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Women’s economic empowerment is key for accelerating gender equality

7 March 2024, 4:27 pm

A press statement by the Uganda Women’s Movement ahead of International Women’s Day

Accelerating Gender Equality through Women’s Economic Empowerment

In commemoration of the International Women’s Day 2024, we the Women’s Movement of Uganda under the leadership of Uganda Women’s Network (UWONET) join the rest of the world today to reflect on progress and give voice to pertinent issues concerning women and girls. In light of the National theme, “Accelerating Gender Equality through Women’s Economic Empowerment”, we acknowledge that Women’s Economic Empowerment is the engine that drives the growth of our nation.

Women make up the significant portion of Uganda, women  population is at 51% and workforce at 67.6% as of 2022. Our active participation in the economy as innovators, entrepreneurs, workers, and consumers contribute to overall economic growth by expanding the labor force, increasing productivity, and fostering entrepreneurship and innovation.

We recognize government’s efforts towards advancing women’s rights in the social, political and economic spheres. Notable is the gender responsive legal and policy environment that has accelerated progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment. These frameworks include; Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (the Maputo Protocol).

The Constitution of the Republic of Uganda in Article 33 (1) states that “Women shall be accorded full and equal dignity of the person with men.” This is mirrored in the National Gender Policy (2007) and Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) which have aided gender responsive planning and resource allocation to eliminate discrimination and inequalities. In addition, other laws include; the Domestic Violence Act 2010, anti-FGM Act 2011, Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act 2011, Succession Act 2022 amended, Markets Act 2023 amended, the Employment Act 2006, the Local Government Act 1997, the Land Act 1998, among others.

The Government of Uganda has led various economic programmes such as the Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme (UWEP), Parish Development Model, Youth Livelihood Fund, Emyooga and the new Generating Growth Opportunities and Productivity for Women Enterprises (GROW) Project which all continue to benefit and empower women.

Women’s Economic Empowerment is key in enhancing household income, according to a 2012 report by UN Women and ILO 2. It boosts positive spill-over effects on health and education outcomes. Increased household income controlled by women has led improved healthcare, nutrition, and education for children 3 and entire family.

It is important today, that all Ugandans realise that gender equity and women’s economic justice is mutually reinforcing. Holistic economic development in Uganda can only be achieved if its benefits accrue to women and girls the same way they do to men and boys. Only then will women’s economic rights become a reality. The advancement of women’s economic empowerment and resilience sets the path toward gender equality by addressing poverty which keeps women in a state of vulnerability and disadvantage. Inclusive and sustainable economic growth matched by adequate wealth distribution are instrumental in addressing income and financial inequality. Gender inequalities in Uganda continue to hamper the desired economic development and shared prosperity.

It is worth noting that Women’s Economic Empowerment has been shown to reduce instances of abuse against women. Research conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 4 in 2022 highlights that women facing poverty, unemployment, and dependence on social benefits are particularly vulnerable to Gender-Based Violence.

Therefore, economic empowerment initiatives for women are recommended as effective solutions in preventing and combating this phenomenon.

Economic empowerment of women enhances their participation in leadership. That is, elective leadership, and voice and influence in decision-making processes. When women have economic independence and resources, they are more likely to engage in civic activities, advocate for their rights, and participate in political processes, contributing to more inclusive and representative governance. Women are more disadvantaged due to limited resources to run the campaigns and often pull out of the race. The steadiliy growing monetization of politics in every election cycle, is affecting women’s effective participation in leadership.

The low participation of women in politics is exacerbated by the low economic status of women compared to men, high poverty levels, yet running an electoral campaign is increasingly monetized. The registration fees are high and constituents have high monetary expectations from candidates. Only a few women can meet these costs. A report by the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy dubbed ‘Impact of the cost of politics on inclusive political participation in Uganda,’ revealed that candidates in the 2016 primary and general elections in Uganda spent on average of UGX 465 million (136,084 USD) to run for parliament and UGX 237.5 million (USD 69,505) to run for Local Council V. 5

According to the Uganda Jobs Strategy for Inclusive Growth, micro, small, and medium enterprises created within the past five years now generate over 50% of formal jobs, and household enterprises provide employment for 3.1 million households. The 2020 Mastercard Global Index of Women Entrepreneurs estimated that women own nearly 40% of all businesses. However, women entrepreneurs earn 30 % lower profits than men and women business owners in Uganda face gender specific barriers, including lower access to capital, and segregation into lower-value sectors.

The issue of equal rights to economic resources and opportunities as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services including microfinance remains elusive for most women in Uganda. Government has initiated a number of programs for women’s economic empowerment but for various reasons some of the factors that keep women in poverty remain.

A study by UWONET in 2018 indicates that women spend 7.5 hours/day on unpaid care work compared to 2 hours/day spent by men. The financial inclusion insights survey 2017 established that 61% of women as compared to 52% of men did not have money to make any transaction in a bank. Similarly, 14% of women compared to 12% of men did not have money to transact on a mobile money platform.

Agriculture has 77% of women in its labour force.

Today The women’s movement appreciates all efforts by actors towards advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment. We applaud different institutions that have put in place mechanisms and systems towards women’s empowerment.

We make a call to action for everyone to embrace efforts towards gender equality and women’s economic empowerment.


1. The government should strengthen implementation of gender responsive laws to enhance equity in all social, economic and political spheres. This can be achieved through sufficient resourcing. Simultaneously, we recommend the government’s prioritization of legal reforms critical to enhancing economic justice, specifically, that His Excellency, the President assent to the Employment Act of 2022, and the Parliament of Uganda revisit the Minimum Wage Bill, 2019

2. Government to support a multi-sectoral program of customized services that empower women entrepreneurs and transition their enterprises, from micro to medium and macro, as well as improve their productivity.

3. The government and other stakeholders should invest and strengthen linkages for market access for women traders at national and international level.

4. The government and other stakeholders to invest in agricultural technologies that are gender sensitive, good quality and affordable. Affordable technology to support value addition chains.

5. Government should revise the guidelines and strengthen access to agriculture credit through organized women farmer groups as one of the criteria beyond commercial farmers.

6. Government should reduce credit interest rates for women entrepreneurs, provide incentives and tax waivers on specific imports.

7. The Executive should be seen to be more effective at addressing corruption in the government programs geared towards improving women’s economic status in Uganda.

8. The Executive and Parliament should address the policy gaps that limit women’s access and usage of technology to enhance their economic empowerment. 

9. Government should invest in initial training of women benefiting from government programmes such as PDM to ensure tangible outcomes.

10. Government should strengthen involvement of women to access group village irrigation schemes to address the adverse weather challenges to improve productivity.

11. Government should expedite the mapping of opportunities where women can be more engaged (high income areas) in the tourism and petroleum sectors. At least 30% of jobs must be earmarked for women.

12. Women’s health is women’s wealth; government should improve gender responsive health programming with a specific on women who suffer from specific ailments especially non-communicable diseases.

In conclusion, women economic empowerment is essential for promoting inclusive and sustainable development in Uganda, with far-reaching benefits for economic growth, poverty reduction, gender equality, health, education, community development, political participation, and resilience. Efforts to enhance women&access to economic opportunities, resources, and decision-making power are therefore, crucial for achieving broader development goals of our country Uganda.