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Posts Tagged ‘Uganda’

RTIThe right to information (RTI) is essential for the functioning of any democracy and is a prerequisite for transparency, accountability, gender equality and citizens’ participation in governance processes. However, Uganda faces numerous challenges to realising the right to access information despite having an access to information law. In the course of 2016, the Collaboration on International ICT Policy for East and Southern Africa (CIPESA) made various interventions to advance RTI, including holding training events and round table discussions for civil society, the media and government officials.

Uganda’s 2005 right to information law remains little known and largely unimplemented. Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) hardly release information voluntarily and tend to be unresponsive to information requests from citizens, due to a culture of secrecy and government bureaucracy that conflict with the law. Conversely, few citizens demand for information as a result of low awareness of their rights and the belief that public officials routinely ignore citizens’ information requests.

At a December 15, 2016 dialogue involving public officials, including information officers from various MDAs, journalists and civil society representatives, it emerged that the government and citizens have not prioritised RTI. “The role of information has been undervalued and sometimes it gets a zero release in [MDA] budgets,” said a public official. Another noted that 11 years after the law was enacted, no MDA has submitted an annual report to parliament on its information disclosure record, including requests received from citizens, as required by the law.

Other challenges prominently cited included under-staffing in MDAs, employing information officers that are unqualified and who often lack mandate to speak on behalf of the public entity, and conflicting laws that make implementing the RTI law difficult.

Journalists shared their experiences of regularly being denied information, often with no reason provided. One journalist noted that informal approaches are the primary means of attaining public information held by the state.

At an earlier training for journalists, which was held on November 23, challenges of public information officers who are either not authorised to release information, or who refer to secrecy oaths not to release information, were prominently cited.

Further, journalists pointed out the cost of accessing information as a hindrance for ordinary citizens. “If it is my right to access information then why am I paying for it?” asked Regina Nassanga of Mama FM. According to the law, a fee of UGX 20 000 (Just over US$ 5) is required when making a formal request at an MDA office.

Despite these obstacles, there are some indications that things could get better. Each government department is now required to have an information officer, and a few public bodies are beginning to implement the government’s 2013 Communications Strategy, although they have been unable to make any significant increase to budget allocations for the information function.

Civil society representatives pointed out additional concerns including the lack of deliberate action to promote RTI particularity for women and people with disabilities. Moreen Nambalirwa from the National Union of Women with Disabilities noted that when information is disseminated to the public via television and radios, people with visual and hearing impairments miss out. She also stated that despite the directive from the Uganda Communications Commission that all TV stations should have a sign language interpretation during some news broadcasts, none of the more than 10 local TV stations have done so, further contributing to the exclusion and limited participation by PWDs in governance processes.

The convenings were organised by CIPESA and provided a space for civil society, public officials and journalists to share their experiences, learn from one another, and suggest possible ways to improve access to information.

This article was originally published on CIPESA Website

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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.

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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?

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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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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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My Name

My Name

My Name

A name, many people say, is a map or a signpost – in Uganda, a name tells people your ethnic group or the clan. In some communities, a name tells people the family you come from, the position you occupy in the birth hierarchy (that is to say, if he or she is first- or middle- or last-born) or the circumstances surrounding your birth. In English my name means gift or given. In my mother tongue it means too many letters-Kyogabirwe. It was given to me by my father telling God that you have given me a girl when I already have many girls. This is a given, I cannot change it.

As a young girl, I was proud of my name but as I grew up I begun to hate it- just because of how it sounded. To make it worse, when it is shortened Kyoga, it becomes a name of a lake in Northern Uganda-Lake Kyoga. While in secondary school, I used to admire other students names because they sounded good and had better meaning. As an adult, I have come to appreciate my name as a gift from God and I am proud of it.

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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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