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They are the most illiterate. They are the most involved in un-gainful employment or work where you don't get paid. They are the ones bearing the brunt of bringing up children and ensuring they go to school. They are the poorest. They are women. That is the perfect summary of a report released mid-October, 2005 on the poverty situation in Uganda.The report entitled - Chronic Poverty in Uganda; The Policy Challenges - revealed that over 7million of 26 million population is chronically poor, with women forming the bulk. "Overall, 27% of the chronically poor households in rural areas are headed by women with the percentage rising to 40 in urban setting," says the report, a result of a three-year research by Chronic Poverty Research Centre, a global network whose work in Uganda is coordinated by Development Research and Training (DRT).

It says the probability of women-headed families being chronically poor and moving into chronic poverty is substantially higher then for male-headed families. "Poor women are particularly vulnerable to chronic poverty in addition to gender inequalities, which then doubles their plight. Unequal gender relations underlie all the maintainers of chronic poverty in Uganda. Plus, women headed households are usually associated with a high number of young dependants," the report says.

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The researchers said during community consultations, gender featured prominently as a cause and maintainer of poverty. "This is perpetrated by the practice of paying bride price and domestic violence, which is often linked to alcoholism. Conservative attitudes among both men and women are also in the center of the problem," adds the 66-page report. The report describes chronic poverty as; "Poverty where individuals, households or regions are trapped in multi-dimensional poverty for several years or a lifetime, and where poverty is linked with intergenerational transmission." It distinguishes the 'chronically poor' from the 'usually poor' who occasionally move out of poverty, the 'churning' poor who regularly move in and out of poverty and the 'occasionally poor' who are usually not poor but fall into poverty.

The other seven set of goals - eradicating extreme poverty; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality; reducing child mortality; improving maternal health; combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases and ensuring environmental sustainability - all hinge on Goal 8 which addresses how developed countries can assist the developing world achieve the rest of the goals.

Lawrence Egulu, the director of economic and social policy at the ICFTU, African Regional Office in Nairobi told an AWEPON media training workshop in Kampala, that MDGs will just be ‘a passing cloud’ unless the developed world does more to uplift the developing countries. "We are now five years since the Millennium Declaration in 2000, but have we gone three-quarters in meeting the MDG targets? Where are we in UPE (Universal Primary Education), infant mortality, maternal mortality and environmental sustainability?" he asked.

Warren Nyamugasira of the Uganda NGO Forum says MDGs was a global pact of the 189 states that endorsed it five years ago and failure in one country meant failure by the whole world. He said the world had enough resources to achieve the MDGs except the focus should now shift on how to spread the resources across the globe through trade justice, debt cancellation and better quality and more aid. Economist Qazi Kholiquzzaman Ahmad says all the MDGs and agendas were linked to the market economy and foreign aid. Unless more is done, he said, the increasing disparities in countries will continue.

The chairperson for African Women Economic Policy Network (AWEPON, Mrs. Alice Abok has called on donor countries, international financial institutions and recipient countries not to ignore  funding NGOs and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) dealing with gender equality and women’s rights work in Africa in favor of new aid modalities, designed to align aid to nationally-determined development priorities.Abok who was speaking at the regional workshop on practical approaches to economic empowerment of women in Africa held recently in Kampala said “The implementation of the new aid modalities though well intentioned, has to great extent affected the funding for gender equality and women’s rights work in Africa”.

“For aid to be effective, gender equality and women’s rights have to be integral to development priorities in the developing countries”.The workshop was organized by AWEPON. AWEPON as an organization works towards realizing women’s empowerment and economic justice in Africa through research, economic policy analysis, capacity building, lobbying and advocacy with gender and human rights perspective.The workshop was intended to indentify practical approaches to economic empowerment of African women in context of new aid modalities and their implication for financing women’s economic rights, promoting economic justice, identify indicators for economic empowerment of women and launch the three year strategic programme on women’s economic empowerment.“For gender equality and women’s rights to be an integral part of aid effectiveness, African women need to be able to engage with country processes as well as shape the financial agenda.

Women should also be able to asses the implication of the Paris Declaration in relation to the Beijing Platform of Action, CEDAW and other human rights internationally agreed protocols” She said.She said the changing policy environment in African continent plays a signicant part in shaping initiatives to address poverty, women’s rights and gender equity interventions as manifested in the macroeconomic policy frameworks supporting increased trade liberisation, privatization of social services, can no longer be ignored when designing poverty eradication strategies at both micro and macro level.She said the efforts to new partnerships and aid modalities, designed to align aid to nationally determined development priorities may be limited if donor and recipient ignore:-

  • To measure the effectiveness of aid against its exclusive purpose of poverty reduction and respect for human rights including gender equality.
  • The need barriers to local ownership resulting from continued donor imposed policy conditions and benchmarks attached to aid.
  • The limited transparency and accountability to citizens and parliamentarians of donor-approved country-owned reduction strategies.
  • The principles that guide unique roles for civil roles for civil society organization as development actors supporting democratic ownership and citizen’s initiatives for poverty reduction, which enables their response to priorities set by beneficiary populations, not donor institutions.
  • The need for deeper, mutual donor-recipient accountability based on international human rights obligations.

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