Government has expressed fear over the alarming spike in cases of Gender Based Violence (GBV) during the covid-19 period.
The State Minister for Gender and Culture, Peace Regis Mutuuzo, told reporters at the Uganda Media Center that 22% of women experienced sexual violence during the lockdown saying GBV cases increased to 3,280 with only 1,148 reported to police.
Mutuuzo noted that, despite government and partners working on the issue of reducing cases of GBV by establishing shelters and sensitizing communities in different parts of the country the cases have continued to shoot.
The Minister revealed that cases of defilement constituted 50% of all the crimes reported to the Uganda Police.
According to the 2020 police crime report 14230 girls were defiled which is a 3.8% increase from the 13613 reported in the year 2019.
Mutuzo linked this to the increase in teenage pregnancy and child motherhood posing a major health and social concern in Uganda.
She was speaking ahead of The International Day for Rural Women to be held on October 15, in Kayunga District under the National Theme “Food security amidst climate change: Building resilience for rural women”.
The minister said that, In Uganda, women play a vital role in the rural economy and control the informal sector which is key in sustaining the national economy.
The MasterCard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (MIWE) has continuously ranked Uganda top at the global scale among economies having the most women business owners. At 39.6% Uganda is followed by Botswana (38.5%) and Ghana (36.5%) as the world’s three leading economies having the most women business owners.
She however, noted that although Women are making big strides there are serious bottlenecks that still stand in their way in pursuit of business opportunities.
Mutuuzo said the challenges are more adverse for women who live in rural areas and these are being aggravated by a number of factors, that include the devastating impact of the COVID 19 pandemic.
“Women earn less and over 70% are employed in the informal sector which is less secure in terms of access to legal protection and social protection. The lockdown significantly reduced women’s economic and livelihood activities thereby worsening food insecurity and increasing poverty rates,” she said
Mutuuzo noted that Women have continued to absorb the biggest share of domestic responsibilities as compared to men with the average hours a week spent on unpaid care work by the women being 36.4 for women compared to 1 1.9 for men.
“High poverty levels among women occasioned by very low ownership of property. For example, only 38% of women own houses compared to 54% of men while only 31% of women own land compared to 48% of men. This is despite the fact that women account for over 80% of the agricultural production in the Country (according to the Uganda National Household Survey 2017),” she said.
The Culture minister revealed that economic empowerment of women is the sure way to addressing the above concerns, arguing that an empowered woman will be able to access and utilize better sources of energy, clean water and protect the environment.
In order to mitigate some of the challenges, Mutuzo said that government has developed Programmes that include the Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme (UWEP) which was launched in FY 2015/16 to extend direct credit to women to enable them increase their income levels.
She said that government also rolled out other interventions in the social sector aimed at uplifting the welfare of rural women, these include; the Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment (SAGE) Programme, the Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) program, Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), the Youth Livelihood Programme (YLP), Disability Grants, and other interventions in health, education, infrastructure development, energy, Information, Communication Technology, water and environment sectors.