As part of the activities organized to commemorate the International Women’s Day that falls on 8th March every year, the School of Women and Gender Studies, Makerere University in partnership with the Embassy of Sweden in Uganda held a Gender Identity Week to celebrate women in a holistic manner.
The Week marked from 4th-8th March, 2019 featured a number of activities including online engagements and public dialogues on gender-related issues. Key issues discussed included masculinities, gender identities, commoditization of the female body (Ms Curvy Pageant), and the role of Universities in promoting gender equity.
At the public dialogue on the “Role of Universities in Promoting Gender Equity” held on 7th March 2019 at the School of Women and Gender Studies, academics and feminists called on the leadership of Universities to strengthen Gender Units as one of the measures of bridging the gender gap.
In her keynote address presented by Dr Fred Kindi, Prof. Christine Dranzoa, Vice Chancellor, Muni University decried the underrepresentation of women in various leadership structures at Universities.
“We are intimidated by the male competitors. They spice it by peddling lies about the conditions because a number of us are not very familiar with the laws and policies,” she noted. Other constraints outlined in her presentation include gender stereotyping-perceptions about women’s leadership styles, financial constraints and the reproductive role of women that limits their career development.
Prof. Dranzoa also decried the increasing number of girl children dropping out of school. She attributed this to early marriages, teenage pregnancies and gender insensitive school environments.
She called for policy reforms, affirmative action and gender audits in all sections of universities to address the challenges that may widen the gender gap. “Policy reform is an imperative in recognition to reproductive roles of women in workplace, research and innovation platforms. Regulatory Authorities at national and international levels should include gender equality as performance indicators. Research funding agencies should also emphasize gender as an area for assessment of grants applications,” she advised.
In his remarks, Swedish Deputy Ambassador in Uganda noted that Gender equality is an important aspect of his government’s support to Makerere University and other institutions of learning.
“I am glad that the Directorate of Research and Graduate Training at Makerere University is ensuring that all Swedish supported projects are aligned with the University’s gender policies. I’m equally happy to note that the Directorate put strong emphasis on the integration of gender analysis in research projects and that Gender responsive methodologies are applied at the University to ensure that at least 30% of the 325 University researchers and students that benefit from our support are female,” he said.
He explained that the Swedish Government supports gender focused research, capacity building of women leadership and gender mainstreaming of the five public universities involved. “Women and men should have the same power to shape society and their own lives.”
The Deputy Director, Research and Graduate Training, Dr David Owiny praised Makerere University as a champion of gender equity and dignity noting that this is reflected in most of its policies including those on research and student enrolment.
Highlighting the different programmes within the Directorate of Gender Mainstreaming and the strides made by Makerere University in achieving gender equity, Dr Euzobia Baine underscored the need for every university to establish a unit to coordinate gender equality efforts. She urged the leadership of institutions to support women to become career mothers by setting policies that allow them to take on both responsibilities. “Women should be allowed to have a career and family. If nothing is done. They will choose one,” she advised.
The former Executive Director of Isis Women's International Cross Cultural Exchange (Isis-WICCE), Ms Ruth Ojambo-Ochieng emphasized the significance of networking and partnerships in promoting gender equity. “Women all over the world have been able to achieve their rights and some equity through various movements,” she noted. International Women's Day first emerged from the activities of labour movements at the turn of the twentieth century in North America and across Europe. Since those early years, International Women's Day has assumed a new global dimension for women in developed and developing countries alike. The growing international women's movement, which has been strengthened by four global United Nations women's conferences, has helped make the commemoration a rallying point to build support for women's rights and participation in the political and economic arenas.
Wole Soyinka Award Winner, Ms. Harriet Anena briefed students about life after University. She implored managers of Universities to expose students to realities of the world as a way of preparing them to favorably compete at all levels. Ms. Elizabeth Kaase-Bwanga shared ideas on the role of Universities in leadership development noting that both male and female should be accorded equal opportunities to realize their full potential. Dr Ruth Nsibirano explained how gender is incorporated in teaching in various units of the University.
The Gender Identity Week activities were coordinated by Dr Consolata Kabonesa, Associate Professor at the School of Women and Gender Studies at Makerere University with support from the Dean, Dr Sarah Ssali.
The International theme for this year’s celebrations was; “Balance for Better” whereas the National theme was; “Empowering Women through Innovative Approaches to Social Protection: A prerequisite for inclusive and Sustainable Development”.