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Archive for the ‘My Work’ Category

On May 4, 2015, the president of the Republic of Uganda, H.E Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni addressed a high level thematic debate on strengthening cooperation between the United Nations and Regional sub-regional organizations in New York.

womens agencyAs the global women’s movement  mark 15 years of UNSCR 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, the UN marks 70 years of existence. In his speech, Mr. Museveni   pointed out that at the time of UN formation; many of African countries did not exist as independent countries and therefore they were not represented just like the women who were absent.

Mr. Museveni acknowledges the fact that since 1945, there have been reforms at the UN  but most of the fundamental structures that were created after World War II by the victorious powers, such as the powers conferred upon the Permanent Five countries in the Security Council, remain unchanged. Although the UN provides for cooperation between the UN and Regional Organizations, the crucial decisions of international peace and security, within the Security Council, are mostly taken by the veto-wielding members.

If the Security Council members that took military action in Libya had listened to the voice of Africa, the present chaos in Libya, Nigeria, Mali, the people who are dying in the Mediterranean sea from the African shores trying to get to Europe, could have been avoided” said Mr. Museveni.

In light of gender, every day gender struggles between women and men are embedded  power difference  in terms of  who does what, who gets what and  who frames the agenda.

Mr. Museveni  emphasizes the UN should  reaffirm the Principle of Complementarity envisaged in Chapter VIII of the Charter as the basis for building and strengthening cooperation between the UN and regional and sub-regional organizations.  This means that the UN should respect processes that are undertaken by the regional organizations especially in areas of conflict resolution.

He calls for the establishment of the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC) which an African is owned initiative for rapid military intervention as and when the need arises, to quickly respond to crisis situations on the African continent. Mr. Museveni termed  the UN Peace Keeping Mission as a ‘sitting duck’ mission with no peace to keep because of the restrictions of the mission.

He concludes with a question of ideological disorientation such as religion, tribe, gender and race which leads to misdiagnosis of social, political or economic issues.

Click here to Read the Full Speech

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On July 31, 2014, the elders of Ethur in Abim district, Northern Uganda imposed 6-months alcohol ban on women. This was agreed upon during their meeting that was convened to discuss matters affecting social lives of the Ethur and the major topic of discussion was reckless manner in which women behaved when drunk. Indeed, this is a good practice of ensuring that communities live together in peace and harmony. But  the concern here is why discuss the behavior of women only women? Don’t men also misbehave when they are drunk? This decision brings in mind many questions and unearths the cruel realities, violations and discrimination that women face in their daily lives. This is typical patriarchy at work and unfortunately, society has normalized it.

The Elders further stated that if one woman violates this ban, all the women will pay, because they failed to guide their member. And as part of the payment, woman will kill a bull for the elders, and each of the women will be required to brew a certain quantity of local beer (Kwete) for the elders. Really, this is selfishness of men   and unfair treatment of women

Why should women be judged differently from men? If they must ban alcohol it should be for everyone not for just women. Where is the Gender Equality that is inscribed in our constitution, policies and other international Human Rights Instruments. In any case do these people know that such instruments exist? So where is the missing link?

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In 2000, world leaders agreed during the Millennium Summit of the United Nations to accelerate social economic development,  human dignity and equity. They agreed on eight goals to be achieved by 2015 which were named as The Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and each goal has specific targets, and dates for achieving those targets. It should be noted that  most of these goals are interlinked  and failure to achieve one goal will affect  the others.

I would like to draw your attention specifically to Goal 3: Prompting gender equality and empower women and Goal 6: Combating HIV, Malaria and other disease using a scenario of a young  Ugandan woman.

Nora Nabanoba not her real name walked in my office, greeting me in a local Luganda greeting and asked me how we help women. She started narrating to me her story of how she came to Kampala. “I finished primary seven and because my parents were poor I could not afford to join secondary school. Our neighbour had a daughter who was working in Kampala and she decided to take me to look work for me in Kampala”. Nora narrated.

When she reached Kampala, thing were different, the person who brought her to Kampala never assisted her as she had promised instead took her to her home to become her maid without evening paying her.Nora said that after working for along time without pay, she decided to escape from her and look for work somewhere else which she got work and started working as a house maid and she was being paid some little money.

Two years later, a friend brought her a man whom she accepted to marry. The man was living in a one roomed house and he had chairs (commonly known as sofa sets). Norah revealed  to me she accepted to marry man because he had sofa set in the house which they did not have in their home. They stayed together for a few years and had a baby.

Norah became suspicious when her baby and her husband started  falling sick quiet  often. Unfortunately, the baby died. After the death of her baby she decided take a bold step to go for HIV test and the results came out positive. ‘I felt like my life was ending there and then’. Nora said. Finally, she had to come to terms with reality of accepting her HIV status.

When she told her husband about HIV testing and her results, her husband started abusing her, beating her and accusing her of infidelity and blaming her for infecting him. Little did Nora know that her husband had many wives.  The husband later became critically ill and was admitted in hospital and his condition improved. Nora got pregnant again and had another baby. Since she knew her HIV status, she did not breastfeed her baby.

When the baby was three months old, her husband abandoned her. “I reached at a time when I was giving my baby water only because I did not have any money to buy milk not even food for me” Nora said. She is now   ARVs and she is temporarily staying with a friend who offered her a temporary shelter. Given the costs of living here in Kampala she feels she is a burden to her.

Norah’s story is one of the many innocent young girls whose dreams have been shattered and can no longer see a bright future.Is this the Future We Want?  Therefore as we move from MDGs, specifically  looking at Goal 3 on prompting gender equality and empower women and Goal 6 on Combating HIV, Malaria and other diseases where little progress has been achieved and  in some cases there is reverse,  we should not forget that   poverty,gender inequality are the key inhibitors of sustainable development.

It is therefore important that as we to reflect on the Future We Want by formulating new Sustainable Development Goals, poverty, gender inequality and HIV should be at the center.  So for any sustainable development to be realized, poverty and gender inequality have to be addressed

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Fourteen years ago, UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1325 which recognizes women’s leadership in conflict prevention, resolution and peace building, as well as the gendered impact of war on women and girls. As part of promoting women’s participation as mandated by UNSCR 1325 and other international human rights instruments that promote women’s leadership and participation in decision making, Isis –WICCE has been conducting leadership training institution for women from conflict and post to upscale their knowledge, skills and enthusiasm towards making 1325 a reality.

The 2013/14 Institute brought together 35 women leaders Nepal, Burma, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Myanmar and Uganda on a three phased training under the theme theme ‘Women’s Agency in Peace building and Human Security’.

During the last phase which will take place from August 6 to 12, 2014 in Thailand, women leaders are expected to share the findings their research studies which were conducted in the second phase. Using new knowledge and skills acquired from the first phase of the training in 2013, participants critically analysed women’s participation in peace building and decision making processes as stipulated in the UN Security Council Resolution 1325.

Participants from Nepal analyzed women’s participation in Local Peace Committees Local Peace Committee (LPC) that are formed at the level of a district, municipality, town or village and requires that 33% of its membership are women. The work of the LPC among others include facilitating joint, inclusive peace making and peace building processes within its own context, facilitating reconciliation process at the local level between two or more parties to conflict, conflict-affected victims, and other stakeholders.

According to the study, 50% of the study districts (10) LPC had been able to achieve 33 percent or more representation of women in current LPC. Although the numbers seem to paint a positive image, it was discovered that women were there only in the name of inclusion and this has been described by feminists as the “just add women and stir” approach that is present in some of the UNSCR 1325 implementation efforts today. The notion of “just add women and stir” completely instrumentalizes women’s lives and fails to challenge patriarchal systems and structures which have consistently discriminated and marginalized women.

The study further revealed that the 50% of women in the LPC as drawn from the marginalized population such as the indigenous women, the disabled and are considered weak and have lesser capacity to lead/argue on women issues.

Likewise, in Uganda, institute participants analyzed the impact of women’s participation within the Uganda police force. The Uganda Gender Policy 2007, emphasizes that all government recruitments should have 30% of women. The Uganda Police has tried to fulfill this requirement but in most cases, the percentage is hardly never reached because gendered perspective of police which is considered to be a masculine institution as well as set recruitment standards which requires the Ordinary level certificate with an emphasis of science subjects (which in most cases are also considered to be masculine subjects) as the minimum requirement. That notwithstanding, the Uganda Police Force has 5951 Female Officers and only 293 are at a senior level rank.

Numbers aside, just like in Nepal’s Local Peace Committees, where women are considered as weak members, in Uganda Police Force, the women are also considered as weak officers and very few women are in decision making positions. For example, out of 129 District Police Commissioners (DPCs), only 5 are women.
In the two countries, a trend of keeping women in inactive posts where they do not get opportunities to meaningfully participate in the decision making process was observed. Despite this situation, the two studies agree that women are playing a critical role and their leadership brings unique values and perspectives to peace building and that is why Isis-WICCE has continued to organise leadership institutes for women leaders to ensure that women’s leadership is not only about the numbers but also the competencies to lead and hold policy makers accountable.

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As we mark the International Women’s Day for Peace and Disarmament and engage on the campaign ‘Gender militarism : Analyzing the linkages to strategize for peace’ let  us put into this  perspective that about 33.5 million people have been  displaced by conflict  at the end of 2013 according  IMDC report . We can consider these survivors as somehow  lucky  because other millions have  lost their lives  as a result of war, not forgetting immense destruction of infrastructure and natural resources.

It is a fact that in any conflict, it is the women and children who suffer most  and the  often-cited statistics are that  as many as 80 per cent of displaced populations are women and children. While women bear the brunt of war, they rarely receive any compensation because the rewards negotiated at the peace table benefit men. As I was browsing through  some literature, I came across  this statement from a woman Peace Activist from Northern Uganda  “When I look at the level of sufferings women go through in crisis, in violence, in armed conflict, then I just feel the need to play a key role to stop wars and violence from happening…..”   But can women play a key role in stopping war and violence? The answer is simple yes, women have the power to stop violence and suffering  but the  issues of patriarchy  and militarism  have made is very difficult for women to make meaning contribution in  peace building.

Militarism as defined by feminists is a threat system, which simply says “Do what I tell you – or else”. The basic value of militarism is power over the other. This statement  has been best explained by Rita Popo,  a peace activists who said “ the way men resolve conflicts is looking at whose power is greater… They don’t look at that possibility of saying: ‘Let me listen to him, let him listen to me and analyse Why we disagreed?’…They don’t look at it this way. They say: ‘I am powerful. I am more powerful than that one”.   Many times, male dominated agendas tend to emphasize and prioritize issues of power and political positions. In formal peace negotiations, men put there rules and regulations of what they want to happen, at the same time giving conditions for  putting guns down whereas  women go beyond this and want to see peace in terms of meeting human safety needs and other aspects of well-being.

Therefore, there is need for the new alternatives that will aim at dismantling and redefining  the power structures and patriarchal systems. The men  need to understand women’s participation in peace processes and  decision making  will not disadvantage them and that the idea is not to invert the balance of power, but to abolish domination, oppression, exploitation, discrimination and injustice. When both men and women work together to find solutions, they  benefit. It is a win win situation. This article was written as part of social media campaign on Gender and Militarism  organized by  Women Peace Makers Program, 2014  

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Hon. Miria MatembeEvery year around the world, International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8 aiming to raise awareness of the challenges, struggles and continuing inequality faced by women worldwide. Thousands of events are organised at international, national and grassroots levels to celebrate women’s history, courage and strength by highlighting key events, milestones and achievements. Actually the month of March is commonly referred to as the  Women’s Month though very few people know about this fact. This is also the time in a year when the  UN under the Commission on the Status of Women holds  its annual convening   to  evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment

The 2014 international women’s day celebrations come at the  critical time when  countries are auditing the anticipated change delivered  by the Millennium Development Goals and setting the next development agenda under the Post2015 Development Framework.  It should be noted that the MDGs have been greatly criticized by women’s rights activists for ignoring critical issues that are central to promoting gender equality  and development.

As part of commemorating this year’s International Women’s day, I participated and coordinated a public dialogue on MDGs and Post 2015 Development Agenda: Room for gender equality organized by Isis-WICCE in partnership with the School of Women and Gender Studies, Makerere University.  It was attended by over 300  people who included university students, lecturers and gender activists. The dialogue was opened by Hon. Miria Matembe, a renowned vocal  gender activist  who regretted that the MDGs have instead slowed down the progress of gender equality and development “before MDGs,  women  were running fast & very vibrant’ but now  women have continued to be in power, serving power and without power” she said.  Hon Matembe also pointed out that MDGs  have  failed to address the critical issues of women such as sexual and reproductive health and violence against women

Likewise, Ms Margaret Kakande who made a presentation on the milestones of MDGs and gender equality expressed concern that little has been achieved for women and girls since 2000 in critical policy areas and actions. She singled out maternal health where many women continue to die while giving birth and regretted that   64% of mothers do not receive any postnatal check-up. She further noted that over 60% of maternal deaths in developing countries are estimated to occur 23 to 48 hours after delivery due to postpartum haemorrhage and hypertensive disorders. She cautioned that if the heath status of women and girls is not improved and maternal deaths checked, the MDGs would have achieved almost nothing for them.

She added that the women who are the care givers suffer poor reproductive health and with the reversal in the prevalence of the HIV/AIDs scourge in Uganda, the situation is of women is critical. Ms Kakande expressed concern that this state of affairs almost reverses any empowerment gains that women would have achieved.

In the sector of education, she noted that school dropout rates for girls especially at primary level have remained high denying them the opportunity to complete the full course of primary schooling which is the first foundation for their empowerment.

In moving forward to the Post 2015 Development Agenda, Isis-WICCE Communications Consultant Archie Luyimbazi warned that if in the last 14 years under the MDGs the plight of women has not been addressed, then the post 2015 stage should devise a plan that is transformational. He urged the women’s movement to seize the opportunity to reflect on what they need to do differently in order to bring about the much desired change for women.

He advised that to be successful in this new front,  Gender Equality and Women’s  Right Activists  should consider changing strategy from the current women’s right’s approach that has faced so much resistance over the years and enter into negotiation and bring on board new actors and energies especially the academia and the young people as well.

A cross section of participantsDuring the discussion participants emphasized that post 2015 development agenda should focus on social transformation of women with emphasis on factors that will give them more time to participate in the economic activities because when you achieve economic rights, other rights will follow. “We cannot achieve sustainable gender equality without economic empowerment of women” said a participant

Young people were also urged to be actively engaged in all development process because they  have a greater stake in shaping the future and time is now for  them  to rise and mobilize for social change, good governance and gender equality. They were advised to effectively utilize the power of social media as a tool

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South Sudan Women Leaders light a candle as a symbol of hope and peace at the opening of a consultative meeting in Kampala

South Sudan Women Leaders light a candle as a symbol of hope and peace at the opening of a consultative meeting in Kampala

The recent outbreak of armed conflict in South Sudan, Africa’s youngest nation has led to massive displacement, suffering and killing of thousands of innocent civilians especially the women and children. Amidst desperation and suffering, the women of South Sudan have refused to remain victims but survivors and are demanding to be active participants in the ongoing peace talks taking place in Addis Ababa.

Soon after the outbreak of the conflict, the women picked up the pieces and organized themselves into women’s operation group. They supported each other, sent out strong messages of peace and provided humanitarian assistance to the victims by opening their homes to the displaced people.
I received over 25 families here in Uganda in my house and now I am finding it very hard to look after them, said one Sudanese woman during a consultative meeting in Kampala whose purpose was to provide a platform for South Sudan women to consolidate their voices in order to influence the peace talks taking place in Adis Ababa. Women are taking up the roles of the humanitarian agencies and the government as well. Unfortunately their effort goes unnoticed.

Another woman also commented that we feel so angry, frustrated and embarrassed. When shall we ever enjoy peace? We want to be at the peace table because the bullets do not discriminate between a woman and a man.

The Women of South Sudan are unsung heroines in the liberation struggle of their country. During the liberation war, the women under the ‘Girls Battalion’ pushed both sides to declare a cessation of hostilities. They also played an instrumental role in the 2011 referendum for their independence.

Therefore their efforts must be recognized and funded as provided for in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000). Therefore including the women in the peace process, is not simply the right thing to do; it is the smart thing to do.

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