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Posts Tagged ‘Women’s rights’

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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One of the major consequences of armed conflict is the rapid spread of HIV and AIDS. A case in point is the fact that districts which have been affected by armed conflict in Northern and Eastern Uganda have higher HIV and AIDS prevalence than other districts in Uganda. In Gulu district HIV prevalence rose from 9.4% in 2008, to 16% in 2009, with Gulu Municipality health sub-district leading with 22.1%.

According to John Charles Luwa, the district HIV/AIDS focal person, out of the 14,424 pregnant mothers who were tested under the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV/AIDS (PMTCT) in 2009, about 3,214 were HIV-positive, constituting 22.1%. This is attributed to the high instances of sexual violence such as  rapes, defilement and other forms of sexual exploitation like sexual slavery.

In responding to this situation, Isis-WICCE, an International Women’s rights organization   implemented a pilot project  in 2009 on   “Advancing the rights and basic needs of women living with HIV and AIDS in Northern Uganda with special focus on Kitgum. The objective of this initiative is to enhance the rights of women living with HIV/AIDS and enable partners supporting them to be cognizant of their needs from a rights perspective.

Women Paralegals at the Kitgum High Court with Dr Nabisinde(in blue outfit),a former magistrate

It was a realization that enjoyment of  basic rights is still a dream and women have little or no say in the decisions that affect their lives and their health.  HIV and AIDS has  doubled the dose of violations  to women and these violations include gender based violence   due to disclosure to partners, loss of property especially land, loss of marriage rights  including  matrimonial home, stealing  or removal of drugs (ARVs) from  them, stigma and discrimination.

For the lucky few that were targeted in this project like Josephine  Oketayot, an HIV positive  mother of two children, her life  never remained the same. For 8 years in her marriage, she had never enjoyed her basic right such as   freedom of movement, expression and association. She confessed that whenever she wanted to go the market, fetching water and visiting her parents, he had to first ask for permission from her husband could.

not to go anywhere without asking for  permission from her husband be it fetching water, going to the market, and visiting her parents.

Josephine further explains that after the training she went back home with all the materials and handout given plus a bag  with the bag written on “Protect, Promote and Respect Women’s Rights, Yes We Can” which she placed on the bed. And when her husband found it there, he read the message and removed the materials in it and started reading them.

According to Josephine, from that time, her husband’s behavior begun to change because he realized that Josephine is now empowered and she knows her rights. He also told his brothers and sisters that I want all of you to respect my wife. He did not only stop at that, he bought for her a sewing machine so that she can start working and earn something.

Josephine and her husband are now happily married and they also wedded in church in December last year.

Josephine is one of many women whose rights have been violated and don’t have any say or decision in their lives and marriages. Had it not been Isis-WICCE’s  intervention, Josephine would still be isolated, not knowing her rights and resigned to her fate while she continues to suffer all her life. Josephine had this  to say:

I am now a happy woman and I  talk to the people. In the past I used not to talk to anyone when some one would talk to me I would keep quiet but now I go to the villages and sensitize people about  human rights, women’s rights and HIV and AIDS

The intervention also revealed that, HIV and AIDS programmes rolled out to the communities without consulting them have contributed to an increased gender based violence. The programmes in themselves are good but the implementation strategy is what is lacking. A case in point is Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission which mainly target women because of their biological roles. The PMTCT mandates a woman to disclose her HIV status to her partner and request him to a have the HIV test. The dilemma is that this is not critically analyzed to understand its implication at a family level.  

Loyce Kyogabirwe interviewing one of women paralegals after the training in Kitgum

The reality on the ground is that instead, the woman will be blamed for bringing HIV in the family and she will be beaten eventually, she will be chased away. In one of the community discussion I had, there was a story of  a  woman in Kitgum district Northern Uganda, she went to the health centre and was given  a packet of condoms. She was told to keep them in a cool dry place and when she reached at home, she looked for a cool dry place in her house. The only cool dry place she could find was the roof top of her grass thatched hut. When the husband came back he noticed something new on the roof and wanted to find out what exactly it was.

The man reached up and found a packet of condoms. He immediately started beating the wife and accusing him of prostitution. The poor woman was not given an opportunity to explain how the condoms found their way on the roof top. The women told us that they have found better ways of utilizing the condoms by using them to light fire especially the charcoal stove since they are oily, they can easily catch fire.

So where as service providers will attribute their success and achievement to the numbers of condoms distributed, the actual reality is that the intended result may not be attained.

The cultural beliefs, practices and attitudes of most of our societies perpetuate a lot of injustice to women and do not recognize their human rights and one of  them is wife inheritance. In most communities in Africa, when a man dies, his wife has to be inherited and  If she refuses all the property is grabbed from her and she will be chased away from her home.

It is therefore  our responsibility to ensure that women especially those living with HIV and AIDS are protected from such injustice and take control of their lives. When women are availed the knowledge and tools they take charge of their lives and play a key role in transforming the lives of communities

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