The week of 8th March is globally recognised as the international Women’s week. I continue to celebrate all women of all ages, colour and forms. These mothers, sisters, friends, wives, daughters, managers, leaders name it can never be replaced for anything.
This year we celebrate women in leadership, when women lead, we see positive results. Some of the most efficient and exemplary responses to the COVID-19 pandemic were led by women. And women, especially young women, are at the forefront of diverse and inclusive movements online and on the streets for social justice, climate change and equality in all parts of the world. Yet, women under 30 are less than 1 per cent of parliamentarians worldwide.
Working with the social sector and the women’s movement for many years, I have come to prove that when women decide to do something they will not rest until all women are free. This notion references to the role of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in transforming Gender equality, it’s critical to “Leave no Woman or Girl behind”.
Women comprise more than 51% of the world’s population and without them SDGs cannot be achieved. The SDGs have brought a breath of fresh air due to the participatory manner in which gender equality has been embedded in all the 17 goals. This therefore provides an opportunity for women and girls to position themselves as key actors in influencing prioritisation of our issues in various sectors or platforms such as Health, financial and market inclusion, business, agriculture, tourism, education, politics among others.
Just like men, women of Uganda deserve an equal future free from stigma, stereotypes and violence; a future that’s sustainable, peaceful, with equal rights and opportunities for all. We need a world where women and girls effectively participate in decision making at all levels, which will drive progress for everyone.
We take stock of the underrepresentation of women in the public life and decision-making, as revealed in the Forum for Women in Democracy research “Reality Check” launched in 2020.
Growth in women’s political representation across Africa is slow and uneven. In some countries, including Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Namibia, South Africa and Senegal, women make up more than 30% of the legislature. The increase in numbers is mainly attributed to the affirmative action policies that were put in place to address the imbalances that have been created by history, culture and tradition. However, women remain poorly represented in a majority of countries on the continent.
In the private sector, Africa has relatively more women as CEOs, on executive committees and playing board roles in companies than the global average. These numbers vary by industry and are much lower in industries that traditionally rely on men for their workforce. Despite the increase, women are still under-represented at every level of the corporate ladder, officer entry level, middle and senior management, and fall in number the higher they climb. In Uganda, the numbers of women in the political sphere are impressive and show promise. However, when one turns to the civil service and private sectors, the numbers of women in decision making remain abysmally low. Gender inequalities persist, obstacles to the advancement of women are still intact and progress is slow. Women join the workforce in both the public service and private sphere in big numbers (at officer entry level) but the percentage of women drastically dwindles as one moves up the ladder.
As we commemorate the International women’s day, prioritising Women in leadership is more critical than ever before. While it is acknowledged that women and girls are specifically prioritised under SDG 5, “Achieve Gender equality and empower all women and girls”, it is imperative that SDGs also address gender concerns due to the interconnectedness of women’s rights and realities. If attempts to implement SDGs only focus on Goal 5 while other goals ignore gender, they risk missing their mark or worse further undermining women’s rights and capabilities.
We also note that whereas SDGs and targets include women and girls. They do not deal with the underlying persistent structural challenges that hinder women and girl’s ability to exercise their rights and become the leaders we envisage. If women are put at the forefront and at the decision making table democratic space will be expanded and inclusive governance realised. The opportunity available for women and girls to for example own land and shelter is compromised by factors such as unequal power relations, decision making, and negative cultural norms.
While we push the girl child, let’s not forget that the boy child equally needs the same push so that gender equality is achieved peacefully at all levels.
Women need to make choices all the time from education, marriage and quality of life for example the number of children and how to space them. Therefore, women should use their voices to demand for the right use of tax payer’s money and seek for easy access to services such as family planning among others.
I will not rest until all women realise gender equality and as leaders we must push for Generation Equality. My ‘Sheroes’ this year are women Social Entrepreneurs who work with low income communities to deliver and solve complex societal challenges in a more sustainable way. There is a lot of work still to be done to raise the bar for Women in Leadership and all forms of decision making. I salute all women especially the change makers in the communities where they live and serve.
I strongly believe in a World where women, girls and boys effectively participate in decision making as equal partners.
Joyce N. Tamale (FCCA)
The writer is a Social Entrepreneur, Co-Founder & CEO Capital Solutions Ltd and Chairperson Board of Directors Forum for Women in Democracy (FOWODE)