The page highlights the findings of the student following the questionnaire guide and Focused Groups Discussions (FGD) conducted among the key informants and general community members regarding the participation of Women in planning and decision making. The student summaries of the law and women rights, decentralization and Local Government Act (1997). The student conducted FGD with 12 members of the community; 6 women and 6 men. Questions were discussed and responses generated and recorded by the student. Interviews were also conducted; 10 respondents were mobilized and interviewed on the questions developed in the questionnaire. Sensitization meeting was also conducted to raise awareness on the human and women rights where 12 women and 3 men participated.
A number of legal structures have been put in place to empower women. Some of which include; The Uganda constitution (1995), Article 32 of Affirmative action on girl’s education where girls going to university get additional 1.5 points. Health policies that give women power to go for voluntary counseling and testing for HIV/AIDS services without needing any consent from their husbands. Civil Society works such as that of Uganda Association of Women Lawyers (FIDA-Uganda), (http://fidauganda.org) have supported women whose rights have been violated. The Uganda Constitution (1995), the Uganda National HIV/AIDS policy and HIV and AIDS prevention and control Act (2014), the Uganda Human Rights Commission Act (1997), UN Women Act, Judiciary Act, all empower women to participate in planning and decision making. It is important to note that the Local Government Act (1997), amended (2010) and Decentralization policy have importantly led to promotion of women’s rights to participation in planning and decision making in Uganda.
The understanding of women participation in planning and decision making among the respondents and focused group discussions is the; “ability for women to influence actions and raise their voices on issues concerning them” said by Nakiru Margaret. It means women involved in projects in the community, e.g. road works, health, education, as well as taking part in the development process of the community with women’s ideas and views appreciated and considered by community members.
From participants point of view, a number of factors undermined the women from participation in planning and decision making; culture for instance, puts emphasis on work overload at home, making the women take a lot of time and thus fail to participate. Long distance places that discourage women in taking part in planning and decision making meetings, thus favoring certain categories like that of men.
Low levels of literacy as well as limited opportunities for diversification among women coupled with lack of financial support for women. When it comes to information, women have limited access to it and so do not get the necessary information for planning and support decision making. This limited access to information is linked to lack of platforms through which women can participate actively without intimidation from men. Absence of communication channels such as radios for women has also contributed to inadequate participation of women in planning and decision making.
However, women can best participate in planning and decision when they are encouraged to involve in community meetings, Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA) where they can come together to discuss issues of concern as they do the weekly savings. It can also be by taking advantage of women’s presence in parties, weddings, marriages, churches and creating awareness on the need to increase women’s participation in planning and decision making. Women working together on public works such as; access roads, desilting of dams, breaking of stones aggregates, enabling environment to support women take decisions on the use of income accrued from stone aggregates would be one of the ways women can best participate in planning and decision making.
Women participation in health especially on HIV/AIDS is seen as involvement of Village Health Teams (V.H.Ts) who provide first aid treatment to community members before they are referred to the health centers. The V.H.Ts who in most cases are composed of women, pay attention to people living with HIV/AIDS. They counsel patients and refer them for better treatment in health centers and hospitals. Supporting women education to reduce low levels of literacy that limit women’s participation in planning and decision making as well as by promoting community dialogues between men and women on HIV/AIDS issues, and encouraging gender friendly services enables women engagement in community development process and more so in health.
Mass mobilization of women to participate in sensitization meetings will benefit women in planning and decision making in Kambisi community. Promotion of exchange visits for women so as to learn good practices of how women elsewhere in the world take part in planning and decision making in their community development and encouraging women to be in groups such as mothers Union that help them come together and share information, thus increasing women participation in planning and decision making.
Promotion of radio talk shows to create awareness on the need to increase women’s participation in planning and decision making in all spheres of life and enacting of bye laws to strengthen women participation in planning and decision making e.g. women involvement in health, education, good hygiene and sanitation activities can lead to increased women participation in planning and decision making. Improving welfare of women, continuous incorporation and implementation of women’s ideas into plans generated during the village planning meetings will encourage women to mobilize fellow women to take part in planning and decision making in the community.
Men should also encourage their wives to take part in planning meetings conducted near their homes as well as provide translation for women groups that have literacy challenges. This would increase women participation, planning and decision making in the community.
It is also important to note that there are opportunities such as; Uganda Gender Policy (2007), The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, Article 32 of Affirmative action, promote gender mainstreaming in all government ministries, programmes and projects. Deliberate effort by the government of Uganda to increase numbers of women in leadership positions e.g. the speaker of Uganda’s Parliament is a woman, ministers of education and lands are women, the directors for Kampala City Council Authority (K.C.C.A), Uganda Revenue Authority (U.R.A) and Uganda National Roads (U.N.R.A) are all women. All these point to opportunities given to women by the government of Uganda.
Women managing local, national and International organizations are emerging up in Uganda and this can be an evidence that women participation in planning and decision making is happening in small scale. In Karamoja, organizations such as Matheniko Development Forum (M.A.D.E.F.O) is headed by a woman. Uganda Women’s Network (U.W.O.N.E.T), (http://www.uwonet.or.ug/womens-leadership-and-democratic-governance/), Anti-Corruption Coalition (A.C.C), Association of Women Lawyers- (FIDA Uganda), (http://fidauganda.org/pages/about-us/our-team/), DIAKONA, Uganda (https://www.diakonia.se/en/Where-we-work/Africa/Uganda/), International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR), (http://iirr.org/about/staff-members/uganda-country-office/) in Uganda have women as leaders that are influential to society. This shows evidence of increasing women participation in planning and decision making in communities, including Kambisi community.
Women have occupied political space, right from local council one chairpersons to national level. Nakiru Mary was among the candidates who contested for LC1 chairperson seat in Lopotipot Village. She said, ‘I contested among 3 men but managed to win and was elected as LC1 chairperson in that village”. Today, she is happy to be among men in taking decisions that affect women and the general community. After Riamiriam Civil Society Network (R.S.C.N) trained women in a community parliament, women in Moroto and Amudat districts (Karamoja-Uganda), picked courage and campaigned for various political posts and most of them won the elections at various levels, resulting to the appointment as district vice chairperson for Amudat and district speaker for Moroto.
“I took a decision to buy uniform, books and pens for my primary six child.” Said Akello Catherine. This means that women have in some cases taken decisions in favor of education of their children. The women participation in taking decision to buy uniforms and books for their children such decisions can be against the will of their husbands in some cases. In agriculture, women take decision to produce food and sell surplus for income to supplement nutritious diets in the household. They decide which crops to be planted and how the harvest should be managed, when income is earned. Alice Longora had this to say; “Women take decisions to determine the size of the family, own capital assets including the inherited properties of their spouses when they pass away and manage the nutrition of children at household level.” These are various ways the women exercise decision making.
From the awareness meeting respondents pointed out the marginalized categories of people such as; women, girls, people with disability, people living with HIV AIDS, these categories of people have now been protected by the constitution. Besides that, they have also been supported by article 32 of the affirmative action. Their participation in planning and decision making in various areas has greatly increased as a result of being supported by the laws of the country. “We are happy to know that the Constitution protects the rights of women from violation. We shall make sure that we exercise our rights” Said Margaret Achila.
Women had this to say; “women should explore opportunities to resolve their misunderstandings before they take issues to the law because sometimes men whose wives take them to court end up divorcing and instead, children suffer”. There should be some attempts to resolve cases at family level before going to court. However, rural women often know how to resolve their issues through the women council courts in the rural areas. It is important that the women in the urban areas learn to do the same.
Decentralization has enhanced participation of all stakeholders including women in planning and decision making from village, parish, sub county, district and national levels. Women are able to connect with the different leadership structures in the village, parish, sub county and district. Participants pointed out the leadership at the district level i.e., Local Council V (LCV) chairperson, Resident District Commissioner (RDC) and Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). Councilors at parish, village and sub county levels that have been elected to power as representatives of the voiceless. Women are able to know their leaders who have a duty to deliver services such as; health, education, roads and water for their communities. Communities including women have realized that they have rights to demand for these services. They realized that public goods like boreholes should be for the general community and should not be owned by an individual where the borehole is located.
Conclusion and recommendations:
Laws and policies in Uganda provide more opportunities to women and increasing sensitization as well as creating awareness on the rights of the women enables increase in participation of women in planning and decision making. Awareness and involvement of all enables increased participation of women and reduces chances of men violating the rights of women.
Mass mobilization of women to participate in sensitization meetings, form themselves in saving groups and promotion of radio talk shows to create awareness can benefit women in planning and decision making in their communities.
It can be recommended that decentralization be strengthened to support women’s participation in planning and decision making since it enables the women take part in various leadership positions. It is also important to recommend the involvement of men in meetings that are meant for women, rather than isolating the women and leave men behind, enable men appreciate the issues affecting women. Besides the above, use of role models should be promoted by using the existing women icons in the country. This will enhance the women participation in planning and decision making in this community of Kambisi.
The Uganda Constitution (1995)
The Uganda Local Government Act (1997)
Uganda National HIV/AIDS policy and HIV and AIDS prevention and control Act (2014),
Uganda Human Rights Act (1997). http://uhrc.ug/uhrc-mandate. Retrieved 9:45 pm, 17th, Oct, 2017