WOMEN LEAD: An International Women’s Day Message from Uganda

WOMEN LEAD: An International Women’s Day Message from Uganda

Celia Tusiime Kakande. {Photo: Tadeo Atuhura/MSH.}Photo: Tadeo Atuhura/MSH.

For most of my life, women in Uganda---as in most countries---were treated as inferior to men. Girls were less likely to be educated than their brothers, and had little control over the direction of their lives. Many girls grew up being told how to act, eat, and talk; many women were regarded as little more than domestic caregivers. However, in 1986 the ruling government radically changed the dynamics of Ugandan women in global development and their participation in decision-making at all levels of government. This International Women’s Day we, in Uganda, are celebrating this transformation with a theme of “connecting girls, inspiring futures,” and wishing women around the world similar progress and success.

Women Lead: Government

Women in Uganda now hold more leadership positions than ever before—35 percent of the seats in Parliament are now occupied by women, and our Speaker of Parliament and Minister of Health are women. The introduction of universal primary education has allowed more girls to begin their schooling, and affirmative action at the university level has provided more women the opportunity to realize their dreams for fulfilling professional careers.

Women Lead: Healthy Communities

Great improvements have also been made in Uganda’s health sector. The number of women demanding contraceptive services has increased by a third since 2006; now 32 percent of Ugandan women use modern contraception. Quality family planning, safe motherhood, and HIV & AIDS services have helped to lower the maternal mortality rate from 435 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2006 to 310 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010. This translates to 1,700 women’s lives saved each year. In Uganda, MSH is saving women’s lives and improving women’s health through numerous projects. Through the USAID-funded Strengthening TB and AIDS Response – Eastern Region (STAR-E), MSH is integrating cervical cancer screenings into HIV services, helping HIV-positive women such as Mildred receive cervical cancer screening and services. With the Sustainable Drug Seller Initiatives (SDSI) program, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we are empowering women drug sellers to provide access to quality, essential medicines in rural communities. With the USAID-funded STRIDES for Family Health project (STRIDES), which I lead, MSH is implementing interventions that are sensitive and responsive to the needs of Ugandan women. We holistically support health workers to provide quality care to pregnant women and their babies. Due to STRIDES support, health workers are now able to regularly check a mother’s blood pressure, temperature, and weight, and medical equipment for normal, assisted and caesarean section deliveries has been provided at each appropriate level of health care. Mobile clinics reach mothers that are unable to access the health facilities. In communities where STRIDES works, women have been empowered to provide better nutrition to their families and to assist in the rehabilitation of malnourished children using locally available food. Our nutrition interventions with 520,000 mothers have reached over 700,000 newborns and children under five, increasing birth weights, supporting growth, and creating a foundation for lifelong health. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LNwwEzcJzc Ugandan women have gained ground at the highest levels of leadership. They are taking control of their lives and their families’ health. It is this spirit that inspires MSH to continue our work in Uganda and worldwide. In solidarity with women worldwide. Celia Tusiime Kakande, MA, is Chief of Party of STRIDES for Family Health at MSH. P.S. Join me and MSH at Women Deliver to learn more about WOMEN LEAD.