At the inauguration of the Women’s Council leadership in 2018, His Excellency, The President emphasized on the need for economically independent Women with an aim to increase the income at household levels. This called for gender equality in all aspects. The economic and social imperative for women’s economic empowerment is clear. Greater gender equality boosts economic growth and leads to better development outcomes. It contributes to reducing income inequality and boosting economic diversification and in turn, supports economic resilience. Gender equality is one of the 17 global UN Sustainable Development Goals, which provide a roadmap for ending poverty, protecting the planet, and ensuring that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The Ugandan 1995 Constitution Article 33 (4) and Article 21(2) has up held the women’s rights and non – discrimination in social or economic standing. Subsequently other policies and Acts have been passed to enhance women participation in socio economic activities as (i) investing in education and health to provide a level playing field for women to take on economic activities and reduce the gender gap in skills and income; (ii) increasing access to financial services, including digital financial services, to provide women with equal access to resources, which in turn fosters labor productivity; and (iii) promoting equal rights for women in all areas, including the right to property ownership; (iv) advocating for Gender Mainstreaming in Climate Change to find possible solutions to mitigate the effects. National Women Council Leaders have a mandate to mobilize and advocate for this.
Even though the Government put laws and regulation to shield the women in all aspects many gaps have been realized through existing gender inequalities in relation to access of resources and opportunities, discrimination, threats to health, loss of livelihood, food insecurity, displacement, forced migration due to climate change, poverty, human trafficking, gender-based violence and harassment. Turning a blind eye to the underlying causes would increase vulnerabilities and aggravates poverty and inequality.
Through this the National Women’s Council came up with the 4 by 4 strategy that integrates its self in the 15 household model. It strictly addresses the gaps that greatly affect women in households that is; (i) Climate Change, (ii) Environmental Conservation (iii) Income generation (iii) Nutrition and Food Security. Attaining to the Poverty Eradication Action Plan growth which is targeted at having women involvement in these key drivers. The 4 by 4 strategy has inclusive strategized components to mitigate key challenges that are under the above drivers that challenges the woman’s wellbeing in the household.
Its objective is enhancing Fruit Tree Planting as a mitigating factor to combat food insecurity, conservation of environment, Provision of Nutrition to the family and a key factor was to enhance income generation to the family.
These fruits are essential to the livelihoods of most rural communities especially to the women in households. Notably, indigenous fruits contribute to food security of the rural population by providing a vast array of food which supplies essential nutrients especially at times when other food sources are unavailable. The fruits act as an important source of vital nutrients and essential vitamins especially to the growing children who are prone to malnutrition.
Not only do indigenous fruits provide food for household consumption during the dry seasons, but they also act as a source of income for the households. Trade in indigenous fruits contribute to livelihoods through income generation and as a safety-net for consumption- and income-smoothing. Greater proportions of poor households engage in commercialization of indigenous fruits than do wealthy households and it represents a greater fraction of their total livelihood. Due to the recurrent crop failures and livestock losses, initiatives for integration of indigenous fruit trees in the farming systems has enhanced contribution of indigenous fruits to food security besides income generation and ensuring short and long-term sustainability of agricultural production.
In addition to economic benefits, fruit trees provide a number of environmental services. Many of the species have traditionally been grown in mixed cropping systems where they enhance biodiversity and strengthen resilience against the effects of adverse weather conditions, poor soils and pests. In regions where climate variability is commonplace and adverse impacts of climate change are expected, fruit trees have played an important role in buffering against production risks and providing a continuous supply of environmental services. While most production and primary processing are likely to occur in rural areas, fruit trees can also be incorporated in urban gardens and streets, where they can contribute to household food and income security as well as providing shade and other environmental services.
It’s with these that the National Women Council took its mandate to raise awareness and provide information and promote sustainable livelihood diversification for the small scale household farmers using the Council structure. Mobilization and advocating for the cause was the important activity. The most important factors advocated for were benefits of fruit enterprise deriving from increased income through marketing and value addition, food security, improved nutrition and Climate Change Mitigation.
EVUSA DIANA LIBESE
PROGRAM OFFICER – LIVELIHOODS AND ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT NWC