“Now that I am aware of my rights as a citizen, I feel so empowered,” said Aber Evalyn a 51-year-old woman from Uum village in the North of Uganda after participating in trainings held by the Forum for Women in Democracy to increase women’s involvement in the decision-making processes at the community level.
A grantee of UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality, the Forum for Women in Democracy trained women in 16 communities in Uganda to form Village Budget Clubs. These clubs are working to ensure that women are actively involved in budget allocation and decisions regarding gender-sensitive policy measures at the local level. Aber Evalyn is one of the 320 people who benefited from a three-day training session designed to empower communities to demand accountability and the provision of better services from public authorities.
According to the 2006 Uganda Demographic and Health survey (UDHS), while 35 per cent of women make decisions regarding small daily household expenses on their own at the household level, a striking 85 per cent have to consult their husbands about any major household choices.
“After the training sessions, women are now aware of how our taxes on soap, cooking oil and many other things, can eventually bring developmental activities to our communities”, said Aber Evalyn. “We also know now that it is our right and responsibility to attend the village budget meetings so as to determine what services are to come to us as citizens and especially as women”. Evalyn now attends all the meetings and contributes to debates and discussions to solve collective issues.
Like Evalyn, many other women in the villages of Uganda are now taking part in the dialogues on local budgets. In Kasaala Parish village, Nakazi Edisa, a mother of four young children, also attended the Forum’s trainings.
“For the last two years, my children have not been receiving adequate de-worming tablets, nor had they been immunized for measles, polio, etc. It was very difficult for me to take the four children to Kasana Health Center over five kilometers away, and private clinics in my village are too expensive”, she explained.
Last year after the trainings, Edisa and the women of the Village Budget Club lobbied the District Councilor to set up a health facility in the village, along with petitioning the Chief Administrative Officer regarding drugs shortage at the Kasana health unit. The mobilization was successful and eventually the local authorities decided to build a health centre in the village, which provides immunization and essential medicine for children, free of cost.
Along with health education and economic empowerment, the Village Budget Clubs are bringing dignity and ownership for many women. As Evalyn, who today serves as the Chairperson of several community groups, explains, “Before the Forum for Women in Democracy’s trainings, I was a ‘nobody’ in my community. I could not speak in any community meetings or raise any pertinent questions that affected me and other women. The leadership role for me has been possible because of the trainings that opened up my eyes and showed me that my views are required in the development of my community”, she concluded.
Along with the work at the village level, the Forum, supported by UN Women, has trained 200 legislators and government officials in Uganda to ensure gender-responsive programming are also implemented at the national level.