Gender Minister Janat Mukwaya (front R) Speaker Rebecca Kadaga (C), Amb. Adonia Ayebare and Gender Ministry Permanent Secretary, Pius Bigirimana (back R) at the UN women assembly in New York on Monday, March 12,

The Minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development, Janat Balunzi Mukwaya has called for enhanced women’s financial empowerment through among others, the institution of affirmative action measures for women to benefit from a fixed percentage of the tenders for the supply of goods and services in public procurement.

Mukwaya noted that women and girls form a larger portion of the population whose activities have a bearing on economic production, care and support to families as well as community management, and argued that their economic empowerment would greatly contribute to sustainable development.

She made the observation while delivering a statement at the opening of the 62nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) taking place at the United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York.

The international assembly is held every year to discuss progress and chart new strategies for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women especially in alignment with the 2030 global agenda for Sustainable Development.

The conference that runs from 12th – 23rd March, 2018, is being attended by representatives of UN Member States, UN entities, and accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from all regions of the world.

It’s being held under the theme: ‘Challenges and Opportunities in Achieving Gender Equality and The Empowerment of Rural Women and Girls’.

Other members of the Uganda delegation include the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga, the Gender Ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Pius Bigirimana, and Uganda’s Permanent Representative at the UN, Ambassador Adonia Ayebare, who are representing Uganda.

The minister said the Government of Uganda had made tremendous strides in improving the environment within which rural women and girls live and operate.

She noted that as Uganda’s overarching planning framework, the National Development Plan is aligned to the 2030 global development agenda and ensures that no one is left behind.

Mukwaya said policy and legal reforms had been undertaken in the land sector to guarantee women rights to access, utilization and ownership of land.

She also enumerated investments in agricultural production, expansion of road and communication infrastructure, enhancing human capital development, the quality of education, health and all social services plus exploration in the Energy and Minerals as among those spurring economic growth and transformation of the society.

“These investments have generated concrete results especially increased access to safe water for rural communities, Health services, immunization coverage and antenatal care for pregnant women, and deliveries attended to by a skilled health worker have been brought closer and all improved the quality of services over the last 5 years.” She revealed.

“We have attained gender parity in school enrollment at primary school level and 47% for girls at Secondary Education level. Women participation in leadership at all levels has increased to more than critical mass of the global standard set in Beijing.” She added.

She hinted that improvement and expansion of the national, feeder and community road networks has provided the population in rural areas with access to markets and other services while more people in rural areas are being connected to the national electricity grid, use solar energy and improved cooking stoves.

The minister noted that in an effort to economically empower women, government two years ago initiated the Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme (UWEP), which has to date provided funding to over 44,000 women to invest in projects that generate income.

“Similarly, the Youth Livelihood Programme has since 2015, reached over 74,140 female youth (45%) as beneficiaries with skills training and capital for business enterprises.” She said.

She called for enhanced dialogue with women and girls to capture their needs from lived experience in policy formulation, planning and programming.

“They want to see themselves being consulted on issues that affect them and working closely with all stakeholders to effect the required actions.”

Mukwaya also recommended that all forms of Gender Based Violence (GBV) including child marriage, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) be addressed through strategies for prevention and response that bring on board men and boys as behavioral change agents and advocates.

“Let’s also Support women and girls to attain education, life skills and literacy including financial literacy as a spring board for holistic development,” she added.

Meanwhile, Uganda is scheduled to hold a side event on Thursday, 15th March, 2018 focusing on transforming the lives of rural women and girls through gender and equity budgeting.

The Uganda Gender Policy of 1997 revised in 2007 identifies gender as a cross cutting concern and mandates all actors (state and non-state actors) to take appropriate actions to address gender inequalities within their mandate. Within this framework, gender mainstreaming is the main strategy to ensure that all MDAs institutionalise gender in policy formulation, planning and budgeting.