Op-ed – Let girls and women take a seat at the high table

By Mahoro Rose

The world is today celebrating International Women’s Day with a theme dubbed, be bold for change. The theme is a rally call for individuals to work towards a better and more gender-inclusive world.

Women’s day, celebrated every 8 March, has been commemorated for more than 100 years, but several roadblocks still exist. It’s important that we ensure that women and girls access quality education, health care, enroll in decent and gainful employment, have access to and own property, and be free to participate in decision making.

According to the World Economic Forum, the gender gap won’t be bridged entirely until the year 2186. This is because of present hurdles that women still have to overcome, such as underrepresentation in government and in public offices, limited access to technology, shouldering the bigger household burden, and being at greater risk of sexual and domestic violence that hinders their potential to progress.

Are we therefore going to sit back, cross our arms and wait for a decade before we can act? In Uganda, gender-based violence, limited access to healthcare and family planning services has contributed to maternal and neonatal deaths. Several girls are not going to school or drop out because of defilement, and lack of scholastic materials such as sanitary pads. Are we going to sit back, cross our arms and watch or start acting now in whatever small way we can?

We need to learn from and replicate projects that have worked well in other parts of the world to empower women, such as provision of subsidies, investment income, credit financing, and consistently rallying communities to keep girls at school.

Marie Stopes Uganda is, for instance, implementing the Uganda Reproductive Health voucher program. This is a four- year Ministry of Health project aimed at increasing access to skilled care for poor women living in rural and disadvantaged areas during pregnancy and delivery.

This project has allowed many less privileged mothers in Uganda to access antenatal care and safe delivery services, therefore improving their health and that of their babies and family.

The time is now for each individual, regardless of gender, to commit to advancing the rights and development of women and girls. We all stand to gain when we allow women to take seats on the high table.

Rose is the Sexual Reproductive Counselor, Marie Stopes Uganda

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Editor’s Note: Do you have strong and informed opinion on current affairs in Uganda and beyond? Send a 800-word opinion to info [at] acme-ug [dot] org or hanena [at] acme-ug [org] and let your views be read.