Monday, March 14, 2011

International Women's Day in Uganda and Rwanda--It is not what you say, it is what you do...

The following are the observations from a Ugandan blogger who happened to be in Rwanda on International  Women's Day.  It is a reminder that unless followed through with action, these "holidays" can be misused by leaders with little intention of improving the lives of women, or anyone else for that matter. The last paragraph sums it up for me.   (HT: Senegal- Mali)
 
In Uganda women got medals and promises, in Rwanda, a better life-
 
In Rwanda...Among the activities were community-level meetings organised by local leaders to discuss and reflect on different aspects of local women’s lives and, where necessary, what to do to change or improve them.
 
In some places "umuganda" (communal work) had been organised to build or repair houses for poor and vulnerable women, with much of the activity focused on replacing grass-thatched huts with more solid iron-roofed houses.
 
Later I learnt that in many communities, houses had been built or repaired, goats and cattle donated to poor and vulnerable families, and girls who had excelled at national exams given prizes.
All this made me curious about what had transpired in my native Uganda which is led by a government with an equally deserved reputation as that of its Rwandan counterpart, for promoting women and championing their rights and interests. 

There, as usual, the event had been marked by a high-profile national fete in Kampala, presided over by the big man himself, the omnipresent, President Yoweri Museveni. 

Among the day’s highlights had been the awarding of medals to several well-fed women army officers, all still holding the relatively junior ranks of major, captain and warrant officer, for their participation in the war that brought him to power 25 years ago. Thereafter, it was time to recycle old promises. 

The president pledged to reduce the high infant and maternal mortality rates, provide hospitals and health units with drugs, monitor closely schools and health facilities to prevent absenteeism and inject money into income-generating activities.

And so ended International Women’s Day: in Uganda big women got medals and the rest promises; in Rwanda poor women got improved shelter, livestock, and a chance to reflect on how to move ahead.
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