The International Women’s Day theme for 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge, highlighting the importance of tackling challenges such as biases and falsehoods with the intention of a more inclusive and gender-equal world. This builds on the 2020 theme, which was #I am Generation Equality.
The UN Women also issued a 2021 theme: “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” The UN’s 2021 theme celebrates efforts from girls and women in creating a more equal future and COVID-19 pandemic recovery.
The origins of the commemoration of International Women’s Day can be traced as far back as the 1910 International Socialist Women’s conference held in Copenhagen, Denmark where it was proposed that a special women’s day should be organized annually. Over the years 8th March was identified as the day for the celebration which was officially recognized by the UN in 1977. Supporting and celebrating women’s rights is a full time job but on the 8th March 2021, the international women’s day, it’s our duty to reiterate our stand towards achieving women equality and emancipation.
This year’s theme strengthens the priority theme of the 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women which was, Women's full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. Besides that it reinforces the flagship Generation Equality campaign, which calls for women’s right to decision-making in all areas of life, equal pay, equal sharing of unpaid care and domestic work, an end all forms of violence against women and girls, and health-care services that respond to their needs.
All the above are in line with the Beijing Declaration, Convention on the elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Maputo Protocal (development and empowerment of women) and the African charter on human and peoples rights to mention but a few.
Through the theme #choosetochallenge we need to embrace the international women’s day by supporting women and girl child causes, women owned and led businesses and concerns celebrating the women in our lives and encouraging them to be better persons ; these include our mothers, wives, Daughters, Sisters , relatives and she friends. Let us do those acts that will inspire and uplift women and the girl child to reach their greatest potential and to do what men do and at times do it better as some examples of prominent women who are excelling at jobs that were previously thought to be the preserve of men have shown. In this line the NRM government has put in place enabling structures that we can build on which include;
- constitutionally women representation in an public outfit must be not less than 30 %( but as NRM party it’s 40%)
-Political Representation in parliament and in local governments. By law every District has a woman Member of Parliament.
-Affirmative action in universities which gives the girl child an additional 1.5 points a fact that has enabled girls break through the barriers to professional and other university courses.
-UPE and USE which has eased the competition on family resources to educate all children, previously the girl child would lose out,
-The Law on Marital property which secures married women and children,
-Increased water coverage especially in the rural areas that has helped the women spend less time to collect water.
-Criminalisation of female Genital mutilation (FGM) and domestic violence
-Establishment of the Equal opportunity Commission
Women have stood at the forefront and proved to be some of the most exemplary and effective national leaders in combating the pandemic. Women have contributed significantly as caregivers, nurses, social workers, heads of state, heads of government and as heads of institutions carrying loads of the burden.
Women in leadership have proved their skills, knowledge and networks to effectively lead in COVID-19 response and recovery efforts. Women have brought different experiences, in-depth perspectives and skills in the fight against the pandemic with decisions, policies and laws that worked to alleviate the burdens that had been imposed by the pandemic. “Majority of the countries that have been more successful in stemming the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic and responding to its health and broader socio-economic impacts, are headed by women. For instance, Heads of Government in Denmark, Ethiopia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, New Zealand and Slovakia have been widely recognized for the rapidity, decisiveness and effectiveness of their national response to COVID-19, as well as the compassionate communication of fact-based public health information. Yet, women are Heads of State and Government in only 20 countries worldwide.” United Nations.
In Uganda we have many women in leadership the highest ranking being the Rt. Hon. Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga (besides being 2nd National Vice chairperson NRM), the Rt. Hon. Justine Kasule Lumumba, Secretary General of NRM the ruling party ( myself), a host of Cabinet ministers, Judicial officers including Supreme court judges, heads of Constitutional Commissions, Permanent secretaries , Armed forces leaders the highest ranked being Lt Gen Proscovia Nalweyiso . In Local Government we have a number of District chairpersons in various districts and a host of District Vice chairpersons.
Women in leadership have also played a prominent role in empowering women that are in more vulnerable positions which have prevented them from living a dignified life and these include widows who have to take care of their orphaned children and women living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. In this category we applaud the work done by the First Lady, Mama Janet Kataha Museveni and Mrs. Noerine Kaleeba, the founder of TASO.
Yet amidst all this across the world women are facing increased domestic violence, unpaid care duties, unemployment, poverty and many prejudices against them. I call on all the women to vie for offices whenever they can and those holding offices to know that they have a duty to promote the interests of other women. For women to succeed they must work extra- hard and avoid making mistakes that the male dominated world would rush to use for their down fall. Women should support other women and men should appreciate that to support women will promote stability in families, economic development and social harmony.
The Best protection any woman can have is courage and determination.
Like the saying goes “Don’t look for a knight, look for a sword.”
Happy women’s Day
Justine Kasule Lumumba -Rt Hon
National Resistance Movement