The restriction of social network through the social media tax: a violation of human rights

Is access to the internet a right or a privilege? Autocratic governments see the freedom of speech on the internet as a threat to the regime[i]. Some countries like China and more recently Uganda, have used many controls censure online discussions although, internet access is a fundamental right recognized by the United Nations (UN) since 2012[ii]. Despite this, network communication tools have been significantly restrained by Ugandan’s Communications regulating body. Furthermore, in 2018 the government imposed a new tax of 200 Ugandan shillings (roughly $0,05USD) on social media[iii]. British newspaper The Guardian affirmed that ‘’ millions of [Ugandans]’’ have been forced to quit social media due to this tax[iv]. Presented as a new revenue increase for the benefit of the population, this new fee seems to be another way to control dissident voices online[v]. In addition, as stated by President Museveni the purpose of this tax is to “reduce gossip”[vi]. Nonetheless, according to international law, this tax is tantamount to any other human rights violation.

The legal impact of the social media tax on human rights according to international law can be argued against on the premise of three specific international norms which are; the right to participate in political and social life without any discrimination; the right to access uncensored information; and freedom of assembly.

The right to participate in political and social life without any discrimination is a human right. Uganda has ratified several international treaties that prohibit online censure and promote universal access to the internet[vii]. Among others, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) Article 19 specifies that

‘’Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”[viii]

Henceforth it is impossible to deny that digital technologies are taking a huge part of the public sphere especially for the spread of democracy. Plebiscite organized by social network gives a voice to the voiceless and dissident ideology. A fortiori, the digital public sphere is an informal tool giving a tribute to average people. During the Arab spring, by example, online conversations played a major role in shaping political debate[ix]. Despite the doubt behind the factual role of social media on the street protest in North Africa and the Middle East, we cannot deny the digital impact on information spreading and the amplifying of contagion[x].

The African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms (ADIRF) article 3 recalls the article19 of the UDHR[xi]. In addition, article 2 of the ADIRF states that

‘’Access to the Internet should be available and affordable to all persons in Africa without discrimination on any ground such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinions, national or social origin, property, birth or other status’’.[xii]

The ADIRF clearly advocates that internet should be affordable. Thus, a $0,05USD tax might seem low, however 27% of the Ugandan population live on less than $1,25USD per day[xiii]. A large number of this population are excluded from online discussion. Ironically, these less fortunate citizens are marginalized and underrepresented in the political sphere, yet they need to express their dissatisfaction. Among this marginalized population, are Ugandan women, most of whom are involved in ungainful employment[xiv]. According to UNESCO, women and girls are the first victims of economic crisis, lack of information for their well-being and corruption[xv]. Thus, the new network fee is indirect discrimination based on their economic status and is increasing those injustices. Even if this rule applies to everybody the same way, the consequences are worse for certain persons due to their economic status.

Access to uncensored information is a right clearly stipulated in article 9 the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ rights. It states that everyone shall receive information and express their opinion freely[xvi]. Uganda has integrated components of international law like freedom of information (FOI)[xvii] into national laws as enshrined in the Access to Information (ATI) Act and Electronic Media Act (1996). Indeed, Uganda is the first East African country “to enact an FOI law”[xviii] Most significantly, article. 41 (1) of Ugandan’s Constitution stipulates that

‘’Every citizen has a right of access to information in the possession of the State or any other organ or agency of the State except where the release of the information is likely to prejudice the security or sovereignty of the State or interfere with the right to the privacy of any other person’’[xix].

The Access to Information Act (2005) is an offshoot of article 41 of the constitution[xx]. This act has been endorsed to promote transparency of the state and access to the accountability of the government. Although according to Reporters without Borders, the Ugandan press is censured to the point, many people are getting informed through social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook[xxi]. These social media platforms allow average citizens to share their thoughts and their concerns with the online community. In other words, social media is a way to avoid the control of information.

In point of fact, as maintained by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO),

Noting that greater participation by citizens in democratic processes, the rule of law, the fight against corruption, respect for the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary, transparency, accountability, access to information, poverty reduction and human rights are key elements of good governance.[xxii]

Sharing and receiving information freely is fundamental to democratic systems. In fact, real decisions should not be taken without relevant and accurate information. Thus, even dissident voices should have the right to express themselves in public spaces. Evelyn Beatrice Hall as an illustration of Voltaire’s thinking once said, ‘’I disapprove of what you said but I will defend it to death your right to say it’’. Which means, in a democratic regime, the freedom of speech is more important than the homogeneity of the population. 

The freedom of assembly and spontaneous gathering is an inalienable right in a democratic society. Article 5 of the ADIRF stipulates

‘’Everyone has the right to use the Internet and digital technologies in relation to freedom of assembly and association, including through social networks and platforms. No restrictions on usage of and access to the Internet and digital technologies in relation to the right to freedom of assembly and association may be imposed unless the restriction is prescribed by law, pursues a legitimate aim as expressly listed under international human rights law (as specified in Principle 3 of this Declaration) and is necessary and proportionate in pursuance of a legitimate aim.”[xxiii]

Thus, it goes without saying that the Ugandan government violates the citizen’s fundamental right to assembly with this tax. By doing so, the government denies pluralistic dialogue. According to the UN Office of the high commissioner (OHCHR), special rapporteur Clément Voule, social media, and other communication technologies are an important tool ‘’of enablement for individuals and groups to organize peaceful assemblies and associate with one another’’[xxiv].

Social media has empowered people by creating opportunities for assembly. Through online communities, individuals find the courage to expose human violation because they feel supported by others[xxv]. Like it is said, ‘unity is strength’’. Following this logic, a social media tax is a good way to shut down a potential protest assembly. Once again, the Egyptian situation during the Arab spring showed how important social media has become in increasing community movements. During that crisis, Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama recognized the freedom to the assembly through social media as a universal right[xxvi]. Because of this tax, the Ugandan population can’t fully enjoy the right to assembly peacefully.

In conclusion, all around the world news is not only delivered by states anymore. Indeed, social media is playing a huge role in spreading information. The new social media tax in Uganda appears to be part of the widespread repression perpetrated by the government. This new measure is against international law and defies among others three fundamental rights recognized by this law including; the right to participate in public life, the right to access information freely and freedom of assembly and gathering peacefully. As largely demonstrated above, access to the internet is a fundamental human right and every Ugandan should have the right to express themselves freely online.  Social media gives the impression of a lucid digital platform, it allows people to gather and give a feeling of self-empowerment. In addition, the tax is a violation of multiple international norms ratified by Uganda and is against the Ugandan constitution. And finally based on this argument, one big question still remains, how will the Ugandan Court of law rule on this new unconstitutional measure?

Image credit: https://www.ictworks.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/social-media-taxes.jpg 

Author: Katerie Lakpa

Alternatives Canada, Fellow at WOUGNET.

ENDNOTES

 

[i] Levi Boxel, Zachary Steinert-Threlkeld, (Taxing dissident: The impact of a social media tax in Uganda), Cornell University, September 2019, p.2.

[ii]United Nations News, Internet governance must ensure access for everyone, May 2012, Online, https://news.un.org/en/story/2012/05/411292-internet-governance-must-ensure-access-everyone-un-expert, consulted October 11th 2019.

[iii]Levi Boxel, Zachary Steinert-Threlkeld, prec. note 1, p.5.

[iv]Ratcliff, Rebeca, and Okiror, Samuel, Millions of Ugandans quit internet services as a social media tax take effect, The Guardian, February 2019.

[v]Oryem, Nyeko, Uganda’s troubling social media tax. The new law restricts right to the free speech and information on social media, Human rights Watch, July 2018, online, https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/07/02/ugandas-troubling-social-media-tax, consulted October 9th.

[vi]Abdi Latif, Dahir, prec. note 7.

[vii]Oryem, Nyeko, Uganda’s troubling social media tax. prec. note 6.

[viii]Universal Declaration of Human Rights, RES/AG/217A (III), Doc off AG NU (1948), art.19.

[ix]Aiden Duffy, DeenFreelon and al. Opening closed regimes, What was the role of social media during the arab spring?, Project of information technology & political Islam, Online, https://poseidon01.ssrn.com/delivery.php?ID=952112098007006071106065025024099024031086037020053013069083081065096027112124102087055031099031027019034093124081113089015007033047002081054085080103122123107002121088020035012090127082104011013085093030067119003109102085115096127085068080011086119104&EXT=pdf, consulted October 6th 2019, p.2.

[x]Howard, Philip N., Social media and political change: capacity, constraint, and consequence, Journal of communication, Vol. 62, Issue 2, April 2012, p. 365.

[xi]African Declaration on internet rights and freedom, art.3

[xii]African Declaration on internet rights and freedom,art.2

[xiii]Oryem, Nyeko, Uganda’s troubling social media tax. Prec. note 6.

[xiv]Elvis Basude, Women the poorest in Uganda, New Vision, Uganda, March 2013.

[xv]United Nations Educational, Specific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Communication and information, Freedom of information in Africa, Online, http://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/freedom-of-expression/freedom-of-information/foi-in-africa/, consulted October 11th 2019.

[xvi]African Charter on Human right and Peoples’ right, §1 Chap.1 art.9. (1986).

[xvii]United Nations Educational, Specific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), prec. note 18.

[xviii]James, Lowry, Freedom of information and government records in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, Archive and manuscript, Vol. 41, 2013, p. 27.

[xix]Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, Chapter 1, art.41(1), 1995

[xx]Access to Information Act, Republic of Uganda, 2005.

[xxi]Reporter without border, Online, https://rsf.org/en/uganda, consulted October 16th 2019.

[xxii]United Nations Educational, Specific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Dakar Declaration, Media and good governance, World Press Freedom Day 2016, Online, http://www.unesco.org/new/en/unesco/events/prizes-and-celebrations/celebrations/international-days/world-press-freedom-day/previous-celebrations/worldpressfreedomday200900000/dakar-declaration/

, consulted October 11th, 2019.

[xxiii]African Declaration on internet rights and freedom, art.5

[xxiv]United Nations Human rights Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR), Call for input the mandate of the special rapporteur on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association – The right to peaceful assembly and of association in the digital age, online, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/AssemblyAssociation/Pages/DigitalAge.aspx, consulted on October 14th 2019.

[xxv]Amir, Hatem Ali, The power of social media in developing Nations: New tools for closing the global digital divide and beyond, Harvard Human rights journal, HeinOnline, 2001, P.189.

[xxvi]Amir, Hatem Ali, prec. note 27, P.186.

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How social media platforms can create awareness on proper sanitation and higyiene

More people are getting involved with social media platforms with Facebook having the biggest percentage. Uganda’s social media stats 2019 indicate the number of people using social media platforms, Facebook with 57.4%, Pinterest 25.09%, Twitter 11.74%, youtube 4.01% and Instagram 1.13%. With this number of users, social media can be used to create awareness on how to improve hygiene.

World Health Organization defines sanitation as the provision of facilities and services for the safe management of human excreta from the toilet to containment and treatment onsite or conveyance, and eventual safe disposal.

UNICEF (2019) study indicates how billions of people around the world continue to suffer due to poor access to water, sanitation, and hygiene. Some 2.2billion people around the world do not have safely managed to drink water services, 4.2 billion people do not have safely managed sanitation services and 3 billion lack basic handwashing facilities

Furthermore, Uganda’s relief web indicates that bad hygiene and lack of adequate sanitation facilities in northern Uganda, a region still recovering from two decades of conflict, have fueled the spread of the Hepatitis E viral infection (which is a liver disease mainly transmitted through drinking water contaminated with fecal matter) in several districts, a senior official said. ‘’The major challenges are inadequate access to safe water, unhygienic disposal of feces, poor personal and domestic hygiene’’ Steven Malinga, (former Health Minister) told IRIN on 7 August.

Inadequate sanitation is a major cause of infectious diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and dysentery worldwide. It also contributes to stunting, impaired cognitive function, and impacts on well-being and school attendance; causes anxiety with lifelong consequences, especially for women and girls.

However, with the help of social media platforms, we can spread awareness on how to improve sanitation and hygiene. According to the ‘’we are social’’ Digital yearbook, there are more than 2.3 billion active social media users on the internet. Social media are interactive computer-mediated technologies that facilitate the creation and sharing of information, ideas, career interest and other forms of expression via virtual communities and Networks. Social media has been grown rapidly as a type of online communication tool wherever users make comments, shares and put videos, photos and posts on social networks at a remarkable rate. These platforms include Facebook, Watsapp, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, and many others.

WOUGNET has helped on improving sanitation through its partnership with M-omulimisa SMS services which uses its mobile and web-based platform that enables community members to exchange information with extension officers in indigenous languages on the issues affecting the community like poor service delivery, including poor water and sanitation. Information on these platforms is forwarded to duty bearers for ratification. For instance in 2017 Busia district Bukalika village in Buhatiba parish Mumutumba trading Centre, with the help of the SMS platform, their borehole was repaired. People were able to get clean and enough water. This improved their hygiene since they could access clean water.  

Social Media can be used to support environmental campaigns by updating posts, videos, and photos about sanitation and hygiene. This also helps to connect people locally and cross-nationally on major environmental issues such as water conservation. This can teach us so many great lessons about turning ideas into movements and social media users will be able to view posts that will change the world.

Through the use of social media platforms, the public gets information on how to improve their hygiene. Sanitation and environment knowledge have a positive correlation. By increasing environmental knowledge, Sanitation and hygiene awareness will be increased. Which will increase people’s welfare?

Hardware and app development, geolocation and hashtags on social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter have created a way for people to share stories about their local environment and the issues affecting it. Which connects them to larger environmental topics such as sanitation and hygiene. This attracts the attention of the public including the duty bearers and leads to solutions thus creating a better environment to live in.

 Social media is consuming society as each of the platforms becomes more popular each day especially Facebook and making it easy to spread the information faster to millions of people within a short time.

Compiled by;

Babirye Roseline

Gender and ICT policy advocacy

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Impact of the WOUGNET ICT Trainings to the rural communities

For information and communication technologies and skills to be more effective in the rural areas, ICT training must be conducted to equip the rural population with knowledge on how to fully utilize the different available ICTs accessible to them. Training in ICTs, to a greater extent, narrows the digital gap between the rural and urban communities. The rural population should not only know about the ICTs but be able to use them, for the ICTs to be effective and fully utilized, there must be a systematic effort to understand the exact challenges of the rural dwellers and identify the best innovative ways to address them.

WOUGNET with support from Indigo Trust UK is implementing a project to enhance the effective use of ICTs and social media for citizen engagement with leaders for improved service delivery in Northern Uganda. The project is being implemented in the project districts of Apac, Kole, and Oyam. The WOUGNET indigo project targets the community members commonly known as the VSACs and the duty bearers known as the leaders who work hand in hand with WOUGNET to improve service delivery in the selected areas. It focuses on sectors like education, health, infrastructure, security, water and sanitation, and agriculture among others.

One of the key activities in the implementation of the project is the ICT training that is carried out in the project districts to equip the VSACs and duty bearers with knowledge on the operation of the SMS platform and social media and their importance to service delivery.

Analysis of the system usage shows the SMS platform registered over 5,000 service delivery issues in the above sectors since the time when WOUGNET introduced the platform to her community reporters the VSACs. Complaints were forwarded to leaders and actions were taken on some by responsible duty bearers. On the platform, the VSACs in the project districts reported irregularities on the procedures used to select beneficiaries under government programs and how inputs under such programs are given out to the selected beneficiaries; absenteeism and late reporting by teachers and some medical personnel’s to the workplaces; poor access to most community access roads; drug stock out in most public health facilities; disease outbreak in some areas, water source negligence and poor accountability of water collection fee by water source caretakers, shoddy work in construction projects like classrooms, latrines, health center buildings among others.

Besides the increasing number of service delivery issues reported, the SMS platform at the project start encountered resistance from the duty bearers with the view that the WOUGNET project had come to witch-hunt the leaders and expose their weaknesses to the public. There was also fear that the project would empower the local citizen and open their eyes to demand and hold the leaders accountable for their actions hence exposing corruption scandals and shoddy work in most public sectors. Even the citizens, the VSACs who are the prime target under the project never believed in the system and they thought the platform would not effectively give them the answers to service delivery gaps in their community even when reported. In many encounters, VSACs expressed fear that for long they had service delivery challenges in their communities and efforts were made to report such issues to the leaders but the leaders hardly respond to them. For this, they wondered how the platform would motivate and move the leaders to respond and take appropriate actions on service delivery gaps reported to them using the SMS platform.

However, with continuous training and engagement with the VSACs and the duty bearers in all levels of service delivery, many have started to appreciate the contribution of the SMS platform in improving service delivery.  Duty bearers have started to embrace the system by responding to the issues forwarded to them and on receipt of the complaints they have labored to reach the scene to ascertain the magnitude of the problem before appropriate action is taken. The overwhelming responses by duty bearers on issues reported have moved VSACs and other community members to report more service delivery challenges in their community on the system and they are now witnessing the contribution of the platform in addressing such reported gaps. The interaction also indicated that the WOUGNET SMS platform is building a good working relationship between the leaders who are the duty bearers and citizens who are the right holders with the notion that communications are being made silently and things are seen happening.

The WOUGNET SMS platform enables WOUGNET to receive complaints of service delivery reported by the VSACs and other community members and the complaints received are forwarded to the responsible duty bearer for action. Since the kick-off of the Indigo project, the SMS platform has registered an increasing number of complaints reported. This is due to the fact that the system is user-friendly since the application is customized in such a way that it supports the use of a toll-free SMS application used by all mobile devices. The levels of information exchange between the target users, in this case, the members of the community with their leaders in the local languages or in English have contributed to the increase in the number of people sending complaints on the system. The platform plays mediation role through text messaging to create a mobile and web-based “Question and Answer Forum” space where community members use their phones to ask questions or raise queries in their local languages or in English and sends it to the system and the system administrator forwards the query or question to the responsible duty bearer. Feedback is then received from the duty bearers onto the platform which is then forwarded to the complainant. In case of delayed feedback by the duty bearers, they are then followed up by the technical assistance through phone calls.

For this system to work effectively, both the duty bearers and the VSACs have to be registered onto the system by typing the keyword KIC DISTRICT SUB-COUNTY NAME and send it to SMS number 8228, for example, a VSAC from Apac district, Ibuje sub-county in the names Odoch John will type KIC APAC IBUJE ODOCH JOHN and send it to 8228. After registration, they are then able to send in complaints by typing the keyword WOUGNET followed by the complaint then sending it to 8228. This intervention is initiated by WOUGNET to help raise awareness in communities to provide better service delivery through duty bearers who have responsibilities to serve citizen’s demands.

WOUGNET created the WOUGNET Indigo project Facebook page, the Twitter and WhatsApp group to support the project team and the VSACs, raise more awareness to the leaders and the general public, issues of service delivery through online media. Since the setup of these online media accounts, WOUGNET has registered an increasing number of service delivery issues reported online. The project social media accounts managed by the technical assistant are supported by 3 District Coordinators, one per the district, 9 Sub-County Coordinators, 3 per district.  They have been responsible for documenting issues of poor service delivery and report them on the project social media pages. A number of poor service delivery issues have been documented and have been posted on the pages. For example, there has been an increasing number of users on the project Facebook page through making posts, liking and commenting on issues posted.

The use of social media increases citizen participation and engagement with leaders in the improvement of service delivery.

Compiled By:

Peter Ongom Tech Support Officer Apac and Letowon Saitoti Abdi Senior tech support officer 

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Shifting attitudes and norms to end child marriage

In a greater part of the world, the foundations of various aspects of life in society have been built on patriarchal norms. The belief that the man is above all and that all who are not him must submit to or be subdued by him. Yet still and in fact, it would be easy to say that there has been a great improvement and a recognition that we need to live in societies that are more inclusive in opinion, leadership or decision making and every other facet of being that impacts on the lives of both women and men. It is not much of a secret though that as we have continued to progress over the centuries, the many faces of patriarchy continue to thrive and to manifest in various spaces and aspects. 

Still, given the amazing progress, we have made as the human race, we continue blindly or not to accommodate patriarchy in all its new faces including those dressed in the general understanding of institutions like “culture” and “religion”, to name a few. Even when we are well aware of the dangers that come with some of the practices and beliefs (whether well interpreted or misinterpreted) attached to these much cherished aspects of society, we still choose to stay silent, pay a deaf ear or intentionally blind ourselves in the name of preserving identity and anything else we claim makes us unique or different as a people from various geographic locations or communities.

Child marriage is perhaps one of the most complex and delicate issues to address in human rights discourse. Like other human rights components, this is probably so, majorly because of the balance of power in decision making. From who decides what consists of Child marriage or not to how or whether it should be addressed if at all it is a problem and by definition, if it is child marriage. All these questions and conversations that have been phrased and re-phrased supposedly to find ways of accommodating varied institutional beliefs and structures (cultural, religious and others) – While pointing to a common denominator being the one who decides what should consist of all elements of these institutions and any other institutions of governance or other aspects of society.

At this point, I think it would be safe to say that shifting society’s mindsets and changing norms that are heavily influenced by patriarchy are some of many remedies to addressing violence against children and specifically child marriage. But how do we shift such a big deeply rooted mountain of such an old and influential system? Well, I learned some great lessons from a recent Girls Not Brides- Uganda (GNB-U) accelerated theory of change validation workshop that I hope can answer this question and that I intend to draw from;

  1. Make the problem part of the solution – We should not make advocacy a rebellion against those who are likely to be partly or fully the cause of the problem, and who have a greater advantage in power dynamics especially when it comes to capturing hearts and minds (persuasion) and taking decisions. Instead, we need to understand why they think or act the way they do and find ways to design advocacy strategies with this in mind.
  2. Networking and partnering with likeminded and stronger allies are key – Identify your allies, their strengths and complement their weaknesses. In this validation exercise, the Africa women’s movement was identified as a key ally considering the long journey and strides it has made in advocating for equity, equality, justice and other reforms necessary for progress in society; nationally, regionally and globally.
  3. Change with change – As patriarchy occupies more new spaces and changes faces, so should advocacy. We need as advocates to identify areas where there is an opportunity to push for change of mindsets and norms; and to claim our spaces in these areas or create spaces within them, however uncomfortable or untraditional.

With these few sheared lessons, I believe that accelerating advocacy for human rights and child rights, specifically girl child rights, may not be a farfetched dream after all. Given we are more determined today than we were yesterday in designing and implementing solutions that challenge forces like patriarchy and that can work, it may not be long before we actually live to see a world where children and human beings, in general, are free from all forms of violence.

Author: H. Susan Atim, Program Officer, Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET)

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The Question of Women's Economic Empowerment

Agency which implies “the ability to act” is key in women’s empowerment. Women cannot claim to be empowered if they lack the ability to act and cannot take a bigger step. Uganda’s strategy for wealth creation aims at creating economic empowerment for both genders, but how is it going to benefit women if they are not aware and self-conscious of their inner ability to accumulate wealth and sustain it?

Strong cultural and religious beliefs perpetuate inequalities in regard to women’s access, control and ownership of resources in all sectors of the economy. For instance in the case of land which is a very important asset; according to UN Women, Women farmers have significantly less access to, control over, and ownership of land and other productive assets compared to their male counterparts. The land is perhaps the most important economic asset; women account for only 12.8 percent of agricultural landholders in the world. This eventually affects women’s capacity to make economic decisions and perpetuates dependency syndrome. Women continue to face problems including lack of collateral which inhibits them from accessing credit, accessing markets and related facilities not forgetting limited decision making on issues concerning production and productivity. It is important that all stakeholders involved in advancing women’s empowerment consider gender roles and the effect of multiple roles that have to be respected.

Society has different perceptions towards empowerment; some think it is a remedy to make women suppress men while others think it is equipping women with essential necessities to sustain themselves. The misconception of the empowerment ideology breeds violence against women. In Uganda, Violence Against women and girls is economically motivated and usually related to women’s inability to provide for household basic necessities in line with their husband’s expectations. According to a study by Action aid Women and girls who are poor, are more reliant on men to support them financially. Having no money to leave, to find shelter, or to buy food is one of the critical reasons why women and girls stay in violent relationships. It also occurs due to men’s expenditure of scarce resources with the peak of violence in farming households during the harvest period. Regardless of women’s level of empowerment, Violence against women does not discriminate against class, age, education level, and economic status, the only different issue is how the different classes treat the situations and effects of violence. 

It is key to note that many women are falling victim to the Learned helplessness theory where women due to factors like socialization learn to be inferior and endure abusive relationships making them helpless. This should not be the case!

In a current research on the Assessment of gender-responsiveness of RAN’s agricultural-focused innovations conducted by WOUGNET in Collaboration with Resilient Africa Network (RAN), the findings elaborated concern on the poor economic status of women which affects their decision making at household and community level and in turn affects their ownership and usage of the various agricultural innovations. This kind of research shades light on the challenges women face and create a stepping stone in building working solutions and recommendations in achieving women’s economic empowerment.

WOUGNET in her different projects aimed at attaining women’s social-economic empowerment, for example, the ERIGNU project encourages sharing of care roles between men and women at the household level. Women farmers now work together with their husbands and are assured of their support financially and morally. It has brought about harmony in homes and reduced domestic violence which has, in turn, promoted women’s social-economic empowerment and improved their livelihoods. Every November, WOUGNET participates in the Month of the Woman Entrepreneur (MoWE) and conducts a range of activities to engage women entrepreneurs. Last year on 23rd November 2018, WOUGNET organized a mini-training to show how ICT is a key enabler in improving women’s enterprises. The women present got an opportunity to network, share experiences in their economic struggles and learn how best to mitigate economic challenges. Through our various online and offline platforms, we continue to help women appreciate technology in enhancing their social and economic potential.

To achieve totality in women’s socio-economic empowerment, it is important that that women have agency and learn to be self-conscious of their business potential as a basis. The stakeholders especially Government and civil society Organizations should equip women with skills and find ways to overcome cultural and societal beliefs that are an obstacle to women’s empowerment.

Compiled by,

Patricia Nyasuna

Program Officer Gender & ICT Policy Advocacy

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