The recent announcement by Gender minister Mary Karooro Okurut that the government is planning to invest Shs70 billion in women savings groups as a means of improving household incomes and lifting Ugandans out of poverty is good news.
Ms Okurut revealed that government had drafted a white paper and would soon table it before Parliament for scrutiny and approval before the end of this year. The proposed fund, which is expected to start in the next financial year, is to be modelled along the youth livelihood fund.
This proposal will, however, have impact if its implementation is well designed to benefit women from all spheres of life. Women in Uganda are the most disaantaged economically. Few of them have access to capital and land as factors of production.
According to a 2006 report by the World Bank titled ‘Gender and Economic Growth in Uganda: Unleashing the Potential of Women’. only nine per cent of women were found to have access to credit compared to 91 per cent of men. Lack of credit limits women’s economic independence and affects gender relations.
The report noted that seven per cent of women owned registered land at the time, vis-à-vis 93 per cent of men. The reason for this marginalisation is that women are economically dependent on men, and land inheritance is mainly patrilineal.
Article 26 of the Constitution provides that women have the same right as men to have property that they can keep alone or share with other people, and no one should deprive them of their property.
The government must take deliberate steps to support and empower women economically because they work hard to take care of their families and many have proved to be meticulous in doing business. Women, especially in rural households, are the pillars of their families.
The government should, therefore, move swiftly to approve and implement the proposed Shs70 billion livelihood fund for women groups. And by the end of this proposed project, there should be substantial results in terms of improved livelihoods through strict monitoring and audits to ensure there is value for money.
The implementers should learn lessons from previous poverty-eradication funds such as the Entandikwa scheme of 1996, Bonna Bagaggawale (Prosperity for All) programme of 2006, the youth venture capital fund of 2011, etc, to avoid the same mistakes.
A well-thought out mechanism for identifying the right beneficiaries is essential to avoid money ending up in the hands of those who do not qualify for the fund.
SOURCE: Daily Monitor