Why Gender Equality
MIFUMI works to promote women’s advancement and achieve gender equality and empowerment for women because women have historically been and remain disadvantaged in a patriarchal society where men exercise domination over and discrimination against women.
MIFUMI believes in the new feminist movement (also known as the women’s movement, or simply feminism) which advocates a series of political campaigns for reforms on issues such as reproductive rights, domestic violence, maternity leave, equal pay, women’s suffrage, sexual harassment, and sexual violence.
We believe in a feminism that not only emphasizes the integral complementarity of women and men, rather than the superiority of men over women or women over men, but also advocates for respecting persons from conception to natural death.
As Hilary Clinton said, in many ways, women are better off than they were 25 years ago. A girl born 25 years ago in Lesotho could not own property or sign a contract; today, she can. In East Africa, a girl born 25 years ago grew up in a region where female genital cutting was widespread; since then, the practice has declined significantly. In 1995, domestic violence was a crime in just 13 countries; today, it is illegal in more than 100. We’ve nearly closed the global gender gap in primary-school enrolment, and maternal mortality has dropped by more than half. (Hilary Clinton: Power Shortage, 2020).
But the work is nowhere near done. As the changes laid out in the Platform for Action have been implemented, what’s become clear is that simply embracing the concept of women’s rights, let alone enshrining those rights in laws and constitutions, is not the same as achieving full equality. Rights are important, but they are nothing without the power to claim them.
When women are healthier and more economically secure, families, communities, and entire nations are better off. Gender parity in education is associated with longer life expectancies for women and men. According to one estimate, the global economic benefit to closing the gender gap in workforce participation by 2025 could be $28 trillion. And we’ve known for a long time that when women are included at the peace table, agreements are more likely to be reached, and to be longer lasting.
A situational analysis of gender and violence against women in Uganda, paints a gloomy picture. According to a 2015 UNDP Country Gender Assessment report, Uganda ranks 110 out of 148 on the gender inequality index. Local statistics for 2016-2017 (Uganda Demographic and Health Survey, 2016: Key indicators Report) show 9.9% of women aged 15-19 and 19.9% of women 20-24 years old had experienced sexual violence. The same document indicated that Bukedi (Eastern region – which includes Tororo and Bukedea in Eastern Uganda) had the highest regional incidence of sexual violence at 39.8%, followed by Ankole region (where Mbarara is located) with 25.8%; South Central region (including Masaka) at 20.1% and Karamoja region at 13.1%. Furthermore, the National Development Plan (2015-2020) indicates that 28% women aged 15 – 49 have ever experienced sexual violence. It indicates that while 70% women are engaged in agriculture, less than 20% control the proceeds from their efforts. Only 27% of registered land in Uganda is owned by women.
Poverty remains a significant constraint in the community, particularly for women, with men continuing to abandon their families in search of work in cities. A 2015 UNDP report indicated significant regional poverty level disparities, with North Eastern Uganda registering the highest measure of poverty at a co-efficient value of 74.2, then mid north at 35.2, and Eastern (Bukedi) at 24. 7. Negative perceptions and attitudes towards VAWG persist, with community members still seeing VAWG as a private matter that the community should not intervene in. Uptake of co-responsibility among other key actors is gradual, often being limited to, and dependent on, individuals rather than the institutions. MIFUMI believes that the best strategy in tackling the issues remains investing in directly and empowering survivor groups to find and enact community-based solutions and improving their capacity to organise and champion their voices and accountability at the community level.
Very little, if any, progress has been realised by local and national level coalitions with respect to key advocacy issues, such as the national legal aid policy which would guarantee free legal advisory services to indigent people; the Marriage bill, which would accord equal rights and protection for women under the law, remains pending in parliament. In addition, funding under the 2010 Domestic Violence Act, which would guarantee access to remedies for survivors, has not come to fruition. Services remain few and far between making it costly for survivors to access help. Although the policy on medical forensic examinations forms (Police Form 3) was amended to make them more accessible, duty-bearers still seek remuneration to provide copies, as well as to complete them, because the legislation-mandated funding, promised by the government, was not forthcoming.
Why MIFUMI’s work supports gender and the most marginalized women
By its very nature as a grassroots based network, our partners are comprised of women based in rural poor communities and living on the edge of poverty. Many of them are illiterate or semi-literate but with leaders who are literate.
Our focus of work on violence against women and those social norms that oppress women particularly bride price and polygamy mean that our beneficiaries are likely to be women living in rural areas who are most affected by social norms. For instance there is evidence of bride price and its link to poverty (Hague, Thiara and Turner, 2015) which is part of the reason why we aim to support women to have independent money, because if it is the case that the father won’t or can’t afford to refund bride price, if she has enough money, she can just leave. (P.S. This was before the Supreme Court ruling that has not outlawed bride price refund).
MIFUMI’s champions are recruited and typically represent grassroots, rural based women who are often living in poverty with minimal literacy. They are identified by peers in the community who are aware of their leadership and activist qualities.
Our advice centres work with grassroots communities through rural outreach work because we are aware that the rural population are far from domestic violence services, often travelling across districts to reach the nearest advice centre.
We have included poverty alleviation activities in our work because of the impoverishment that our groups face as part of our integrated approach to work with survivors. For example, in Tororo district MIFUMI works with 4 farmer groups, 151 savings groups and 4 cooperatives.
How MIFUMI strengthens gender equality
According to Sally Merry (2006) Human Rights ideas are more readily adopted if they are packaged in familiar terms, but they are more transformative if they challenge existing assumptions about power and relationships. When we talk about ending violence against women, we are really referring to removing power from men to control women. This loss of power needs to be replaced with something positive otherwise it proves difficult to sustain. This required dialogue and conversations with communities.
Towards this end, MIFUMI works with and will develop its current group of Gender Sensitive Men Actors and Groups to start dialogue and conversations with communities to find alternative ways of resolving conflict. There exists 750 registered GSMs in Tororo and we continue to receive new inquiries from people interested in supporting the fight against GBV. We have 21 groups of men in every sub county with 14 radio listener groups. Their mandate is to support in case handling and mediations, refer cases to IDVAs and other relevant authorities for further management of a case, conduct sensitizations and outreaches with the help of champions, report cases happening in their communities, recruit other men on board, and the leaders support in mentoring the newly recruited persons. Work with GSM will be replicated in the new districts under consideration in this project.
MIFUMI also works with officers in districts as part of its District Level Partnership, where officers are held accountable in their duty to protect women. Many of these office bearers are male and are educated about and buy into the agenda to end violence against women.
Through the network we aim to change the narrative on women by resisting dominant discourse and opening up one that has been silenced, so that there is a reframing of the meaning social norms that give rise to gender inequality such as bride price and polygamy.
We will seek to find a way in which men retain the respect and power without rendering women worthless, because they will resist change if they feel they are losing something. We will seek to reframe social norms in a way that men feel they “gain something” and that third way might be about how everybody gains. Through the network, we will try to find what that third way might look like.
MIFUMI will continue to work towards gender equality until women are free to enjoy their human rights and have the opportunity to realise their full potential and contribute to society as respected citizens of the world.