Every year on 8th March Uganda joins the rest of the world to celebrate International Women’s Day. It is meant to recognize all women for their achievements regardless of national, ethnic, cultural, economic or political differences. The International Women’s Day was first celebrated in Uganda on 8th March 1985 at State House, Entebbe in recognition of the struggles by women and the need for women to be taken as equal partners in all aspects of development.
The theme for 2012 International Women’s Day celebration is “Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures” adopted from the United Nations that calls on countries to inspire the minds of girls for a future of equality, development and peace. This (2012) is also a year that Uganda celebrates the Golden Jubilee of Independence (50 years). It is an occasion to looking back on past struggles and accomplishments, and more importantly, to look ahead to the untapped potential and opportunities that await future generations of women. The commemoration of this day is a rallying point to build support for women’s rights and their participation in the political and economic arenas.
In Uganda, the theme implores the government and other stakeholders to take further actions to empower the Girl child in order to improve the social and economic status of women. As Uganda celebrates the Golden Jubilee of Independence, it is important to focus on the girl child, re-think and determine the future to look forward for to inspire the women of Uganda and the country at large.
I woke in the morning to the melodies of popular songs by women on most local radio stations such as Juliana Kanyomozi , Angela Kalule, Iryn Namubiru, ……discussions on radio were about women’s day, all the newspapers carried articles about women and congratulatory messages to women that was encouraging. To my amazement my five-year-old twin boys had the previous day hand-made cards with the words “Dear Parents, happy women’s day celebrations- Joel and Jeremy”.
The IWD had never interested me in anyway, since I have always felt it is like any other public holiday in Uganda when I have a chance to rest. This year I joined the rest of the women at Sheraton Gardens for the IWD gallery where various activities were conducted. I spent most of the day in the Women’s forum where the following themes were discussed; strength of a woman,counting on women, generation builders and health of a woman.
Many organisations participated such as Action Aid, icon women, Alliance Francaise, Oriflame, Fina Bank, Pader Girls academy, Population Secretariat, UNFPA, GEM etc.
Strong and moving statements and testimonies were made during the forum that inspired many. I was touched by testimonies from victims of Gender Based Violence, women living with HIV, former abductees of LRA war and a child mother who shared their stories of how they have overcome the challenges of their conditions.
Indeed this day is memorable because, I was able to appreciate that women can get an opportunity to network, learn from each other and be motivated. One other thing that struck me was the revelation by Ms Deborah Kaddu-Serwadda, Executive Director iCon that as women get more and more economically empowered, the husbands have tended to leave more responsibility to the wives. So this is a new challenge coming with the economic empowerment of women. This tally with the message from the Uganda President’s (H.E. Yoweri Museveni) message today during the national celebrations of IWD that took place in Nebbi. He decried the neglect of husbands to their families as they have left wives to shoulder all responsibilities in a household as they take up heavy drinking. However, more progress has been noted in the area of entrepreneurship especially in the hotel and restaurant industry where women dominate the industry. Women where called upon to be strong and thrive amidst challenges but also look for opportunities in challenges. If women are to succeed, they need to overcome prejudices that exist in all spheres of a woman’s life. Ms. Hellen Asimwe from FIDA shared her experience, “I had to first battle the prejudices at home, then the prejudices in the work place, then the prejudices in my society”. Women where also challenged to use their mobile phones for doing business other than just for communicating with friends.
It was noted that women always give it all to others and tend to forget about themselves, thus keeping a healthy life style was very important and women grow older.
Every woman was asked what she can do to ensure more women get empowered in various areas, these are some of the suggestions: mentoring other women, they were encouraged to begin with what they have, networking with other women and organisations. Women are encouraged to share ideas and information and stop being selfish since they can complement each other. Some women like Amollo have written books to share their ideas. She also emphasized that women have the key and solutions to all the problems prevailing in Uganda ranging from governance to peace. Channels for exploiting their futures include access to education and training, providing space and enabling environment to participate in democratic processes, accessing employment especially decent work to earn a living, eliminating discrimination of all forms against girls, including zero tolerance for sexual harassment and abuse in the homes, communities, school and at all work places.
The theme calls for inspiring girls to aim higher in their career development. Inspiring girls through performance recognition of female achievers to motivate the girls to aim higher, connecting girls through strengthening networking and mentoring by successful women managers, entrepreneurs, and politicians, whom the girls can look to as role models. Poems were recited by women like Stella Atal an artist and fashion designer on Female genital mutilation and another poem by another woman (cant remember name) about gender based violence “…..I know he must be sorry because he sent me flowers today….”
The day was crowned by an exhibition of all sorts of items like crafts, local wines.....; children had fun and games; and a live band performed by Suzan Kerunen; one of the best folk pop artists and also a National Tourism Goodwill Ambassador and Executive Director: Know Your Culture Foundation and award of prizes.
Connecting Girls, Inspiring Futures calls for motivating, encouraging and causing enthusiasm within girls to aim for better future; great future, future with dignity for girls; future that allows girls to exploit their potential, giving them space and voice to participate effectively in national development. In this regard, girls need to be connected to opportunities and channels as well as to be provided with environment that will enable them to discover and enhance their potentials for a better future. Girls should be empowered with life skills for self esteem so as to take control of the future lives.
I call upon all women, men, development partners, political, religious and cultural leaders, parents, CSOs, private sector, communities…….to live up to this commitment for the future generation to be better than ours. It was a day worth reckoning!!!
Take action! This post was submitted in response to International Women's Day 2012.