The 2018 theme for this year’s International Women’s Day is #PressForProgress, with the organisers of the movement describing how “While we know that gender parity won't happen overnight, the good news is that across the world women are making positive gains day by day…there’s indeed a very strong and growing global movement of advocacy, activism and support”.
The UNDP Gender Assessment in Uganda states that “Attitudes, beliefs and practices that serve to exclude women are still deeply entrenched throughout the country. This means that unbalanced power relations between men and women continue to have a negative impact on women's agency, their human capital development, and their ability to contribute equitably to Uganda's growth and prosperity”.
Our local partners in Uganda have a strong focus on ensuring opportunities for women. Many women are involved in the running of the Child Protection Teams, which form the foundation of the work here, in a number of slum communities, mainly around Jinja. The teams deliver training on a myriad of issues, enabling local people to create a protective environment for their children. Workshops also include family planning, women’s rights and domestic violence.
COTE Africa Team member Winnie Biira says “The women and girls have become aware of their rights and have built up their self esteem and confidence to the point that they are bold enough to report domestic violence cases and child abuse cases to the authorities. This boldness I am certain will bring change to the communities and the world at large”. Social worker Nandawula Babra adds how “For battered women, I link them to different public offices which support women in need and train them on their rights. I know they can stand up for their rights if they are properly empowered”.
A recent report by UN Women stated that only 49% of women in Uganda make their own decisions about regarding sexual relations, contraceptive use and health care. In Loco slum, Project Manager Edwin Wannabe describes how “…there can be a cycle of poverty and problems that follow families from one generation to the next. A child of a child mother is therefore more likely to become a child mother as well, and experience issues similar to the ones their mothers had. Additionally, once a girl is a child mother, she is more likely to experience more unplanned pregnancies since many child mothers are not financially independent and rely on relationships for support”.
Children on the Edge Africa has enabled 16 young mothers to attend a pilot programme that trains these them in hairdressing skills and financial management, whilst teaching on reproductive health and family planning. With these components, those involved are able to learn about finance and business, be encouraged in empowering themselves and other women and girls in the community, as well as becoming aware of preventative measures for unplanned pregnancies.
The majority of our hundreds of small business loans in Uganda go to women who are able to build a solid income and consequently afford to send their children to school. Winnie Mutesi is 25, and had finished senior level four at school, and completed a course in pharmacy and production before she moved to Nkere. After moving she was unable to find a job and her husband was often away fishing, leaving her unable to provide for herself and her two children.
After receiving a loan from Children on the Edge Africa, Winnie was able to begin her own pharmacy business in her home. She started by purchasing tablets, injections and some basic first aid equipment from the main pharmacy in Jinja, and now effectively treats up to five clients a week for illnesses such as malaria and typhoid. She also offers first aid to those who need it, and charges a small fee for treatment, which enables her to invest in further items.
Winnie loves helping people and has become well known in her community. Her fees are far cheaper than treatment would cost at the health centre, people respect her and are grateful and appreciative of her work. She recently spoke to the drug inspector who told her to find somewhere permanent to work from, so she is currently saving any extra money she makes to try and rent a small shop in a nearby market community. With time, she would like to do more training and gain further certification. Winnie’s ultimate dream is to become a nurse.
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