Tuesday, March 8 marks International Women’s Day, a celebration of women worldwide that dates back to 1977 when the UN General Assembly challenged its members to declare a day for women’s rights and world peace. The 2016 global theme is: “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step for gender equality”. Picture it!
Global goal no. 5 talks about gender equality. Accelerating this by 2030 needs having a holistic understanding of everyone’s roles in ensuring that we live in a society that accommodates all sexes equally without strings attached.
This is because unlike men and boys, women and girls in Uganda face a wide range of challenges including discrimination, gender based violence, child marriage, low social status, lack of economic self sufficiency, teenage pregnancies and greater risk of HIV/AIDS infection.
Let’s look at the figures. The 2006 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS) found that six in ten women in Uganda (60%) have experienced physical violence since the age of 15 and 86% of the violence women experience in Uganda is from their current or former intimate partner (Intimate Partner Violence). In Uganda today, 20% of girls ages 15 to 19 are currently married and 49% of girls are married before their 18th birthday .
To put this in perspective, In Uganda, like in many African countries, gender discrimination means that women must submit to an overall lower social status than men. For many women, this reduces their power to act independently, become educated, avoid poverty, and/or escape reliance upon abusive men.
Consequently, women continue to face disadvantages in almost all spheres. But again, if we want a gender equitable society, empowering women is not enough. Men and boys should too, be involved in this process. Why?
Most gender initiatives continue to focus on women. This is understandable. But as we argue, we need interventions targeting and supporting men for change. But again, men can only help in this cause and speed up progress if they are made to believe in it.
Therefore, we must also empower men. Of course, not in the conventional sense by giving men more power over women. Rather, by empowering men to challenge prevailing norms and change their behaviors.
This is what we are seeking to achieve this year under the “Boys for girls and men for women” campaign. Boys and men need to be involved at the center of achieving global sustainable development goal (SDG) no. 5 which emphasizes gender equality and empower women and girls.
As RAHU commemorates International Women’s Day at Kisubi High School with our guest Vanessa Mdee from Tanzania together with inspirational speakers and our cultural icons, let us continue to recognize women and girls in Uganda for all the advances and contributions they have made. But let us also ’empower women by empowering men’ and recognize that we need new approaches and huge efforts to achieve this objective.
Follow the conversation online using the hashtag #BoysForGirls