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budget2015The National Budget is a key instrument through which governments implement their policies. It is an annual plan of expenditures and income. It is also a plan of what monies the government expects to receive in forms of tax revenues against how much it expects to spend in a given financial year. The National budget is usually derived from projected domestic and external revenue and these are determined by several factors such as past trends, efficiency gains, growth in volume of imports, elasticity of taxes, real growth in the real monetary GDP and prices. Normally, prioritization of sectors in the National Budget is based on interventions with direct impact on growth and poverty   reductions in a given country. s guide sector prioritization. Budget consultations start from top to bottom entailing cabinet retreats, budget call circulars and Local Government Local Government (LG) workshops.

Last week, I attended a meeting by the Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG), to analyze the Uganda National Budget Framework Paper (BFP) for the financial year 2015/16. The National Budget Framework Paper (BFP) outlines Government interventions for Social and Economic Development in a given financial year and provides link between Government’s overall policies and the Annual Budget. It lays out the fiscal policy framework and strategy for the budget year and in the medium term setting out how the Government intends to achieve its policy objectives over the medium term through the budget. The national BFP has three sections: Part 1 sets out the Government’s Medium Term macroeconomic forecast, Medium Term Fiscal Framework and Forecast, Charter of Fiscal Responsibility, the Resource Envelope and Annual Budget for and Fiscal Risks; Part 2 sets out Government’s Policy measures and programmes for social and economic development, as well as the indicative expenditure framework in FY 2015/16 and the medium term; and Part 3 provides details of proposed sector plans and expenditures.

My focus  in the budget paper on financing for social development. Although  the country is struggling to spend  within its means by reducing the total budget from 15829.9bn in FY 2014/15 to 14472.05bn in FY 2015/16, the cut has affected more of the social sectors such as  agriculture, education and health. Therefore the government’s proposal to reduce health budget by 317.4bn (from 1281bn to 963.7bn), Education by 45.3 bn (from 2026.6bn to 1981bn), agriculture by 56.7 (from 473.3bn to 4170bn) to mention but a few and yet Public Administration budget has increased by 155.3bn (from 554.8bn to 710.1bn), interest payment 678.4bn (from 1082.9bn to 1761.3bn) should be revised.

Reducing money of sectors that have direct impact on Uganda’s population will affect the overall welfare of the people and at the same time, increase the general economic costs  of o taking  care of sick, illiterate and hungry citizens.

Activists marching through Busia to to raise awareness

Activists marching through Busia town  to raise awareness on SGBV

In december 2014 I was in Busia district, Eastern Uganda on a campaign to end Sexual and Gender based Violence (SGBV) organized by the Institute for Social Transformation (IST) and Isis-WICCE in Partnership with Busia Local Government.  The aim of the campaign was to mobilize communities in Busia district to discuss strategies to address the increasing SGBV cases.

According to Police files, on a daily basis at least three cases related to SGBV are reported and over 80 cases a month. These are only the reported cases and remember that so many cases remain unreported.

Over 2000 women, men, youth and local leaders from different sub counties in the district participated in the

discussions.

Dressed in their usual African dresses and non-traditional African attires in different styles, designs and colors with majority putting on head covers, the women listened attentively in the discussions and actively participated in different activities such as the march and group discussions.

Women during listening  to the facilitator during the discussion

Women  listening to the facilitator during the discussion

I kept observing  the crowds of women and then, I remembered that 20 years ago, the Beijing Conference took place and was a seen as major breakthrough in the history of gender struggles and women’s empowerment. The conference came out with what is known as the Beijing Platform for Action. The Platform established twelve Critical Areas of Concern that needed to be addressed in order to achieve political, social, economic, cultural, and environmental security among all people. These Areas are poverty; education; health; violence; armed conflict; the economy; power and decision-making; mechanisms for women’s advancement; women’s human rights; mass media; the environment; and, the girl child. For each critical area of concern, the problem was diagnosed and strategic objectives and concrete actions were e proposed for Governments and others stakeholders.

I asked myself, do these women know that there is Beijing Platform for Action and other human rights instruments that guarantee protection and promotion of women’s rights and gender equality?  As confirmed by Dr. Thelma Awori, the Executive Director of IST, women in Busia are afraid to stand up for their rights, afraid to take advantage of  the laws that are in place and have resigned to violence  that ‘what can I do, I just have to suffer’.

This state of hopelessness is what many women globally experience every day. Statistics from UN Women reports indicate that between 15 and 76 percent of women are targeted for physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime and most of this violence takes place within intimate relationships.

Therefore as the world reviews twenty years of Beijing Platforn for Action code named ‘Beijing+20’,many questions  remain unanswered.  Why aren’t these frameworks changing the lives of women? What can be done differently? Are there any hopes of breaking through patriarchy? Are women losing the struggle against gender equality?

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?

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

This morning, I woke up reflecting on the rich proverbs and riddles in my mother language- Runyankole that I used to  hear and learn when I was a little girl between five to ten years of age.  When I reached office, I opened my computer and started typing a few proverbs and riddles I know from my head. As  little  girl, I used to like  reading  Runyankole Children  books like Alifu, Rutaro na Kengoro among others.  I remember, one day, while in  Primary One, at Runengo Primary School, our class teacher  Mrs Busingye, wrote on black board a Runyankole word for us to read and as you might  know  in the lower classes especially from Primary One up to Primary Three, pupils have a tendency of raising  their hands irrespective of whether they know the right answer or not.  (sometimes with great energy and enthusiasm)  for the teacher to see  and pick on them.

We all raised our hands to read the word several times, but we failed.  Mrs Busingye gave us enough time of about fifteen to twenty minutes to reflect and re-read the word. When we were almost giving up,  I raised my hand  again like any other pupil  and read the word  correctly. I cannot remember it very well but it was something like Omugurusi which means an old man. Momentarily, noisy class went into  loud silence and  I took the show for that day and from then, I became the Celebrity of the Class. This is to show you how early, I learnt how to read and write Runyankole and my passion for it.

Another incident was when I was in Primary Two and it was during the examination period. It was a practice that during examination period, primary one and two pupils stay at school the whole day unlike during normal school time when they leave school at 1:00pm. It was after lunch and I was busy playing with my class mate and someone called me out and said that the teacher wanted to see. At first, I was scared and asked myself, what have I done?  Then I went and reached their, I found my class teacher and few other teachers and female student who was in Primary four.  Her name was Nora. She was a big girl with big breasts and I think she was around fourteen and fifteen years. Then they gave me a text in A Runyankole children’s book to read and I confidently and eloquently read it and after I heard my class teacher saying. I didn’t I tell you and I left. Little did I know that the girl could not read that text and my class teacher told her fellow teachers that she has a student in Primary two who can read that text. It is now that I reflect on that incident and imagine how humiliating it was for the big, primary four girl who could not read what a primary two pupil can read.  I guest, the teachers must have insulted her and I feel bad about it. My parents were always proud of me and they used to give verses in Runyankore bible to read which eloquently read.

Today,my ever ending curiosity and desire to learn  new things  including  Runyankole proverbs and riddles led me to a google search about Runyankole proverbs and guess what I found  a Facebook page called Enfumu Zaitu.

The climax of it was opening the Enfumu Zaitu page and I find a post explaining a misconcept about my clan that has been bothering me since my childhood. I must say reading it was very exciting   and heartwarming. I felt a thigh of relief and gained my self-confidence as  a daughter of Abasingo because as I young girl, I used to hear people say  that the whenever a Omugabe- the Ankole  King wanted to spit, he would spit in a someone’s mouth and that person  was from the Basingo clan. So, I used to feel bad about it  to the extent of hating my clan and I  could not imagine a King  spitting his sputum in my great great great grandfather.  

So the discovery of this explanation has overturned tables in my life and this is how it is explained on Enfumu Zaitu Pafacebook Page

 In actual sense, Okucwerana omu kanwa n’okugamba ebirikushushana. (Spiting in someone’s mouth) was a ritual that symbolized the special relationship between Omugabe and the Basingo clan. Basingo were historically confidants and messengers of Omugabe. That is why they are called “Abashongore”, i.e. they were sharp, reliable and straight forward. Whenever a musingo messenger delivered omugabe’s message or directive, he would say “omugabe yaancweera omu kanwa” (Omugabe has spat in my mouth) meaning that the message was transmitted in full without distortion or deviation. At the time when messages were delivered by word of mouth, “spitting in the mouth” was simply a way of saying that Omugabe’s message was accurately conveyed to the intended recipient. Unfortunately, this figurative meaning was later on distorted to achieve political ends and has been unquestioningly swallowed by the younger generation

And truelly, I agree with the above explanation. Abasingo, we are very Sharp,Reliable and Straight. My father is exactly like this. For him, he will tell you the truth and will not hide anything from you. He is a very successful businessman and a Farmer who never saw the inside of the classroom.

In July 2014, I attended a training on creative writing. As you all know writing is a daunting task and it involves serious thinking, reflection, putting down on word, sentence or phrase and you pause a bit, then write again and the process goes on and on. This training inspired me to write this short story which actually was part of the assignments during the training. I swear, if I had not attended this training, it story would never find itself on this blog.

 

IramDeep in my sleep, I was, and my mother sneaked away leaving me behind at my Grandmother’s home deep in the village. On waking up I was told that my mother has gone to the shops and she is coming back. I waited for her to come back but all in vain until it was dark. It is from then, that I started to sense something and I started crying, refused to eat and sleep. Shut it up! Your mother is not here! my grandmother shouted at me. She scared hell out of me and I momentarily stopped crying and sleep carried me to the dreamland. My grandmother is a no nonsense woman, even up to now she is a tough women.

While at my grandmothers’ home, two major incidences happened that I remember vividly. The first one was when my grandmother she decided to take me to a nearby by Nursery school at a local church. This was my first day at school and the classes were conducted in the church and it was an open hall. I remember, it was a windy morning and you could hear the sweet sound wind blowing through the trees.

It so happened that very morning, the children had to go out in the field for physical education. ‘Children, remove your clothes, it is time for physical education’ the teacher said. All the children started removing their clothes and running outside in the field. Poor me, I did not know that we only removed dresses and remained with pants. I removed all the clothes including my pant and happily I ran outside to join other children in the field. As soon as I got out of the classroom, all the children started staring at me and I did not know what was wrong with me. Ooh, I was still very young and still in shock of the new environment- remember this was not home and the environment was completely different from the one I knew. I was still lost.

On seeing me completely naked, the teacher quickly run towards me and told me to go back and put on my pants. I went back in the classroom and picked my pants and put them and joined the rest of the children.

The second incidence was during Christmas time; my mother brought for me a very beautiful pink dress with beads allover and white shoes. I remember dressed in a pink dress with a web of nets and beads and my white shoes that were whiter than milk, I looked like a princess. All the children at the church surrounded me and started touching my dress. I felt so uneasy but at the same time felt elevated because I was completely different from all of them. Inside within me, I did not want the church service to end because I knew when we go back home, I will be told to remove the dress which I didn’t want to do. Finally, the church service ended and we went back home and I had remove my lovely dress which I did not want to do.

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.