Civil society organisations have urged government to strengthen labour rights and well being of women in the informal sector.
They made the plea during a policy dialogue organised by the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) with officials from the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development, Equal Opportunities Commission, Parliament, Uganda Bureau of Statistics, women’s groups in the informal sector, and civil society organisations.
The dialogue was part of a series of engagements following a multi-country scoping study by ICRW in 2021, which assessed the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on informal women workers in urban areas in Uganda and Kenya.
The policy dialogue and study are part of ICRW’s work to advance women’s economic empowerment, efforts supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
This work is generating evidence to strengthen programmes for women working in the informal sector.
“This is an important moment to address the multi-layered impact of Covid-19 on women in both formal and informal work in Uganda and Kenya – and around the world,” said Peggy Clark, CEO and President of ICRW.
“This is also a pivotal moment when government, the private sector, civil society organisations, and women’s groups can come together to create solutions that address not only the current challenges but also the systemic and institutionalised inequities that perpetually serve as barriers for women in the world of work.”
ICRW’s COVID-19 impact study revealed that women in Uganda make up 75 percent of the labour force in the informal sector – due to ease of entry and exit, as well as the flexibility of informal work in accommodating women’s childbearing roles and care responsibilities.
The research has further revealed that women’s vulnerability, unstable income flows, and pre-existing challenges – such as gender-based violence – increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The dialogue set out to bring these challenges to the fore and urge policy actors present to address them and ensure social protections for women in the informal sector are formalised and meaningfully address the challenges women face.
These initiatives were discussed, while other actions to address underlying inequities and longer-term solutions started to take shape.
“In order to create change for women, their families and communities, and the local and global economies, we need all stakeholders in the room to determine solutions that work. Today’s conversation was a promising one, as everyone at the table has a vested interest in women’s economic empowerment and are committed to working together towards that goal,” said Naome Wandera, ICRW’s Africa’s Senior Research and Evaluation Specialist.
Apollo Onzoma from the ministry of Gender noted that the ministry has launched a single registry for social protection in relation to data management in all sectors, and also encouraged everyone in the informal sector to get involved in the National Social Security Fund Act.
Irene Nafungo of the Equal Opportunities Commission, a government Agency responsible for protecting equal opportunities for all noted that they recognise that informal women workers are among the vulnerable and marginalised categories of the population because they are not socially protected and have limited access to funds.
Flavia Rwabuhoro Kabahenda, the Kyegegwa District Woman MP said the idea of social policy is a new paradigm that is taking the right course.
Kabahenda noted that the Uganda Women’s Parliamentarians Association ensures that all women in all sectors and their needs/issues are catered for. They articulate issues concerning women to ensure they are gendered.