Women participation in social life is critical for their full emancipation and development. Factors like traditional gender roles, gender-based stereotypes and discriminatory attitudes and norms have been cited in countless researches.
From KRC’s engagement with young women groups of the Markets for Youth Program, this is what we found out.
Ngangi Women Enterprise Group is an all-female group of 16 young women hailing from Kyegegwa District, Rwentuha Sub County. Formed in 2019, the group was enrolled for the Young Africa Works; Markets for Youth Program and runs a VSLA with about 2,740,000 Uganda shillings in savings. The group has a dream of becoming successful goat keepers and have agreed to make an extra contribution on top of their weekly saving for every member to purchase one goat. All the animals will be reared centrally as a group project. From their interaction KRC, the young women acknowledge to have gained knowledge in business and life skills.
While is seems everything to be going really well for the group, in addition to their fond participation in Markets for Youth Program, they are also facing a glaring leadership challenge. Their Youth Champion (leader) requested to step down, to look for employment in far-off place. This is a typical scenario for many youths in Uganda who are on constant look-out for gainful employment. The youth’s view and mindset about agriculture is many times vague, that agriculture in no gainful employment at all.
The group now faces a challenge to find an ideal replacement of their choicest leader. During my usual group mentorship exchanges, I noticed the disconcerted expressions on the rest of the group members, and while I took them through the process of choosing another leader, I also noticed their hesitation to volunteer or nominate anyone for the position.
Probing them further, the majority of the women report that they have too many household responsibilities like child care, looking after the household and would not have adequate time to sufficiently play the role.
One of the youth champions reveals that her husband does not want her to participate in community conversations, which is one of the major activities of the Markets for the Youth Program. Majority of the women in the group are hesitant to be youth champions for the quite similar reasons. One of the group members says they will participate and do only what is possible for them.
The desire and commitment to participate is there, but gender issues that are problematic to women participation are powerfully evident.
And something needs to be done to address the situation. Besides mentoring and equipping them with the knowledge and skills to empower the women, more effort needs to be made to engage the men as well, to help them appreciate the unabridged role of the women in development. This will go a long way to creating an enabling environment where they can pursue opportunities and their dreams.