Womens Day Celebration

Friday, March 8, 2019




Theme: “Empowering Women through Innovative Approaches to Social Protection: A Pre-requisite for Inclusive and Sustainable Development”.

8th MARCH 2019

Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development
P.O.BOX 7136, Kampala
E-mail: ps@mglsd.go.ug

Theme: “Empowering Women through Innovative Approaches to Social Protection: A Pre-requisite for Inclusive and Sustainable Development”.
1.0 Introduction
The International Women’s Day (IWD) is celebrated annually on the 8th of March. It is a day in recognition of the role and contribution of women to the development process all over the world. The day provides an opportunity to enhance advocacy for inclusion of women’s concerns in the development agenda at all levels by calling on United Nations Member States to design and implement interventions aimed as attaining gender equality and the empowerment of women.
This year, International Women’s Day will be celebrated under the global theme: “Think Equal, Build Smart, and Innovate for Change”. This theme focuses on creating a paradigm shift for transforming mind sets to the goal of gender equality as well as identifying new ways of advancing the women’s agenda at all levels.

The theme selected for the national celebrations is: “Empowering Women through Innovative Approaches to Social Protection; a Pre-requisite for Inclusive and Sustainable Development”. This theme recognizes the importance of providing social protection to women with the aim of minimizing their vulnerability, building their potential through innovative approaches so that they contribute to and benefit from the development process. Sustainable development aims at meeting the needs of the present population without compromising the needs of future generations. The National Development Plan II states that “the attainment of gender equality and women’s empowerment is a pre-requisite for accelerated socio-economic transformation.”
2.0 Social Protection in Uganda
Social protection refers to public and private interventions to address risks and vulnerabilities that expose individuals to income insecurity and social deprivation leading to undignified lives. Globally, it is now recognized that social protection programs enable countries to address poverty and vulnerability and in so doing improve the socio-economic wellbeing of their otherwise excluded people. Within the context of poverty and inequality, social protection programmes are increasingly seen as promising interventions for inclusive development. Effective programming for social protection however requires an analysis of the underlying causes of gender and equity inequalities as the basis for which gender responsive social protection programming can be undertaken.
In the Ugandan context, social protection refers to public and private interventions to address risks and vulnerabilities that expose individuals to income insecurity and social deprivation, leading to undignified lives. It is a basic service and a human right that ensures dignity of people. Social protection is comprised of two pillars, social security and social care and support services.

Social security refers to protective and preventive interventions to mitigate factors that lead to income shocks and affect the ability of individuals to live dignified lives. Social Care and Support Services are a range of services that provide care, support, protection and empowerment to vulnerable individuals who are unable to fully care for themselves. (Uganda National Social Protection Policy, 2015). Social security consists of two parts, namely direct income support and social insurance.

Under direct income support people who are unable to meet their basic needs receive an amount of money or quantity of food regularly without contributing. An example of direct income support is the Senior Citizens Grant. Under social insurance, people who are working contribute money from their earnings, which they receive when they stop working due to sickness, disability or old age. Specific contribution may also be made to cover treatment costs when any member of the family falls sick. An example is the National Social Security Fund Scheme and the Community Based Health Insurance Scheme.
Social Care and support services are actions that provide care, support, assistance protection, and empowerment to individuals who are unable to fully care for themselves. Facilities that provide social care and support services include, reception centers for abandoned children, orphanages, remand homes for children in conflict with the law, special homes for older persons and those for persons with disabilities as well as Shelters for GBV survivors.

2.1 Legal and Policy Framework
The Constitution under the National Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy stipulates the protection of the aged, enhancing equal opportunities for all, as well as access to basic services, including retirement benefits. Uganda Vision 2040 underscores the importance of social protection to address risks and vulnerabilities, recognizing the need to provide assistance to people who are vulnerable either by age, social class, location, disability, gender or disaster.

Some of the specific legal and policy frameworks for addressing social protection in Uganda include The Pensions Act Cap.286 which provides for granting and regulating pensions, gratuities and other allowances; The National Social Security Fund Act Cap. 222 which provides for social security benefits for employees in the private sector and the Uganda Retirement Benefits Regulatory Authority Act (2011) which provides for regulating the establishment, management and operation of retirement benefits schemes in Uganda in both the private and public sectors.

Other legal and policy frameworks include the Workers Compensation Act Cap.225, The Employment Act No. 6 (2006), The Children’s Act (Cap 59) The Land Act Cap. 227, The Birth and Death Registration Act Cap.309, The Persons with Disability Act (2006) and the Occupational Safety and Health Act No. 9 (2009). Key policies include the National OVC Policy (2004), The National Child Labour Policy (2006), The National Policy for Older Persons (2009), The Uganda Gender Policy (2007), The National Policy for Disaster Preparedness and Management (2010), The Special Needs, Inclusive Education Policy and the National Policy on the Elimination of Gender Based Violence in Uganda, 2016.
3.0 Gender and Social Protection
The role of social protection in transforming gender relations for improved impacts of development programmes cannot be over emphasized. Gender mainstreaming in social protection is critical in the programme design, implementation and evaluation because it lays a foundation for fair distribution of outcomes and impacts on all the categories of beneficiaries.
As part of building Uganda’s National Social Protection systems, the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development formulated the Gender and Equity Strategy which was launched in 2018. The objectives of the strategy are to;
• Ensure gender responsive social protection initiatives
• Address gender inequalities and equity in delivering social protection services
• Build capacity of duty bearers to effectively implement gender responsive and equitable social protection interventions
• Develop and institutionalize system for delivering gender responsive and equitable social protection interventions.
The Strategy is expected to guide implementation of social protection initiatives with a gender and equity perspective for inclusive and sustainable development.
4.0 Empowering Women through Innovative Approaches to Social Protection
Women’s empowerment has been achieved though implementation of various innovative approaches under ongoing Programmes. These include;

4.1 Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE)
Under the Expanding Social Protection (ESP) Programme, the Government of Uganda is implementing direct income support under its Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE) scheme. Through this scheme, Government provides a social pension (the Senior Citizens Grant) of Shs 25,000 per month, to older persons. Government recently approved a national roll out of the grant with the age threshold adjusted to 80 years and above. The current number of SAGE beneficiaries in 61 Districts as of January 2019 is 157,493. Of these, 94,544 are women and 62,949 are men. Among the FGM practicing communities in Amudat and Moroto Districts older persons who are SAGE beneficiaries have been enlisted as members of community-based action teams (COMBATs) to raise awareness and work with their communities to end female genital mutilation (FGM).

4.2 The Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme (UWEP)
The Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme is an initiative that is aimed at improving access to financial services for women and equipping them with skills and information for enterprise growth, value addition and marketing of their products and services. The primary target beneficiaries of the Programme are women within the age bracket of 18-65 years most of whom fall under the unemployed and vulnerable categories of society. They include single mothers, widows, women slum dwellers, GBV survivors, women with disabilities, women living in hard to reach areas, women heading households, women living with HIV and AIDs and ethnic minorities. By the end of 2018, UWEP had a total of 103,770 women in 8,247 projects. The national outlook of the programme as well as the special targeting makes it one of the major breakthroughs for addressing the livelihood needs of marginalized and vulnerable women and girls in Uganda.

4.3 The Youth Livelihood Programme (YLP)
The youth are susceptible to negative shocks of unemployment more than other age groups. The situation is worse for the female youth due to factors such as low literacy rates among girls compared to boys, limited employable skills, poor bargaining skills, limited morbidity of young females in search for jobs, sexual exploitation of the girls among others. These factors put them at high levels of vulnerability which require social protection interventions. It is also critical to tap into their energies for national development. The Government of Uganda designed the Youth Livelihood Programme to enhance employment creation and skills development for the youth. Under this programme, 17,850 projects have been financed mainly in agriculture (33%), trade (28%) and 21% in industry with a total number of 216,366 youth benefiting. The female youth constitute 46% of the beneficiaries.
4.4 Establishment and Management of GBV shelters
Shelters to support survivors of Gender Based Violence have been established in various parts of the Country. This has been made possible through the collaboration of Local Governments with the support of Development Partners and Civil Society stakeholders. To operationalize the shelters, the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development developed the National Guidelines for the Establishment and Management of GBV Shelters as well as guidelines for providing psycho social support to GBV survivors.
4.5 Extension of Social services to the poor by subsidizing costs is another innovative way of empowering women and interventions include the abolition of health charges and introduction of Universal Primary Education. Under the UPE Programme gender parity has been achieved in enrolment and completion. There was an improvement in enrolment to reach 50% for both girls and boys in 2015 (EMIS 2015). Completion for girls rose to 72% in 2015 from 47% in 2008 and completion for boys rose from 51% in 2008 to 72% in 2015. (EMIS 2015). Investment in health infrastructure has improved accessibility of women to health facilities enabling them to obtain antenatal care, immunization, reproductive health services, as well as counselling for HIV and AIDS.

4.6 Asset Transfers. This includes tangible transfers of agricultural inputs, livestock, agricultural machinery and land. Through the restocking programme and Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), livestock have been transferred to the poor, the majority of whom are women. Programmes such as the Project for the Restoration of Livelihood in the Northern Region (PRELNOR) provide agricultural inputs, agricultural machinery and livestock that have improved the livelihood of women in Uganda.

Under the Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF) 70,200 beneficiaries are being targeted for Livelihood Investments (LIS), and 285,500 beneficiaries to earn income from temporary employment through the labour intensive public works component. This is aimed at improving livelihoods of the community especially women who are primary target beneficiaries due to the level of their vulnerability and Government of Uganda’s efforts to promote gender equality.

4.7 Private Sector and Civil Society Led Initiatives;
One of the innovative approaches to women’s empowerment is the establishment of the micro-initiatives that have achieved great success. These include microfinance and micro-health insurance schemes, programmes and institutions that provide support to Persons Living with AIDs (PLWD), Persons with Disability (PWD), Orphans and other vulnerable groups.

• Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs)
VSLAs in Uganda play a critical role in bringing financial services to rural areas, where access to formal financial services is limited. Promotion of VSLA groups in Uganda has led to an improvement in financial inclusion, household business outcomes, and women’s empowerment. There is evidence of improved resilience in villages affected by drought, with households having improved food security and income.

• Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) ensures that both public and private sector organizations make commitments to promoting, protecting, respecting and fulfilling children’s rights and taking concrete action in their key priority areas. Family friendly policies and child focused corporate social responsibility (CSR) Action are being implemented.
• Social Security through the NSSF Voluntary Saving Scheme. This scheme covers former NSSF members who have left formal employment and crossed over to the informal sector. It also gives an opportunity to companies employing less than the mandatory 5 employees to voluntarily contribute for the social security of its employees. To date the scheme has been able to recruit 11,000 members with collections worth Sh. 6.5 billion.
5.0 Challenges and Gaps
5.1 Diminishing traditional social protection mechanisms
There is an erosion of traditional social protection systems in Uganda. Communities no longer engage in protection of the vulnerable groups due to adoption of nuclear system of families and the deepening economic situation. This has resulted into increased number of children living on streets, abandonment of older persons in rural areas especially women, grabbing of productive assets from widows and high school dropout rates of orphans and other children due to lack of support.

5.2 Low coverage of social protection interventions
Despite the tremendous interventions by the government, coverage is still minimal considering the ever-increasing number of vulnerable groups in the country. For example, the SAGE project only covers 61 districts out of 128 districts and currently in some districts targets older persons above 80 years of age thus leaving out majority of the target group.

5.3 Limited Access to Markets for Agricultural Produce.
Uganda has continued to invest heavily in agriculture as the largest sector for production and employment opportunities. Many women participate in the agricultural sector as peasants and small-scale farmers especially in the rural areas. Although programmes such as Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), UWEP and YLP have contributed to increased agricultural productivity and output, women still have limited access to market for their products due to their imitated exposure based on the gender inequalities between men and women. Many women are paid low prices for their produce and hence become vulnerable.
6.0 Recommendations
In view of the above challenges, the following are the recommendations to strengthen social protection interventions for women’s empowerment.
6.1 Increased budget allocation for Social Protection Interventions
There is need to have increased funding to the existing social protection interventions particularly the Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme. The objective of this intervention is to provide affordable credit to Women groups for enterprise development through a revolving fund. The intervention facilitates Women groups with bankable proposals to access interest free loans. If this intervention is well facilitated, the women will have more stable businesses and improve their productivity hence reduction in their level of vulnerability. Improving the budget allocation to Social Protection should include SAGE coverage to be extended to all districts from the current 61 districts but also lower the age of eligibility from 80 years and above to 65 year and above as the resource envelop grows.

6.2 Adopt modern and appropriate technologies
Available evidence from UWEP and YLP progress reports indicate that women are predominantly engaged in traditional enterprises such as poultry, piggery and produce buying and selling. There is need to conduct more sensitization, training and capacity development to assist women to move into enterprises which utilize appropriate technology for value addition. This will widen their income base, diversify investments and increase their ability to resist shocks.

6.3 Revive and enhance the traditional system of social protection
It is still important to enhance traditional and informal social protection system for the benefit of both men and women. This can be done through Cultural and Faith Based Organization leaders to uphold positive social protection aspects like looking after orphans, providing support to the needy persons and Persons with Disabilities. The primary responsibility of caring for such people lies with the community members because they are closer to them. Even when the vulnerable groups are targeted by Government projects and programmes, the communities still need to support them to benefit from the various project and programme interventions.

6.4 Increasing Care for the Marginalized Women
There is need to integrate the needs and rights of women informal sector workers, women refugees, women in low paying jobs, rural and indigenous women and women with special needs in the design of social protection interventions.