Despite affirmative action, most women in Africa still remain in obscurity and lag behind due to negative cultural attitudes and failure to attain or complete school.
The percentage of girls dropping out of school is still high, standing at 20% by 2010, while the majority of women are still engaged in subsistence farming.
According to the State minister of Gender and Woman MP for Mayuge district, Uganda, Rukia Nakadama, there are many reasons why women in Uganda still lag behind.
Women still face challenges in the social and economic environment. She says one of the major reasons for lagging behind is the people’s mindset.
Because of cultural aspects men still think women are not equal to them. “Many men still think women should only take care of the home; cook, dig and also nurture children which should not be the case.
They also think women should not participate in politics or aspire for top positions in the Government,” she says.
Nakadama adds that many girls drop out of school at a tender age due to early pregnancies. She says the dropout rate is higher among girls in primary school as compared to the boys.
“As girls drop out of school, boys continue with their education hence leaving women to lag behind,” she explains.
Deborah Auma, of Forum for Women in Democracy says women are not empowered with skills to advocate and lobby for resources though there is an increase in the numbers of women in elected offices.
This has not improved the lives of rural women. She also says, although currently there are more women ministers, they are not in key decision-making positions.
For example the prime minister, first and second deputy ministers are all men.
“Most of our female councillors hardly make contributions in the local councils (where most decisions are passed) because they are not empowered to advocate and lobby for the resources,” Auma says.
She adds that women practice subsistence agriculture because they do not own land to practice large scale farming. When it comes to selling the produce, their husbands take it the market and in the process exploit the women.
She says women still bear the burden of disease in their homes. This is because whenever a family member is sick, it is the woman who takes care of them implying that she cannot get time to run any business.
“They engage in small-scale businesses like selling tomatoes, mandazi among others which can only earn them a daily income,” Auma notes
What can be done ?
Nakadama says the Government will continue working out policies that will narrow the gap between men and women.
She urges young girls to concentrate on their studies because it is the only way they will stay in school.
She also encourages women to compete for bigger posts. “Most women fear to aspire for bigger positions in the Government yet they have the qualifications. They always look at themselves as people who cannot manage,” she says.
Auma says the Government should train women at local level and equip them with skills that can enable them effectively play their roles at the local council level.
She adds that with the introduction of the student’s loan scheme the percentage provided for government scholarships should go to the vulnerable girls who obtain two principal passes but cannot get government sponsorship.
She further says the Government should support women engaged in small scale business to grow.