By Titus Kakembo
As more women get out of the kitchen to besiege boardrooms and trade, a majority remain trapped in the proverbial ‘beast of burden’ status quo.
This is evidenced by findings of Uganda National Bureau of Statistic (UNBS) that show that getting married reduces the time men spend doing unpaid domestic work – while the opposite happens to the women.
“When a couple return home after a day’s work at 7:00pm, the lady dashes to the kitchen to prepare dinner, pick the husband’s shirt for the next day, pack the food containers for the toddlers in kindergarten as her husband rolls his sleeves to watch television,” observed Uganda National NGO Forum, Richard Sewakiryanga.
“She has to be up at 4:00am to prepare breakfast for the family.”
UNBS statistics have it that in 2012/2013, married women spent on average seven times (about 5 hours) longer doing unpaid work than married men. This implies that married women have to forego participation in formal employment-related work to engage in domestic work.
“So while the men are going for career development studies, the women are procreating and going for maternity leave,” said Prof. Josephine Ahikire, who is the dean of the School of Women and Gender Studies at Makerere University.
“And yet for humanity to survive we need children and mothers have to produce them,” she added.
Worse still, gender discrimination in terms of wages is still widespread despite the constitutional provision of equality of sexes. For example, the report indicates that the lowest salary of men is almost double that received by women regardless of the type of work being undertaken
The national minimum wage has been sh6,000 since 1984.
The gender gap in median salary is widest in rural arrears where it stands at roughly sh77, 000 for men and sh35, 000 for the women. According to the Economic Policy Research Center 2009 findings, this is because of men attaining higher levels of education and a general gender discrimination in society.
The global economy is reportedly failing women, by being the underlying cause of their exploitation as it not conducive to their empowerment. This appalling state of affairs was evidenced way back in 1987 by the structural reforms.
Its goal was to achieve economic growth of 7.0 percent per year and see poverty reduced to 10 percent by 2017. It resulted in education levels dropping from 56 percent in 1996 to 24.5 percent by 2009/10.
But unfortunately many Ugandans are still unemployed in low productivity economic activities like petty trade and subsistence farming.
In downtown Kampala, the women are seen performing feminized occupations like: food vending, house helping, cleaning, nursing, attending to front desk office, selling tomatoes, airtime and bananas, to mention but a few.
For their village-based counterparts, agriculture remains the most important source of work and yet the earnings also favor the men where women do most of the tedious work. The blame for this is put on early marriages.
However, the good news is that policy makers have started recognizing the time constraints faced by women.
“That is why parliament has a daycare center for legislators to have their toddlers kept as they work,” said the state minister of gender, labor and social development Rukia Isanga Nakadama.
“The ongoing construction of feeder roads, health services and universal free primary education [UPE] is targeting to improve their state,” she said.
‘Instrument for change’
In the same tone, the UN Women’s Publication of The World’s Women 2015-2016 argues that there is need to realize their potential. It recommends putting in place policies that will transform the labor markets.
“This report connects the local, national and global levels,” said the EU Head of delegation Ambassador Kristian Schmidt during its launch at Serena Hotel July 19, 2015.
“We need all the tools to combat all forms of discrimination like, violence and forced marriages for either girls or women. I call upon all players to use the report as an instrument for change and progress.”
The report stresses the need for women to have access to occupations that are non-segregated to enable them acquire skills and access promotion opportunities. It further recommends narrowing the existing gender pay gaps.
According to the findings, there is need to address other factors like; the high illiteracy rate among women, low numbers of girls in secondary schools and segregation against girls studying sciences.
Quoting the National Development Plan 2009/10-2014/15, the report recommends having a minimum wage as a critical step to increasing gainful employment, arguing that it will in turn reduce poverty, tackle inequality and check sexual harassment at work.