By Sister Betty Elizabeth Kawala, Acting District Health Officer- Mayuge District Local Government, Uganda
This International Women’s Day, I have been thinking a lot about empowerment. A multi-dimensional process, empowerment enables individuals or a group of individuals to realize their full identity and powers in all spheres of life. In Uganda, women’s empowerment is a frequently discussed topic. But in the 21st century, do we still need to talk about empowerment and filling the gender gap?
We have examples of women succeeding and becoming leaders in our country. We know mothers that have left the home to become corporate presidents. However, we have to ask ourselves if this means we no longer need to talk about women’s empowerment. We have to ask ourselves if women in Uganda are getting their deserved rights. Are girls receiving the same education as boys? Are girls still getting married at a young age?
In urban areas like Kampala, these are questions we often forget to ask. But we need to have these hard conversations, especially in rural areas like Mayuge District, where I work as the District Health Officer. According to a United Nations report, “women are half the world’s population, yet they do two-thirds of the world’s work, earn one-tenth of the world’s income, and own less than one-hundredth of the world’s property.” I see this in Mayuge District, where it is common to find women supporting very large families with limited financial means. Women are the main providers of basic services such as housing, education for their children, clothing, and food. Several homes in the district are headed by single mothers and widows.
I strongly believe that if you empower women, you will be empowering a whole family. Empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors is essential to building stronger economies, achieving internationally agreed-upon goals for development and sustainability, and improving the quality of life for women, men, families, and communities. Studies show that when women are supported and empowered, their families are healthier, their children better educated, agricultural productivity improves and incomes grow. In short, communities become more resilient.
In my district and country, we need to continue advancing gender by specifically closing the gap in access to public services like health and education. As leaders, we all have a role to play, to continue to advocating for increased funding to support communities in addressing these issues.
In Mayuge District, we are undertaking innovative initiatives to address the gap in empowerment, including:
Today, in celebration of International Women’s Day, I would like to encourage my fellow leaders at the district, country, and global level to think innovatively. By keeping the conversation in the spotlight and undertaking new projects, we can empower women and support healthy, prosperous and resilient communities.
 Report of the World Conference of the United Nations Decade for Women: Equality, Development, and Peace (New York, NY: United Nations, 1980) http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/otherconferences/Copenhagen/Cop....