UWOPA Counts Gains, Losses on Women’s Issues

Kamugo says that only one out of the four donors of its 2016-2021 strategic plan is still funding the association, which money is earmarked for paying the five staff at the secretariat. Plan International, Democratic Governance Facility, European Union and UNDP are expected to support the implementation of the plan.
09 Mar 2019 08:48

Audio 7

In 2016, Uganda Women’s Parliamentary Association-UWOPA and donors launched a five-year strategic plan covering mainly four women issues.  These included economic empowerment and equal opportunities for women, gender parity in leadership and decision making at all levels, the rights, health and education of women and girls.   

The association also pledged to push for the implementation of the four key issues on the Women’s Agenda (2016-2021). Civil society organizations led by Uganda Women’s Network made the agenda and presented it to the speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga and UWOPA leaders in 2016.

The key areas on the agenda are women’s land and property rights, women politics and decision making, health and economic empowerment. It is three years since the Women’s Agenda and the Strategic Plan was unveiled. Enacting the Marriage and Divorce Bill, Sexual Offences Bill and Succession Amendment Bill are the major policies for legislation in the plan and the Women’s Agenda.  

However, three months to the end of the third year of the tenth parliament, none of the three Bills have been enacted. Pamela Kamugo, the newly elected UWOPA chairperson, explains that the Sexual Offences Bill was withdrawn due to the introduction of several amendments while the Marriage and Divorce Bill still requires wide consultation.  

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Kadaga, who is also UWOPA Patron, has however praised women and their allies at parliament by legislating on 8 issues that affect women.  These included moving motions to bring private members’ Bills such as the Anti-slavery Bill that was moved by the Soroti municipality MP, 

Herbert Ariko to end modern day slavery, Sexual Offences Bill, 2015 that was later withdrawn to make some changes and the Succession Amendment Bill, 2018 that is before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee.   

Kadaga also commends legislators for demanding state action on the issue of former female abductees of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), the need for an annual audit on maternal deaths, the push for national roll out of the Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE) Scheme and the inquiry into sexual harassment in institutions.   

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Rubaga South MP, Kato Lubwama and Padyere Padyere County MP, Joshua Anywarach fault UWOPA leadership and members for not doing enough to advance programs that could improve the lives of women.  In the ninth parliament, UWOPA lobbied government to implement the Uganda Women’s Entrepreneurship Programme to empower women.   

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Kamugo says that due to financial constraints, the association is failing to implement the women’s agenda and the strategic plan that are largely funded by donors. The situation has worsened because traditional donors stopped funding UWOPA activities last year because of accountability concerns.

Kamugo says that only one out of the four donors of its 2016-2021 strategic plan is still funding the association, which money is earmarked for paying the five staff at the secretariat. Plan International, Democratic Governance Facility, European Union and UNDP are expected to support the implementation of the plan. 

Kamugo says the association is depending mainly on the monthly contributions of its 157 members comprising of 115 female and 42 male members. There are 160 female members of parliament.

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Since each member contributes Shillings 30,000 monthly, the association is operating on a monthly budget of Shillings 4.7 million.  Programs such as following up on the presidential pledge on emergency sanitary towels in schools and capacity building for girls to make their own sanitary towels for sustainability will require Shillings 35 million for two years (2018/ 2019).   

Some of the leaders and members of the association say most donors have withdrawn funding due to disagreements on the agenda for the pressure group while MPs want UWOPA to extend activities to their constituencies. Pader Woman MP, Lowila Oketayot has praised parliament for donating 10,000 sanitary towels to school girls. Parliament's ‘Keep A Girl” in School drive benefited six primary schools in Lamwo, Kitgum and Pader districts.   

Oketayot represents Northern Uganda in the UWOPA leadership. She has commended UWOPA for also spearheading the campaign against child marriage. 

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UWOPA Executive committee member in charge of Western Region, Elizabeth Karungi is concerned that the early 2021 election campaigns could also stall implementation of UWOPA activities.  But the Kumi municipality MP, Silas Aogon who is also a member of UWOPA, calls on the executive to implement the plan and scheduled activities.   

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UWOPA has yet to achieve 40% gender parity in the leadership of parliamentary committees which currently stands at 33.3%.  Only 9 of the 51 committees are chaired by women such as Syda Bbumba (National Economy), Grace Akech (Agriculture), Florence Nambozo (HIV/AIDS) while 8 women serve as vice chairpersons. 

These include Baguma Espallanza (Health), Karungi Elizabeth (public service and local government). Also, there is unfinished business in lobbying ministries of health and education to amend the Student Loan Policy to provide 50-50 percent admission at the university, the fulfillment of the presidential pledge on emergency sanitary towels among women’s key issues. 

Kadaga has however reassured the women that the tenth parliament will continue to address their issues including teenage pregnancies and challenges like fistula among young mothers.  

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UWOPA was created in 1989-1994 as a parliamentary caucus to unite all Women Members of Parliament, former women members of parliament and Male Members of Parliament as associates to enhance effective representation of women in parliament.