Women’s Day 2024: Rights defender Tamali Auma calls for girls and women protection  

(Last Updated On: 7 March 2024)

The above theme is a clarion call to everyone on the need to invest time, resources and any other support to a woman, “don’t say no.”

Lira I March 8, 2024, will be internationally commemorated in compliment to women’s contributions. Five decades ago, the United Nations officially recognized the day to acknowledge the various experiences of women globally.

The day is used to showcase women’s efforts and how socially, politically and economically, they have progressed.

On March 6, tndNews sat down with Ms Tamali Auma, Executive Director of Grassroot Defenders Initiative (GDI).

Tamali, as a woman, how significant is commemorating International Women’s Day to you? 

As a woman, the Women’s Day celebration is a reminder of the important contribution women make to the growth of our society, starting from family, national and international levels. It’s the world’s token of appreciation to every woman for the burden they bear in laying a foundation for the future

“…..Invest in women, accelerate progress” is the theme for the 2024 commemoration. To understand from you, how empowered are women and girls in Uganda in the last decade? 

The government of Uganda has in a decade tried to empower girls through supporting and promoting girl child education but have we considered how much the government invest in educating specifically the girl child given the biting poverty from homes they hail from?

A girl, say in adolescence age, requires extra support besides just teaching her in class, they need conducive environments free from predators, and they need clean water and sanitary materials which are not available in most cases, especially for the majority living in slums and rural areas.

This is the reason we still have high cases of rape, defilement, child marriages, and school dropouts among girls. Besides the government’s contributions to women’s empowerment through financial loans/aid in the Ministry of Gender, it’s important to analyze the contribution of spouses who seem to care not or too little, majority of Ugandan women are tied up doing what we term as “unpaid care work” around the house because that’s how our society is accustomed, even the few trying to put in efforts lack moral support and in most times inadequately prepared for the tasks the reason such initiatives collapse in a while. The above theme is a clarion call to everyone on the need to invest time, resources and any other support to a woman, “don’t say no.”

Women and girls still face GBV, an act described as an “everyday threat” for women and girls in Uganda by national demographic data (report). The report states that 50% of women aged 15-49 have reported different forms of violence. How can we overcome this atrocity against females?

Emmy, who are the rapists? Who are the defilers? Who are the people marrying young girls below 18 years? Who are the ones luring them to drop out of school? Who are the people beating housewives?

You and me know the answer. The law is clear but there’s a problem in its enforcement and this therefore comes back to those mandated to ensure they step up their efforts in promoting safety for women and girls.

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Society also has a duty to raise right-thinking boys and men and not these “wild predators” raising the criminal statistics high; that report is a time bomb. 50% is high above for a country grappling with so many challenges like Uganda.

Today, women are killed or harmed for protecting land and property from in-laws and sometimes their children. What is your message to women especially widows facing trouble after the death of their husbands? 

There are laws governing property ownership both customarily and constitutionally but all these put a greater burden on the family head (man) before his death to navigate ways of having properties leased or at least documents safety from future wranglers if one loves his wife and children. Widows on the other hand should seek intervention of the law at whatever levels they may reach out for assistance.

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I know many who have been assisted through these available channels and I continue encouraging widows to utilize them. Women Human Rights Defenders like us have our doors open as well to guide any woman who has reached out to us with such matters of deprivation of family benefits, Karibuni.

Article 273 (1) of the National Constitution and Land Act 1998 collectively prohibits discrimination against land ownership based on gender. Are these cited legal provisions plus others, doing justice to women and girls? 

It is very unfortunate that Ugandan society is patriarchal and women have to put in a little more effort to sail safely. Our traditions and religious practices and laws have been structured by men to favour men against the will and rights of women, the reason I said earlier that it will take a little more effort from a woman but the bigger question here is: How many women and girls in the African traditional setting has the ability to challenge the status quo that willfully denies them family and marital inheritance using constitutional procedures?

I, however, encourage women that the earlier they wake up against this vice, the better for the next generation of women.

What is your last remark to women ahead of March 8?

My last remark to women is: We live in a society that undermines women’s abilities, a society that discriminates against women in the social, cultural and religious spheres, a society that has created a biased attitude toward women’s empowerment and seen it as a threat to patriarchal dominance, a society too harsh and hostile to the growth of the girl children, a society where poverty and unemployment bites greatly on women and yet we have to live it and grow through it.

Please don’t sit on that ability, skills and knowledge you have, maximize its usage, build the courage to ask for assistance where the need arises and don’t forget to seek interventions from duty bearers on matters beyond your control. By walking and working out these challenges, you and me will enable the next generation of women to run.

Happy Women’s Day 2024.

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