Create an Equal Playing Field for Women’s Effective Economic Empowerment

With changing times, women have increasingly taken on the breadwinning role which was originally known to be a male role. Women especially single mothers, widows, women with disabilities, have found themselves having to juggle running their homes, parenthood, marriage and career both financially and socially. Despite the double roles, women face a high discrimination rate in the economic sector and access to resources. 

Women have made strides in acquiring employment, owning property especially land, securing income to start small scale businesses and several other achievements however, the largest magnitude of women still struggle to sustain themselves and their families financially. 

Women contribute over 80% to Uganda’s agricultural sector both food crops and cash crops. Despite their tremendous contributions to the sector and the economy, most women do not own land and they have no say on how the proceeds from the harvests are utilized by their spouses. Most of them are dependent upon male family members for access to land. “Women till the land, grow and harvest food but when it comes to selling and using the proceeds from their sweat, the men have an upper hand in decision making,” noted Ms. Irene Ekonga from FIDA Uganda. She added that labour has been feminized at workplaces. “Women are perceived as tools that can produce results for meager pays under harsh working conditions including sexual harassment, violence and inadequate working tools,” She noted. 

Ms. Ekonga made the remarks during the Gender Identity Week organized by Makerere University School of Women and Gender Studies with support from the Embassy of Sweden in commemoration of the International Women’s day under the theme: Empowerment of rural women and girls: Opportunities and challenges. Ms. Ekonga recommended the need for creating effective enabling environments for both men and women for effective social economic transformation.

Despite strides made in having more women joining the labour market, existing data by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics shows that there is still a wide gender pay gap for similar work. According to the Uganda National Household Survey Dataset (2012/2013), women earn 41% of what men are paid in Uganda. For every UGX 90,000 a woman earns, a man earns UGX 220,000. The wage inequality happens regardless of the ones’ work experience or performing highly qualified jobs, amount of work, and level of experience or starters in the labour market. Relatedly, the global pay gap stands at 23% per cent, rising to 40 per cent in rural areas, whereas most of work done by women goes unrecognized. 

Research by ActionAid shows that women spend so much time on invisible unpaid care work within their families and households than their male counter parts, cutting them off from education, political influence and social economic activities. The research further shows that there is a difference between rural and urban women, with rural women spending more time on unpaid work that is production and reproduction. This hinders them from acquiring resources to develop themselves or the communities they leave in and in turn national development. 

Dr. May a Lecturer at the School of Women and Gender Studies while sharing her views on social economic survival: women in paid and unpaid care economy noted that women’s participation in economic activities greatly contributes to the national economy. She therefore emphasized strengthening documentation processed both in paid and unpaid care work and equipping ourselves with appropriate work procedures to avoid work exploitation. 

Evidence has shown that women’s representation in top leadership positions and the boardroom remains low. A study recently launched by the Equal Opportunities Commission on the staffing composition by gender and position held by women in senior decision making levels in the public sector and its implications on gender equality and women empowerment for inclusive growth and development, revealed that the overall staffing composition in the respective ministries departments, Agencies (MDAs) and local governments stand at an average of 34.4% of the total positions in the public sector being occupied by women, whereas men are represented at 65.6%. In ministries, 60.2% of staff are men while women are only 39.8%. In statutory agencies and local governments, women occupy 33.3% and 36.6% of the total filled positions respectively. 

This implies that the proportion of women in the public sector is still low in comparison to that of men which affects efforts to achieve gender equality and women empowerment a key strategy to achieve sustainable inclusive growth and development.

Ms. Perry Aritua the Executive Director of Women’s Democracy Network attributed the blurring women’s rights to unequal access to and control of productive resources by women, low illiteracy levels, lack of extension services by government as well as lack of transparency and accountability.

On women’s effective participation in the development process, Dr. Maggie Kigozi during the Gender identity week noted that despite the challenges facing women in the informal sector namely; information gap, care work which consumes a lot of women's work, and inadequate education, government has put in place initiatives for women and girls' survival in the informal sector such as universal education, functioning and supportive institutions on all levels and infrastructure to enable them participate effectively. 

The tremendous efforts by government, civil society, private sector and several other development partners cannot be disregarded. However, more still needs to be done to empower women economically.