Category Archives: Gender

Link

‘We’re raising our girls to be perfect, and we’re raising our boys to be brave’

Worth watching Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code talking about allowing half of the world’s population to be comfortable with imperfection.

‘Planet 50-50 by 2030‘- International Women’s Day

8th of March marked the International Women’s day and I’d like to tell all young women around the world to remember: ‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent’ as Eleanor Roosevelt said. Throughout history, women have made extraordinary contributions to their societies. Some are well known, some less so but there’s no doubt that in light of the UN goal of becoming ‘Planet 50-50 by 2030’ we still have a long way to go even in the 1st world countries. For far too many women the ability to lead a healthy life without violence and hunger remains a distant aspiration.

Uganda has taken many steps forward in promoting and safe guarding the rights and dignity of women. Yet the gender position is often considered inferior to men. The reasons are countless: customary practices contradicting law against discrimination, deeply rooted patriarchal traditions and poverty – to name just a few.

Let’s start with the good bit: progress has been achieved in the past decades in many areas. Fewer women are dying in pregnancy and childbirth. The access to prenatal health and family planning has improved. The African goal for 100% enrolment of kids in primary schools paved the way for many girls to access education. This has positive implications for other aspects of their lives and is, in fact, good for all of us, men included. Educated women and girls can make informed decisions about their lives.

Yet certain traditional customs amongst Ugandans contradict the country’s laws against sexual and domestic violence. Enforcement of the laws is haphazard and the inherent patriarchal traditions are abiding. Even though many recent laws were enacted to curb domestic violence, it has helped very little to change women’s state of affairs. The poorer the household the higher probability of domestic violence. Estimates vary but as high as 50% of Ugandan women have endured domestic violence at the hands of their partners.

Life of women in Africa is tough. They get married young, often at the age of 14,15, despite the legal age set to 18. After marriage, they immediately start ‘producing’ children. All of the daily chores are typically done by women, sometimes with help from children. In addition to cooking and laundry they also work in the gardens and fetch water often from far away. Most of them did not complete secondary school and lack vocational skills that would open up more opportunities to them. ‘Planet 50-50 by 2030’ established a series of strategic goals to achieve gender equality, which were summarized in twelve critical areas – including education and training of women. Women need more vocational training and help in establishing micro-enterprises which would in turn empower them and encourage to save. At Communities for Development around 80% of the saving group members are women. They are working hard to improve their household financials and providing their children with a brighter future.

To achieve ‘Planet 50-50 by 2030’ – world where all women and girls have equal opportunities and rights by 2030, there’s plenty to be done. From political and regulatory framework through education of boys and girls to worldwide support for the most vulnerable women and girls. Above all of that I’d like to encourage all women to not make themselves feel inferior but to have courage and fight for a more equal world.

IMG_4552 

 

What do Ugandan women want?

If you’re hoping to hear all about their secret dreams – I am sorry to disappoint! In this post I’d like to touch upon a very important in the communities I work with but not only – it touches majority of developing countries. The world’s population is still growing. Nearly all of this growth is concentrated in the developing nations of the world. I’ve read recently that the average number of children in Sub-Saharan Africa is around 6.5 births per woman.

The benefits of planned and/or spaced births are countless: better child’s nutrition, more years of schooling, less maternal deaths. Many women that I talked to want to at least have more years in between ‘producing’ children (an expression widely used for giving birth) or wants to stop having them all together. When most of men desire nearly three times as many additional children as their wives and possess most of the decision-making power in the household you can imagine what outcome this produces. To name a few: excess fertility and worse health for women.

I was intrigued reading a World Bank’s guest post written by Aine McCarthy on the spousal intricacies in family planning. In her research in northern Tanzania, which has a fertility rate of 8.1 births per women, women, on average report desiring an additional 1.4 children and men report desiring an additional 4.5 children. Women also report avoiding contraception due to their husbands’ desires. Interestingly, women who consulted with the community health worker alone reduced their pregnancies by 16 percentage points (relative to the control group), while women in the couple’s treatment group did not significantly reduce pregnancies. This can be down to the former group likely taking advantage of the private information about contraceptive options and, most probably, they may be using contraception discretely.

Where I currently work in Uganda, I have come across only those women who had support and encouragement from their husbands to take up contraception (most likely an implant for 3 years) or to at least space out births. However, most of them already have on average 4 children. The contraception is free and can be obtained in local health clinic and to take it out earlier than necessary (in the case of implant) woman has to pay money. So the incentive is to keep it until it needs changing. Simple and it works.

In 2012, the United Nations declared access to contraception to be a “universal human right.” It doesn’t look like this right is being realised for millions of women around the world which has serious consequences for women in developing nations. No doubt, the success of family planning programs depends on many factors, including strong political net, well-designed and implemented programs, adaptation to local conditions, and adequate funding. There are many challenges ahead to support the nations with unmet needs in family planning. Sustainability is another major issue. Programs might need to develop more diverse sources of funding and possibly charge a small fee from consumers so that they continue to become easily available.

What we take for granted in our big rock is quite often the opposite in this part of the world. We just need to remember that.

IMG_2851