores for more productive work.

• Increased telecommunication coverage has helped women to communicate, make money through ownership of telephone booths and also market their produce. Between 2006 and 2011, the percentage of rural households owning mobile phones increased more than fivefold, from 10% to 53%. In the urban areas, the growth of 64% was registered in the same period. The introduction of mobile money services has further improved businesses through availing financial services more efficiently.

• The NRM government has put major focus on infrastructure development. In addition to main tarmac roads that connect different districts, focus has also been put on murram roads which enable women to access local markets, hospitals and schools.

• In the agricultural sector, we are in the process of restructuring NAADS in order to ensure that women benefit.

I now want to address myself to the vice of Violence against women and girls. Violence against women, disempowers women but also impoverishes families. I have always wanted the perpetrators who rape women and defile young girls not to get bail and I am glad that the NRM caucus is supporting me on this. What we need now are strong partnerships at community level to enforce these laws in order to have peace at family level.

I am now calling upon men to partner with women in order to increase access to the available government services. We need to build partnerships to enhance access and utilization of the available health services. Both access and utilization of health services is a sensitive matter at family level where dialogue, consensus and partnerships are crucial. To take one example, the effectiveness of reproductive health services including family planning , as well as HIV/AIDS prevention and care services require consent of a couple.

In the education sector, I am calling upon all parents to ensure that the work done at family level is shared between boy and girl children. This is done in the traditional families. Boys dig in the garden, look after cattle and goats while the girls care for siblings, fetch water and firewood as well as cooking. With cattle keepers, the girls deal with milk – churning milk (okuchunda), kwitira (perfuming the milk pots) etc, etc. The traditional home in the areas I know well actually fairly distribute the work between boys and girls. The discrimination comes with school completion. When a choice is to be made as to who should continue with education or not, it is the girl who is normally the victim. This must stop.

The key to prosperity is participating in the four economic sectors: commercial agriculture, industry, services and Information communication technology (ICT). This is apart from the public service where the women are active already.Any training – formal or informal – that does not lead to a woman joining one of these five is a waste of time. How will she live? How will she support her family? Modern needs are money and food needs. All focus must be on these 5: commercial agriculture, industry, services, ICT or public service. If there is a sixth one, you should let me know.

In order to attain a transformed Ugandan society from a peasant to a modern and prosperous country as stated in the vision, we need to enhance socio-economic empowerment and reduce household poverty. To achieve this, we need to promote partnerships between women and men through mobilizing them to participate in government programmes at all levels. Mobilizers should encourage women to participate and engage in income generating activities in their communities and mentoring programmes should be established for knowledge sharing and skills development.

I challenge all leaders to seriously consider the role of men in achieving gender equality. To this end, it is important to note that gender equality does not mean women ruling over men, but it rather guarantees a level playing field absent of all forms of discrimination that prevail against women.

Although this is Women’s Day, I would like to use this occasion to brief the country about the Identity Card Project. We have for long needed a reliable and easily traceable identity card that is also difficult to forge (counterfeit). We are about to achieve that through acquiring a computerized identity card which has got one’s picture, bio-data (name, height, etc) and a thumb-print (ekinkumu). All this information will be linked with a central memory, which will be linked with the smaller computers at the Sub-County or the mobile ones. This system is very crucial for an accurate voters register (including that of NRM), stopping debt defaulters from taking loans from multiple banks, stopping ghost Public Servants (civil servants, soldiers, policemen etc), handling pensions (no ghosts), stopping crime (finger prints will be easily traceable), tax collection (all tax payers and their businesses will be stored in the computer) etc, etc. It will be easy to record people who are: (born, those who die), know the foreigners and distinguish them from the citizens, population statistics for easy planning purposes etc, etc. I am glad the different departments which were not harmonized are now engaged in a common effort to computerize and capture the identities of Ugandan. These are: Uganda Bureau of Statistics; Uganda Registration Services Bureau; the Electoral Commission; the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration; and the National Information Technology Authority. Previously, all these were working at cross-purposes. I am glad they are now working together to produce an accurate, non-counterfeitable record of the Ugandans identity. Gen. Aronda has assured me that by April, 15th 2014, their teams will be in the Parishes recording people’s identities. Support them. As far as Women are concerned, with this computerization it will be easier to trace rapists by identifying their DNA from the semen they would have left in the victim, not to mention finger-prints.

I extend my best wishes to you all for a happy Women’s Day, and call upon all women and men of Uganda to work together in partnership in order to address the challenge of poverty and move into a transformed and prosperous era.

For God and my Country.

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