Empowering women to engage effectively in governance
WOGE: A Unique Women and Girls Empowerment Initiative
As the world approaches 2015, a critical time to measure the success in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), two civil society organizations recently launched in Kampala, a four-year project meant to transform the lives of women and girls economically in selected districts of Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania.
The initiative dubbed ‘Women and Girls’ Empowerment Programme (WOGE)” seeks to contribute to poverty reduction among women by ‘strengthening women and girls’ voices for economic and self reliance.
It is expected that after four years, about 6000 women and girls from four districts one in each country will have developed the skills and knowledge to ably influence decisions on their economic self reliance. In Tanzania WOGE will be implemented in Misenyi district bordering Kenya.
Likewise the project is focused to ensure regulatory frameworks, business services as well as information flow is improved to facilitate women and girls to engage in economic self reliance activities effectively.
The Eastern African Sub regional Support Initiative for the Advancement of Women (EASSI) and Deutsche Stiftung Weltbevoelkerung (DSW) are the designers of the programme funded by the Government of Netherlands. DSW works in all the four countries implementing the project.
Launching the project on May 25 this year Sylivia Senabulia, member of Parliament for Mityana said as we approach 2015, the year to measure achievements in MDGs “many African countries are off truck”.
Surprisingly, she said, researches available indicate that majority of women in Africa today are 22 percent more poor than they were in 1970s.
The highly respected woman MP in Uganda said although in Africa there is some development in terms of structures, buildings, universities and others unless those infrastructures are transformed into tangible benefits to reduce poverty in women the continent will continue to be doomed.
“Empowering women and girls economically will also impact on MGD 5 and MDG 7 on environment”, says Senabulia.
She said investing in women and girls not only will reduce environmental pollution and unnecessary maternal deaths and mobility but reduce hunger and illiteracy which contributes to conflicts at different levels.
She urged the governments and financial facilities in the East African countries to ensure that there are programmes which can make women and girls access funds to engage in big businesses.
“We cannot continue to give women handouts and expect much from them”, she says adding that the governments should design prorammes that can make women own land tittles that can be used as collateral for borrowing funds for economic projects.
Her view was anchored by DSW Uganda Director James Kotzsch who said that any country development was meaningless unless it reduces inequality, poverty and violence against women and girls.
“Poverty is not only lack of money. Poverty has to be understood as inequality of access to resources, information and voice denied to be heard.
Four other MPs from Uganda attended the WOGE launching ceremony including Women MPs for Iganga District and Bududa district in Mbale near Kenya border, Kabaale Olivia and Khinza Justine respectively. A male MP from Bukoto Constituency, Kitata Muyima was also present at the ceremony.
All the four Ugandan MPs said they would follow up the implementation of the project to ensure that is successful implemented to make a difference in the lives of women and girls in respective districts.
“Information is power, I will go back and inform people in Mbale about this project which will be implemented in their area”, says MP Justine.
WOGE is aligned with East African governments’ priorities in improving rights, status and well being of women and girls.
Ulrike Deubert, DSW Director of Programmes with her organization experiences in working on development projects says WOGE will become a wage for change in women and girls.
Speaking to journalists before the launching ceremony, Marren Akatsa-Bukachi, the Executive Director for EASSI, the project with a theme “Empowering Women and Girls for Sustainable Development” was a complementary to the ongoing EASSI project targeting women traders in the region so that they are able to utilize the available opportunities to improve their economic status.
She said EASSI work is geared to take action on 12 critical areas of the Beijing Platform of Action which focuses on women and poverty, women and education, women and health, violence against women, women and armed forces and women in power and decision making.
Others are institutional mechanism for the advancement of women, human rights of women, women and the media, women and environment and the girl child.
EASSI has membership in Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Somalia and Uganda. In Tanzania its members are the Tanzania Gender Networking Programme and the Tanzania Media women’s Association.
The current Chairperson of EASSI Ms Bazgenawork Woldemedhin from Ethiopia appealed to implementers of WOGE project from EASSI and DSW to work as a team “as the project is very demanding and will require the highest possible standards.
However, EASSI Board of Director, Debora Okumu from Caucus for women in Leadership, Kenya warned the implementers of WOGE that for the project to become successful and sustainable in the communities, strategies used must make sure men are well sensitize in the process so that they are able to understand the importance women and girls’ economic empowerment.
“The project will succeed to make desired change if the entire community and especially the men see that they have a buy in it”, the strong and experienced women human rights activist concluded.
(Ananilea Nkya is the Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA) Executive Director).
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