WAKISO – Forum for Women in Democracy – FOWODE has on Monday, March 7 launched the Construction of a 28 billion shillings, IMARA, a Women Leadership and Skills training centre in Kasangati town council.
The ground-breaking ceremony was officiated among others, UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima also a founding member of FOWODE, First Deputy Prime Minister of Uganda, Rebecca Kadaga and Renowned Kenyan politician and social justice activist Hon Martha Karua.
Kadaga, also the Minister of East African Affairs commended FOWODE, revealing that she is a beneficiary of their work.
“In the journey of deputy speaker and speaker, FOWODE has been there by my side…. a lot of research, a lot of advocacy, thank you very much for what you have done.”
She said that FOWODE and related organisations have played a very critical role in ensuring that women are also recognised in society because they initially had no space.
Kadaga gave an example of Sarah Ntiro, a Ugandan educator, activist and academic who the first woman university graduate in East and Central Africa from Oxford University with a Bachelor of Arts in History in 1954 being ejected from Mathematics class.
“When she joined the university, she had performed well in mathematics and she went to the classroom like any other student. The lecturer told her, you are not supposed to be here… he said I don’t teach women and Sarah had to abandon mathematics.”
She said that for a long time women were not supposed to study medicine until 1936 they went to court and the court had to make a ruling that women are human beings. “The view was that women have small brains.”
“Today we still have women who must make a choice between their babies and their jobs because in the corporate world they say on whose time are you going to take your leave? Why should I pay when you are feeding your baby? make a choice. So these are the things we still need to work on,” said the former speaker of Parliament.
Kadaga pledged a contribution of shs10m
Officiating at the event Martha Karua said it’s a great thing that women are finding a home to their inspirations, a home to their organisation as they spearhead the rights of women, democracy and good governance in Uganda and ultimately in the sub-region and the region “because what happens in one place affects us.”
“You are the first in the region to have gender quarters and that influenced Kenya’s constitutional making. Rwanda may have overtaken you but we still remember you are the one who inspired us to fight for gender quarters in our constitution,” said Karua.
“You are also the first to show serious organization as women rights activists and you did help us to strengthen our women’s movement and now that you are finding a home, we will soon be following,” Karua lauded FOWODE.
She reminded that democracy is not abstract but an essential fundamental for progress as human beings. “It is one of the universal core values and principles of the United Nations to which our countries subscribe.”
Karua believes it is women who will liberate their countries and their sub-region from the recession in democracy.
She appreciated the fact that Uganda has made a lot of gains on the field of women’s rights especially participation in politics and decision-making.
“I observed Rwanda has overtaken but none of our countries has achieved gender equality. We need to remind ourselves, the gender quarters are not the goal, they are starting point but many and especially our brothers in leadership behave as gender quarters are the ultimate… we have work to do to ensure there is equality in our homes, we liberate ourselves from gender-based violence.”
Ms. Byanyima said that their advocacy is all about sharing power because power is elastic.
“This is about building a democracy where power is shared, where power is feminist… it’s our power with others, the ability, the confidence to go out and lead and live our lives as we want. We are so interested as women feminists in power over others, the power to dominate bores us, what excites us is sharing the power.”
Ms. Byanyima said that FOWODE is about inclusivity and for all women from every corner of Uganda, young and old, which fight for their space too.
“We need a place we call our own where we can sit, plan, strategize, and go out to the world and make it what we want it to be and IMARA center is our next big contribution to the women’s movement, it’s for all of us.”
“What I see as a threat that makes us need this space… there is a push back, no question. Look at the base where women live. Is there much healthcare? Aren’t women still dying in childbirth, 17 per day!!! Aren’t women still carrying water miles and miles? We are seeing big infrastructure, Government borrows makes bridges, is it borrowing for domestic water?… put women at the frontline of the decision making,” decried Byanyima.
Women shall have the right to equal treatment with men and that right shall include equal opportunities in political, economic and social activities
FOWODE says the participation of women in leadership and decision-making remains central to gender equality and the advancement of women’s rights.
They say the attainment of sustainable development is improbable without the improvement of women’s and girls’ social, economic and political status.
“The demand for equal participation in decision-making is a major step towards challenging patriarchal forms of oppression that constrain women and girls’ participation in leadership.”
According to FOWODE, equality in political decision-making performs a leverage function without which it is highly unlikely that a real integration of the equality dimension in policymaking is viable.
“When women’s perspectives are not integrated in decision-making, the goals of gender equality and sustainable development remain unreachable. Achieving the goal of equal participation of women and men in decision making will provide a balance that more accurately reflects the structure of society and is needed in order to strengthen democracy and promote its proper functioning.”
FOWODE’s beginnings are rooted in the 1994-1995 constitution-making process in Uganda. It all started in 1994 when 8 women came together to lead the Women’s Caucus in the Constituent Assembly. With support from the Uganda women’s movement, feminist academics, funding partners and allies from the disability, workers and youth movements, the Women’s Caucus won landmark provisions guaranteeing women’s rights and gender equality and opened opportunities for women’s political, economic and social empowerment through affirmative action. Uganda’s Constitution was acclaimed as one of the most gender-sensitive in the world.
Riding on the momentum of the constitution-making process, FOWODE was established as a Non-Governmental Organization to offer a platform for Ugandan women’s learning, networking, sharing experiences and advocating for gender equality and equity in the decision-making process. Relentlessly pursuing a non-partisan path and grounded in the Ugandan and African women’s rights movements, FOWODE has focused its efforts on building transformative leadership for women’s rights and influencing public policy.
FOWODE has continued to be a pacesetter in promoting gender equality and women’s leadership in the country. Whereas it primarily focuses on women’s issues, FOWODE also seeks gender equality and thus involves men in all aspects of its work. FOWODE has strategically positioned itself as a champion for women’s rights protection, participation in political decision making and engaging in issues of macroeconomic governance such as Gender Responsive Budgeting (GRB).