Fighting Gender Discrimination in Uganda

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SEATTLE, Washington — Conditions for women in Uganda are in dire need of improvement. In many cases, young girls find themselves forced into child marriages or other sexual activities to buy essential items like sanitary pads. There are those who seek to change that, however. Organizations like Plan International are fighting to end gender discrimination in Uganda, and the progress so far is astounding.

UNDP Uganda, Gender Equity and Woman Empowerment

According to a 2016 study, 56 percent of Ugandan women have experienced spousal violence, while 22 percent have experienced sexual violence. To change this, the Ugandan government has partnered with the United Nations to create a Spotlight Initiative aimed at ending Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV).

The government of Uganda, along with the U.N. and EU, launched the initiative on March 8, 2020 as part of the International Women’s Day celebrations. At the launch, women’s activist groups argued for allocating 30 percent of public procurement to fund women-run businesses and for harsher punishments for sex offenders.

The four-year Ugandan Spotlight Initiative is one of eight ongoing in Africa. U.N. Resident Coordinator Rosa Malango believes that eliminating gender discrimination in Uganda will result in widespread socioeconomic improvements. If allowed opportunities for better education, women will then be able to give back to their communities with entrepreneurship and higher-wage jobs.

Plan International: Champions of Change

Plan International is a nonprofit organization working with underprivileged girls around the world. In Uganda, their Champions of Change project demonstrates how education and community engagement can improve the lives of countless women. By encouraging Ugandan women to become activists, they then can take the lead in spurring change at home. Many of the activists come from a history of gender discrimination and violence. However, after receiving assistance from Plan International, they found themselves empowered to retake control of their own lives. Now, they are giving back by mentoring young girls who need them the most.

Plan International doesn’t focus solely on women, however. The organization also provides training for men on how to be effective allies for change. Indeed, despite the negative stigma surrounding men advocating for women’s rights in Uganda, there has been a surge of young men supporting change in the country. Through sharing information on social media, these activists are advancing the fight to end gender inequality.

MenEngage for Gender Equality

Like Plan International, the nonprofit organization MenEngage believes in the importance of making men into allies for gender equality. By hosting educational sessions and workshops focused on accountability, MenEngage helps men develop their own understanding of what it means to be masculine. As a result, men are then able to avoid repeating the behaviors that are so harmful to women.

These behaviors are not limited to the household, however. That is why MenEngage places a particular focus on improving workplace conditions for women. This means engaging with businesses and community groups to build an environment in which not only are perpetrators held accountable but employees also receive proper education on what is and isn’t appropriate. While there is still a stigma surrounding men supporting women’s rights in the country, the work MenEngage is doing seeks to end that. Now, both men and women are fighting gender discrimination in Uganda.

Uganda’s Gender Equal Quidditch Team

In 2013, Ugandan teacher John Ssentamu read “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and quickly became intrigued with Quidditch, the book’s imaginary sport. After then discovering how others had made the game a reality, Ssentamu decided he would create a team of his own. This would prove to be a radical idea at the time, though not because of the game’s magical roots. Rather, because this team would be a team of both boys and girls playing as equals.

At first, Ssentamu’s students found it shocking to see a game where boys and girls played on the same team. However, that soon began to change. With both genders receiving equal treatment on the field, the girls quickly proved that they could not only keep up with the boys but even outplay them. This is led to a growing camaraderie among the team. The game quickly became a favorite of students around the country.

Seven years later, Quidditch has spread to three other countries in Africa and now features more than 200 players. Most importantly, Ssentamu has seen the positive influence a co-ed sport can have on a community. Where many in Uganda once considered women incapable of competing with men, they now realize the power women possess when given access to the same opportunities.

Although true gender equality has yet to be achieved, Uganda has made great strides in making the country a better place for women. From the workplace to the Quidditch pitch, these activists are leading the fight against gender discrimination in Uganda.

Kiyomi Kishaba
Photo: Flickr

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