This year’s International Women’s Day was special in a way that it envisaged women and girls as a thriving lot in the modern Socioeconomic setup. The Global theme was: “DigitAll: Innovation for a Gender Equal Future” and National Theme: “Equal Opportunities in Education, Science and Technology for Innovation and a Gender Equal Future.”
At the same time, the 67th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67) started March 6 in New York with the priority theme: “Innovation and Technological change and Education in the Digital age for achieving Gender Equality and the Empowerment of all Women and Girls” and the Review Theme: “Challenges and Opportunities in Achieving Gender Equality and Empowerment of Rural Women and Girls”. The commonality of focus on equal opportunities in innovation in the digital age speaks of the progress achieved in women empowerment and consideration in policy making. The world is listening and hearing the voice of the hitherto voiceless!
Uganda customarily joins the rest of the world to mark International Women’s Day.
This year’s national celebrations were held at Sanga in Kiruhura District, presided over by H.E President Yoweri Museveni, in person. His presence reinforced Uganda Government’s commitment to the cause of uplifting women and putting their interests in consideration at all times.
As indicated above, this year’s Theme emphasised the promotion of innovation in the digital age through equity in education, science and technology for women and girls for a Gender equal future. Innovation and Technology as well as education in the digital age present an important tool for promoting gender equality through expanding women’s potential relative to that of men.
Bringing women and other marginalised groups into the technology bracket results in more creative solutions and has greater potential for innovations that meet women’s needs and promote gender equality. It is a crucial driver of social and economic development as envisaged in the Third National Development Plan, 2020/21-
As a country (and the global digital village at large), we ought to fully explore the impact of the digital gender gap on broadening economic and social inequalities as well as spotlight the importance of protecting the rights of women and girls in digital spaces and addressing online and ICT-facilitated gender-based violence.
The Government of Uganda has instituted legal and policy frameworks to regulate the development and utilization of innovations and technology and education in the digital age, focusing on the various categories of women and girls, thus, providing the necessary institutional mechanisms, infrastructure and political will to facilitate innovation, technology and digital adoption and remains committed to similar regional and international protocols.
The Uganda Communications Act, 2013, established the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) to improve communication services across the country, ensure equitable distribution and regulate rates and charges with a view of protecting consumers from excessive tariffs and to prevent unfair competitive practices, which tend to disadvantage women most.
In the spirit of African Integration, at least from the digital world, I see processes falling into place to transform our people together.
I am happy to note that the African Union (AU) is committed to promoting and implementing gender-inclusive frameworks and policies, and skills development for women and girls, as stated in the Africa Strategy for Digital Transformation, “To harness digital technologies and innovation to transform African societies and economies to promote Africa’s integration, generate inclusive economic growth, stimulate job creation, break the digital divide, and eradicate poverty for the continent’s socio-economic development and ensure Africa’s ownership of modern tools of digital management,” as well as protect women against digital violence.
It is notable that there has been tremendous achievement in terms of women- sensitive technologies such as cookers, pressure cookers, juice blenders, and microwave ovens, Radios and Television Sets, Mobile Phones as well as other technologies such as pesticide and irrigation pumps, motorised technologies like cars and tractors, household electricity main switches, security equipment and devices.
According to a statement issued by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development on the occasion of this year’s Women’s Day, 78.2% of those who own mobile phones in Uganda are male compared to 63.4% among females. The females attribute the low ownership of mobile phones to costs involved. We should devise ways to make these gadgets more affordable so that our women are added on the information superhighway where they can connect to where opportunities are and where they can report cases of violence and harassment.
The statement also shows that the Global Innovation Index (GII), 2019 ranks Uganda at 102 out of the 129 countries. This is not a position we envy but it is the reality. We should strive to rank better going forward.
An administrative coincidence, but which I consider as a design by the Appointing Authority, is such that the Secretariat for Science,Technology and Innovation (STI) is strategically placed under the Office of the President with a female Minister (Hon. Monica Musenero) in charge. In addition, the Minister ofState for the Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology and National Guidance is also a woman (Hon. Joyce Sebugwawo) while the Permanent Secretary, Dr. Aminah Zawedde-is also a woman. This creates an opportunity to influence better gender-sensitive and inclusive ITC service delivery.
As the NRM Government continues to put in place policy measures that challenge the odds in the way of a woman, I urge women to embrace modern technological tools, digital skills and innovation so as to maximise their potential and harness their competitiveness in the money economy.
The author is the Minister for the Presidency
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