US President Barack Obama’s speech at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi rings a bell not only in Kenya but Uganda as well. Mr Obama on Sunday talked about the welfare of the girl-child, creating opportunities for youth at home and holding governments accountable.
Uganda has made some progress in creating an environment in which a girl-child can thrive; however, we are still far from the ideal. According to undp.org, between 1991 and 2010, Uganda increased its gender parity by 25 per cent in primary schools and over 20 per cent in secondary schools. In 2003, Uganda had more than 35 per cent women in non-agriculture wage employment. And according to the 2012 wage equality survey, Uganda has a female to male wage ratio that is higher than 0.7 on top of being one of the eight countries that have reached the target of at least 30 per cent women in Parliament. That is all good, but, the gap to fill is still too huge to turn a blind eye to, particularly for a country with 51 per cent of its population being women.
Affirmative action that was introduced some years ago should move to create a more inclusive country where women and men represent all decisions made from household to Cabinet levels. Ugandan women at large are still disadvantaged and have low access at opportunities. Many boardrooms have one or no women representatives despite high numbers of female university graduates. The problem is still with stereotypes that there are jobs that are a reserve for men, not women.
Mr Obama, therefore, makes a strong case that educating and empowering the girl-child and women will only make our societies better. The US President was right to say that an educated mother is more likely to have educated, healthy and well nurtured children. Repression and oppression of women and the girl-child should be regarded as enemies of development. Rampant domestic violence, for example, where women are subjected to beatings by their husbands, should not be accommodated or condoned by anyone in society.
Mr Obama’s message is inspiring and for the youth that want to change countries, it was close to home as Uganda moves to the polls next year. There is no reason why hundreds of Africans should continue dying trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to go to Europe for better opportunities. Young people can realise good education, standards of living and job opportunities, at home if good governance principles are observed. That is why Mr Obama challenged young people together with their leaders, to build systems that work and create an environment that nurtures innovation and growth. Mr Obama’s words give hope to all Ugandans, young and old. Let us put our destiny in our hands instead of running away or waiting for a messiah to come from elsewhere to save us.
The issue: Girl-child, women’s welfare
Our view: Repression and oppression of women and the girl-child should be regarded as enemies of development.