As Uganda joins the rest of the world to commemorate ‘Women’s day’ there is need for society to incorporate gender transformative approaches in order to achieve gender Equality!
Harmful gender norms and values are root causes of gender inequality and a leading cause of poor Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) outcomes among young women world over. It will be hard to achieve gender equality when women in Sebei are forcefully mutilated, when young girls in Buganda, Ankole, Kigezi, Busoga etc have their Labia elongated in preparation for marriage, what marriage are you preparing a 12-year-old girl for? There is no gender equality when young girls are forcefully married off? There is need to transform the harmful, inequitable gender norms and values if Uganda is to make gender equality a reality!
There is need to ensure women and young people have access to sexual reproductive health needs and services like contraceptives, HIV testing and counseling, affordable maternal care services etc!
If we are still struggling with 25% teenage pregnancies, 28% unmet need for modern contraceptives, 336 deaths in 100,000 births mortality rate, with over 300,000 unsafe abortions annually, with 200,000 women living with fistula then gender equality is still a dream. This calls for the need to focus on transformative approaches that will give women an opportunity to overcome these hindrances.
Therefore as the country takes stock of the progress made towards promoting women’s rights and empowerment there is need to review the country’s progress towards the Beijing Plan of Action (Beijing 25+) and sustainable development goals including SDG 5 which calls for Gender Equality and ofcourse the recent commitments by President Yoweri Museveni during the 2019 Nairobi summit where he committed to reducing the unmet need of family planning from 28% to 10% by 2022 and elimination of female genital mutilation.
It is true that promotion of women’s empowerment has been an integral component of various national policies and program frameworks for various sectors including governance, education, health, agriculture etcetera.
Globally no country has fully attained gender equality; elements like sustained harmful cultural norms, limited policy implementation, and gender based violence, high illiteracy levels, poverty among others have been a major limitation.
It is also true that several Sexual reproductive Health challenges like Menstruation, teenage pregnancies, body changes , access to contraceptives, unsafe abortions and HIV/AIDS have hindered young girls from growing to realise their full life potential, most of these challenges have shuttered their dreams, therefore it is the role of everyone especially those in the SRHR sector and government to prioritize gender transformation especially for young women.
Gender transformation encourages critical awareness of gender roles while encouraging the questioning of negative consequences of certain harmful inequitable gender norms like FGM, and looking at the advantages of changing these gender norms and roles, and in the long run empowering women and girls to make informed decisions about their bodies and roles in society
There is need to train these girls to look beyond their gender roles but their contribution to sustainable development, there is need to create a world where both girls and boys can qualitatively compete for the same opportunities.
There fore if Uganda is to achieve gender equality, there is need to address power imbalances and transform negative sexual and gender norms into positive ones.
According to Rutgers’ toolkit on Gender Transformative Approach, when this approach is incorporated in SRHR programming while engaging girls, boys, women and men, in the long run gender inequality is addressed.
So as we celebrate this year’s Women’s day with the theme, ‘I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights’ lets critically think of gender roles and norms we can transform in order to empower women and give them an opportunity fully enjoy their rights and qualitatively contribute to economic development.
Gender equality looks beyond putting women in positions, but recognizing their rights and working on hindrances that limit more women from taking up such positions.
Nabaasa Innocent is a Program Officer SRHR Alliance and Freelance Journalist