Sunday, October 10, 2010

Women's Agenda, Pillar No. 2: Economic Empowerment

2.1 Background to the Thematic Pillar: Women and Economic Empowerment

Macro-economic policies and stability have been achieved at the expense of horizontal and vertical inequalities in Ugandan society. The pre-occupation with macroeconomic stability and investment competitiveness has relegated social welfare, social security, and human development issues to the backyard of policy and official thinking. As such, Uganda has no robust social protection policy and programmes that would be of benefit to women and men, allowing for the delivery of a minimum level of services. This therefore implies that while there has been increasing focus on macroeconomic stability, paradoxically men and women’s poverty and the gap between the rich and the poor, men and women has further widened.

In addition, at the moment, the poverty index mainly captures income elements hence women’s poverty is hardly captured and as a result often not addressed or prioritised in development planning and budgetary allocations. There is therefore dire need to develop an index for the measurement of poverty through a composite index that takes into account both per capita income and the consumption index, and at the same time captures the non-income elements of poverty ( like social networks, access to information, power and asset bases, etc,).

In the area of agriculture where a majority of the actors are women, interventions have been mainly through the restructuring of the National Agriculture Advisory Services (NAADS) within the framework of the Plan for Modernisation of Agriculture (PMA), to support and strengthen the achievement of “Prosperity for All” (PFA) objectives.

Nonetheless, in spite of these achievements, women are still poorer than men, they find challenges accessing larger loans (besides small microfinance), are affected by the high fertility rate and the burden it imposes on them, in terms of childcare labour, food security and health risks that affect their economic empowerment.

2.2 Key Priority Areas Within the Thematic Pillar: Women and Economic Empowerment

Women and Land

Women have unequal access to, ownership and control of land and other resources. This affects their ability to access other productive resources and impedes their economic, social and political status. This is especially so since the majority of women rely on land for their livelihood.

Therefore, the recognition and strengthening of the land rights of women, girls and children is very justifiable in their social contexts. Key among the major areas of concern are the elimination of all discriminatory laws and practices in the manner in which access, control, ownership and transmission of land rights are determined. Other critical areas of concern for women under land include: co-ownership of land; representation of women on land administrative structures and compliance by banking institutions to seeking spousal consent in instances of transactions relating to and affecting family land.

Youth Employment

Uganda’s population dynamics indicate that the country has a predominantly young population with 56% of the population below 18 years of age. This therefore implies that systematic and strategic initiatives have to be in place to absorb the young in meaningful employment and tap into their productive energies.

The rate of job creation is not commensurate with the high rate of growth of the workforce and while Government has created opportunities for young people to find jobs, the unemployment and underemployment of the youth, continues to be a growing concern for the country. The Labour Market Conditions Report released by Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) in May 2009, indicated that while 400,000 Ugandans, including 20,000 University graduates join the workforce yearly, only 18,000 jobs are created. This situation is worse for female youth who also face threats of sexual harassment in the bid to get jobs. There is a challenge of educating the population about their rights and obligations under existing labour legislations especially where workers are not formally organized into trade unions.

Women in Business in Formal and Informal Sectors

Women, make up a majority of the population engaged in small businesses and the informal sector. In addition, there has been a slow but steady increase of women owned businesses and small-scale industries providing employment and sources of income and revenue.

However, these businesses face a number of challenges which include: lack of a decentralised and automated Registry of Companies; lack of a storage system for company trademarks; delays in the operationalisation of the Centre for Arbitration and Dispute Resolution and the general lack of counterpart funding from MoFPED to support women’s enterprises. In addition, to date, there are limited Government incentives for small businesses to become formal enterprises. The funding made available for supporting training programmes for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMES) in good economic governance and management principles, standards and codes is also inadequate.

Many women have not accessed funds from the PFA programme because they are largely controlled by men and women lack information on the systems and criteria for accessing the funds. Therefore there is need to effectively communicate the institutional arrangements for delivery and access to the PFA resources.

The tendering processes at national and district levels also tend to favour men as they often have the networks, information and collateral that is required to secure the bank guarantees. There is therefore need to ensure that the tendering process at the national and district levels is engendered and affirmative action adopted, to support women’s access to tender biddings. In addition, the 30% women’s representation in tender boards and the District Service Commissions is yet to be realised and often gender is sacrificed, on the pretext of failure to get qualified women to occupy such spaces.

Development Finance for Women

Financing for women in Uganda has been mainly through the provision of micro-credit schemes that hold women in the poverty bracket as the funds are rather small, have high interest rates and are realised through group collateral since the majority of women do not own assets for bigger loans. In addition, women entrepreneurs generally lack access to information and therefore cannot access big loans, hence the necessity for affirmative action, in development finance.

Access to Markets and Information

Women are the main producers in the agricultural and informal; sectors, however their ability to make substantial income from these sectors is hindered by the production-marketing chain that is largely controlled by male middle men. For women to sell at better prices and be competitive producers, they must have value addition and be part of the marketing chain. In addition, as producers they often lack timely information on markets and economic trends and this affects their ability to effectively negotiate business transactions. There are also gender-based structural barriers such as sexual harassment and security of women traversing borders.

Government programmes such as PMA and NAADS have been accused of not addressing the structural gender challenges. They tend to benefit the rural men and in practice have promoted less value addition to produce. There is therefore need to enhance NAADS and PMA and to ensure the involvement of women in the planning and implementation of these programmes.

Women’s Labour Rights

Poorer paid jobs are still allocated to women, who suffer enduring discrimination across their working lives because of the interruptions of child birth and childcare. Many women are thus confined to the CSO sectors and the public sector and the few that engage in the private sector are confined to mainly menial work. Under the pressures of combining parenthood and work, the percentage of women in the formal higher paying labour force, has declined in recent years.

While the Government has made progress with regards to the domestication and adoption of International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions, codes and standards as well as the enactment of national laws in the area of labour rights. Several challenges still exist in domesticating them and ensuring that women enjoy these rights. Key among the challenges are that the labour laws enacted in 2006 are yet to be fully operationalised. Further there are inadequate regulatory, implementation and monitoring mechanisms for ensuring compliance and the respect of women’s rights, especially in the private sector.

With the advent of the global economic crisis many women have lost their jobs and their sources of livelihood. Unfortunately the majority of women fall outside the ambit of the formal social security facility, being employed in the informal sector. This situation compounds the existing challenge, the majority of women face with regard to the politics of the private-public dichotomy that results in the domesticity of women’s labor, with no value attached to their domestic, unrecognized, unremunerated labor.

Corporate Governance

While there is increasing awareness about Corporate Governance, entrenching Corporate Governance practices in Uganda’s corporate spheres is still a challenge. Further challenges lie in monitoring and ensuring the integration of women’s needs, amongst the private sector and non state actors. Further with no clear channels for funding requests and the absence of state mechanisms for coordinating priority corporate governance issues implemented by the private sector agencies, women’s issues and concerns fall by the sidelines.

There have also been challenges in making funding available to the private sector to develop simplified corporate governance guidelines and accounting standards for SMEs and informal sector businesses. As a result, the mainstreaming of good corporate governance principles has been undermined. This has constrained efforts by government to increase the domestic fiscal resources generated from the SMES, operating in the informal sector where the majority of women are found.

Oil and Gas Management

There is anxiety over the management of oil revenues. This is exacerbated by limited government structured knowledge and institutionalised fora for nation-wide public awareness and engagement in the debate on proposed legislation on oil and gas. The Oil and Gas Policy 2008, provides a blue print for management of the oil and gas resources. The policy is aimed at regulating the production, management and use of the oil and gas resources.

Whereas government will put in place a sustainable asset in the form of a Petroleum Fund to store revenues not in the national economy, it is hoped that Government will ensure the collection and proper use of revenues received from oil and gas activities and publish this information regularly.
It is important that the sectors that address women’s strategic and practical needs, benefit from the revenue generated by oil and gas. Government should also make deliberate effort to provide women with information and communication on the oil and gas policy.

The Change we Want to See

1. A Macro Economic Policy that is pro-women, pro-poor and equitable and also addresses horizontal and vertical poverty

2. Adherence to participatory gender sensitive planning, budgeting and monitoring and evaluation, in all development plans and programmes

3. At least 10% of all budget allocations to development programmes, allocated to programmes focusing on women’s specific needs

4. Amendment of the Income Tax Act, to provide for incentives and tax waivers for private sector employers, that have a minimum of 30% female employment, at all levels of their organisational structures

5. Female youth employment prioritised as a key area of national concern, within the next five years and the progressive increment of funding for youth specific initiatives

6. Adoption of the draft policy on Youth Employment, so as to address sexual harassment and the abuse of young women

7. Transparent and equitable distribution of funds derived from oil and other natural resources, with a 10% allocation of these resources to sectors that directly benefit women

8. 50:50 gender parity, in all decision making structures that manage natural resources

9. Amendment of the Land (Amendment) Act and other relevant laws, to provide for the co-ownership of matrimonial property by spouses

10. Development of policies and programmes to address the drivers of high fertility rates, which adversely impact women’s economic empowerment and national development

11. Increased opportunities for gainful and productive employment targeting women, through scaling up formal and informal education and skills training

12. Promotion and protection of women’s labour rights, in adherence to national and international labour obligations and standards

13. Adherence to national and international health and safety standards, for the safety, security and mitigation of occupational hazards, for women in all spheres of employment

14. Establishment of clear, measurable and practical actions, to address women’s income and consumption poverty, access to credit, information and markets e.t.c

15. Tendering and procurement processes reviewed at local government level, to take into account affirmative action and promote women’s participation

No comments:

Post a Comment