24 April 2012

Uganda: UK Boosts Efforts On Girls' Education

The British government has pledged to work with the Ugandan government to tackle violence against girls and women, to get girls through secondary school, to delay the incidence of the first pregnancy, and ensure safe childbirth. The pledge was announced in a joint statement by Lynne Featherstone, the UK Home Office minister for Equalities, and Rukia Nakadama Isanga, the state minister for Gender and Culture Affairs. Today, Featherstone will be in Mubende district to visit a women's protection centre for victims of domestic violence managed by aid organisation, ActionAid.

She will also visit a family planning outreach programme -- a demonstration of the support by the British and Ugandan governments, in partnership with ActionAid and the United Nations, towards the creation of 10 protection centres that will help survivors of gender and sexual-based violence, both women and men, overcome the trauma and reconstruct their lives.

"Women and girls are at the heart of our families, communities and countries. They also need to be at the heart of our political, economic and social arenas," the statement says.

While Uganda has made strides in promoting women empowerment, the country, the statement says, is nowhere near fulfilling equal opportunities between men and women, and boys and girls. The ministers acknowledge the achievements: for instance, 135 of the 386 Members of Parliament are women in Parliament; more girls than ever before are enrolling in primary education; and the ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development played a critical role in the passing of the Domestic Violence Act in 2010.

However, the statement says, there are still challenges and more work to be done. For instance, more women than men lack education, and there is inequitable access to resources for most women, while others suffer social discrimination and violence. In the reproductive health sphere, a disturbing 3,800 women are estimated to die in childbirth every year; in education, only 42% of girls complete primary school (compared to 55% of boys) and only 17% reach secondary school; and on the social arena, up to 68% of Ugandan women have experienced violence of some kind, while 39% have experienced sexual violence.

"Although the Domestic Violence Act is a great achievement and a real signal of Uganda's commitment to stopping abuse, much more needs to be done to put it into practice," the statement says.

The partnership will also support the Girls Education Movement (GEM), a voluntary advocacy body headed by young people and aimed at helping girls and boys complete their primary education and proceed to secondary school. The partnership will target some 100,000 children, in addition to supporting the award of bursaries for girls' secondary education and vocational training.

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