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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KNOB Attack (The Bluetooth loop hole)

A research team has publicized about a vulnerability in Bluetooth that may affect nearly every device that supports the wireless communication protocol. Chipmakers were made aware of the so-called Key Negotiation of Bluetooth (KNOB) Attack in November. BlackBerry and Google have announced patches for Android devices.

Many of us use Bluetooth technology for its convenience and sharing capabilities. Whether you’re using wireless headphones or quickly Airdropping photos to your friend, Bluetooth has a variety of benefits that users take advantage of every day. But like many other technologies, Bluetooth isn’t immune to cyberattacks. According to Ars Technica, researchers have recently discovered a weakness in the Bluetooth wireless standard that could allow attackers to intercept device keystrokes, contact lists, and other sensitive data sent from billions of devices.

In short, the vulnerability occurs in the encryption key generation process when two devices are pairing. Specifically, an entropy load to obscure the key while in transit is negotiated in an unencrypted fashion and can be easily interfered with either by a man-in-the-middle attack or bad code injected into a Bluetooth chip's firmware. The devices can be deceived into agreeing on an entropy load as small as — as dictated by Bluetooth specification — 1 byte, thus making it relatively easy to brute force the encryption key. The host devices are not aware of the key negotiation process, only of the key generated.

The Key Negotiation of Bluetooth attack, or “KNOB” for short, exploit this weakness by forcing two or more devices to choose an encryption key just a single byte in length before establishing a Bluetooth connection, allowing attackers within radio range to quickly crack the key and access users’ data. From there, hackers can use the cracked key to decrypt data passed between devices, including keystrokes from messages, address books uploaded from a smartphone to a car dashboard, and photos.

What makes KNOB so stealthy? For starters, the attack doesn’t require a hacker to have any previously shared secret material or to observe the pairing process of the targeted devices. Additionally, the exploit keeps itself hidden from Bluetooth apps and the operating systems they run on, making it very difficult to spot the attack.

This issue does not affect Bluetooth Low Energy connections.

Daniele Antonioli of Singapore University of Technology and Design, Nils Ole Tipphenhauer of the Helmholtz Center for Information Security, and Kasper B. Rasmussen of the University of Oxford tested 17 unique chips from Broadcom, Qualcomm, Apple, Intel, and Chicony, finding all of them susceptible to attack. CVE-2019-9506 is available for inspection.

As mentioned above, BlackBerry patched its Android devices that support its June update and later. Google also fixed the issue on its August 5 level patch and has added the fix to it's August 1 level update for its Pixel phones — unfortunately, that means other early adopters for Android security updates aren't safe with the supplied August 1 level patch, but at least they'll be taken care of earlier than some other OEMs.

While the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (the body that oversees the wireless standard) has not yet provided a fix, there are still several ways users can protect themselves from this threat. Follow these tips to help keep your Bluetooth-compatible devices secure:

  • Adjust your Bluetooth settings. To avoid this attack altogether, turn off Bluetooth in your device settings.
  • Beware of what you share. Make it a habit to not share sensitive, personal information over Bluetooth.
  • Turn on automatic updates. A handful of companies, including Microsoft, Apple, and Google, have released patches to mitigate this vulnerability. To ensure that you have the latest security patches for vulnerabilities such as this, turn on automatic updates in your device settings.


KNOB Attack (whitepaper)



Compiled by:

Letowon Saitoti Abdi, Senior Technical Support Officer.

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Highlighting the importance of digital skilling rural youth for development.

TOPIC: Youth, Women, ICT. Internet, RCDF

The 12th of August was selected as the commemoration day for youth by the United Nations through a resolution passed in 1999. Commemorated annually since the year 2000, it is a day that has been set aside to highlight various issues that affect the youth globally. Since its first commemoration in 2000, the day has attracted worldwide attention. It has brought to light some serious issues for governments and other development players to pay attention to while aligning their proposed initiatives to global, regional and national development agendas; policy formulation, consultation and implementation processes, among others, but especially the current and future needs of youth

Capturing goal 4 of the United Nations’ Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, this year’s global theme was “Transforming education”. According to the UN Department of economic and social affairs for youth, the theme was designed to examine how governments among other stakeholders have transformed education hence contributing to achieving agenda 2030 among other development agendas. Globally, the day attracts a series of pre and post events, with the actual commemoration date taking the largest chunk of activities that highlight youth issues in alignment with the global theme.

Countries across the world tend to align their national themes to the global one or even at times choose to use the same. This year Uganda’s national theme in commemoration of the day was “Transforming Education for responsible citizenship and employment creation”. Uganda has one of the youngest populations worldwide coupled with an unemployment rate of 2.59% according to 2018 estimates by ILO. The levels of unemployment continue to rise despite an increase in entrepreneurship training offered by government and other stakeholders. Rural youth are at an even greater advantage as major economic earners like agriculture are becoming less popular due to various reasons including; poor farming methods, land fragmentation & ownership, climate change among others.

One identifiable gap amidst all these challenges is the lack of digital skills. Coupled with various interventions, digital skilling could be the solution to addressing these challenges and more so present more opportunities and career options for rural youth.

In a twitter chat held on 12th August, WOUGNET sought to highlight the importance of digital skilling rural youth as a percentage of the large young Ugandan population that faces unique challenges compared to their urban counterparts and youth from more developed parts of the world.

Some of the highlights from this discussion arose from responses on questions around government education programs, online participation and policy initiatives to connect rural Uganda, in particular, the Rural Communications Development Fund (RCDF).

In response to whether rural youth are likely to be competent with the introduction of education programs like UPE and USE - @Karlvoo responded - The rural youth would definitely be competent but to a very small extent not as competent as the urban youth, the gov't and other stakeholders need to first address the big digital gap between the rural and urban areas @MoICT_Ug @UCC_Official #InternationalYouthDay2019” As to whether the RCDF has been effective in addressing issues of access to the internet for rural youth and citizens at large - @hatimsusan responded - The gov’t of Ug thru @UCC_Official, set up the RCDF in 2009, so far & to the best of my knowledge most govt offices in most of rural Uganda have been connected to the internet thru the extension of the national broadband infrastructure project …… Not that I can say, except for the programs to connect teaching colleges in select rural towns - there is no evidence to indicate that the rest of the rural youth population have benefited from this @NITAUganda1 @UCC_Official @MoICT_Ug @moes_ug #IYD2019 #IYDUg2019” On how one would relate digital skilling to online participation or freedom of expression - @princesaito responded - “Digital skilling helps give an individual courage and strength to do something freely and easily - without digital skill some of us wouldn't be where we are today but because we know what we know digitally we can stand and speak. @UCC_Official @MoICT_Ug @NITAUganda1 #IYD2019

Key priority areas recommended from this conversation for government to take into consideration if rural youth are to benefit from the opportunities ICTs and the internet have offered revolved around improving education quality and developing more inclusive ICT access/connectivity policies. Some recommendations made include; More access to digital platforms in rural areas and more effective digital training conducted for youth; Ministry of education needs to introduce and improve on already existing ICT related subjects at primary and secondary school; Offer digital training for all youth who are in and out of school at new and existing community centers at no cost; URA and the Ministry of finance needs to Get rid of tax on ICT tools and internet data; and UCC needs to provide for digital skilling initiatives for youth as key in the next RCDF (if any) and national development agendas. This conversation continued on the WOUGNET and ICT4DY facebook pages.

While there are still countless issues the youth of the world continue to face, education and particularly the education of rural youth in Sub-Saharan Africa should be one of the solutions to addressing these challenges. Even more importantly, digital skilling must be made a critical part of education and any other youth development initiatives if we are reaping the benefits that ICTs have to offer and ultimately to progress as a nation and a continent.

Article by

H. Susan Atim

Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET)

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Translating Access into Empowerment: WOUGNET Tweet Chat #WROUganda

As a way to prepare for the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) which is an annual commemoration, Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) conducted a twitter chat on 24th November 2017 under the theme “Translating Access into Empowerment”. This was to reflect on the organization’s work in phase II of the Women’s Rights Online (WRO) project as different Women’s Rights Organizations (WRO), activists and interested individuals in Uganda prepare to join the rest of the world for the 16 Days of Activism against GBV celebrations. The project is implemented by WOUGNET with World Wide Web Foundation (WWWF) and UN Women Fund for Gender Equality.

With the hashtag #WROUganda, WOUGNET staff and all her partners planned on various issues to be discussed during the twitter chat including internet access, policies or laws that protect women’s rights online and promote women’s empowerment and among others. The twitter chat started at 2:00 pm EAT with all WOUGNET staff who were in and out of office tweeting to the hashtag. Eleven questions were being prepared and asked to guide the conversations. Responses generally showed that women’s access to the internet is improving. Some women are now able to access relevant information on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR), Education opportunities, acquire knowledge and increased opportunities to access avenues that can improve their livelihoods through education, finances, legal empowerment, and support. During the chat, different participants responded to the question of how access to the internet has empowered women and enabled them to realize their potential differently. Some of the response was; the Internet is a platform which enables women to air out their views, interact and connect with like-minded individuals, organizations and ultimately create change and dialogue about the plight of women.

This is because the Internet has freedom of speech and has made women to gain a voice and speak with confidence online since is a safer platform for women. Women are now better informed of the laws and policies in Uganda and women’s networks have expanded beyond existing boundaries. Even though some women have access to the internet, others are still not able to because of high cost for internet bundles, overwhelming household responsibilities, connectivity issues, lack of local and relevant content online, lack of enough online safety and no electricity to power their mobile phones to access the internet and yet the role of government such as the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) has full control of the internet. Participants had diverse answers on what needs to be done to improve women’s access to the internet.

They suggested that there is a need to combat harassment of women online and have collaboration between the private and public sector. The need for women to be involved when policies are being shaped, do away with patriarchal systems that have for so long forced women to be afraid of reporting online and offline violence and has made some women think it is okay to go through violence. Participants also mentioned that the Internet should be made more accessible and affordable, the need to identify the main obstacles facing women in exercising their rights on the internet through research, share unpaid care work to enable women create time to surf the internet, encourage female involvement in ICT-related subjects at early stages schools, provide digital literacy training for women. They urged the need for awareness done in regards to laws that protect women against insecurity online, support implementation of policies & strategies that advance the status of women, design specific tech policy to tackle and overcome the steep inequalities of gender, education and income, focus on digital empowerment training for women entrepreneurs and review policy processes to make them more gender-inclusive. During the chat, top posts were on Women’s Rights Online report on how access can be translated into empowerment, improve access & affordability, the focus on digital empowerment training for women entrepreneurs, prioritizing relevant online content for citizen participation, protection of women's digital rights, bringing to an end gender-based violence online and offline.

Related topics had 16 Days of Activism, Women’s Rights Online, ICT for all, #women, #Uganda and #digisecug. “The benefits that the internet avails us are enormous. If all women had access to the internet then women would be able to be more involved in the economic, political and social development of their communities”, Zimba Women By the end of the twitter chat, WOUGNET was glad to have made 412,026 impressions, 73,995 reaches, 45.5% shared original posts, 35.1% retweets and 19.4% replies albeit participants were from different parts of the world. Sentiments were 27.6% positive, 4.5% negative and 67.9% neutral. The posts made in that day were 134 by 27 users with demographics of 82.4% women and 17.6% men. The top sources were 50% desktop/web, 38.1% android, 6% mobile web, 5.2% iPhone and 0.7% safari. The top sites were and WOUGNET has and is still doing a lot to ensure that women access the internet and remain safe online. The organization recognized Web Foundation for their work in women’s access to the internet and thanked all her esteemed partners in providing and campaigning for Internet Access and Women’s Rights Online in diverse fields. Gratitude was shown to CIPESA, Web Foundation, Zimba Women, BarefootLaw Uganda, the entire WOUGNET team and all participants. WOUGNET wished all the Ugandan women and men a fruitful 16 Days of Activism against GBV deliberations aimed at achieving goal 5 of the SDGs on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

By Sandra Aceng

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Women’s venture in Business: Paving Sustainability for their families

On arrival to Apac town last year in July 2018, majority of the people had closed their businesses by 9:30 pm in order to have enough rest and for safety reasons given most attacks take place in the night. Apac district is located in the Northern region of Uganda with a population of 368,626. The major economic activities carried out in the district are agriculture, fishing, mining, and tourism.   Albeit, Over 80% earn their livelihood from agriculture and the major crops farmed include coffee, bananas, sunflower, millet, sorghum, rice, beans, peas, groundnuts, sesame, cassava, potatoes, cotton, cabbage, and maize. They also farm horticulture crops, rear livestock and keep Apiary for income-generating purposes.

In the morning, women are usually up early to hit the snooze button and develop the right attitude for work by accomplishing their home chores before they can leave for their businesses as Paul Valery, a French Poet said: “The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up”. One can truly admit the multitasking skill every woman possesses from the women in the region. Women have to for instance purchase foodstuffs for sale, carry out gardening, perform duties in their restaurants, roast maize and do others businesses to earn income that can sustain their families and pay school fees for their children. Majority of the men engage in business activities such as selling meat, chicken business attached with the money value of which proceed made from the sales are many times not shared.

At dusk, women’s labor is not valued, regarded as unemployed and treated with no respect by their husbands yet they spend most of their time doing unpaid labor and a few women who engage in businesses use their money for family maintenance and paying school fees or they sometimes do not have power over profits made after a long day hustle. They are regarded as visitors at their marital home who do not own and control resources and may be asked to leave any time.

The patriarchal system punishes women in the informal sector and the stereotypes which say that a good woman should perform unpaid work. Capitalism doesn’t recognize women’s labor and says that women should work more. These create a wage and make it look like the formal sectors are better than the informal sector.

Women of Uganda Network (WOUGNET) established an information center called Kubere Information Center (KIC) based in Apac established in 2005 with support from the Technical Center for Agriculture and Rural cooperation ACP EU (CTA)  to help farmers especially women farmers access information that can help the women and the entire community improve their agricultural productivities. According to Betty Okot, one of the female farmers and project beneficiaries under the Food and Business Applied Research Fund (ARF) of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) project on Enhancing Rice Green gram productivity in Northern Uganda with different consortiums such as Makerere University, SNV Netherlands, NARO- NaSARRI and among others, She noted that seeds cannot be enough for all farmers in the district. This leaves some women and men unable to benefit from this project and venture into businesses to sustain their family needs.

Based on the MasterCard Index of Women’s Entrepreneurship (MIWE) 2017 report, Uganda was reported with the highest percentage of women entrepreneurs of 34.8 percent businesses in Uganda owned by women making the East African nation the top-performing country in Africa in terms of women entrepreneurship.

Every year, WOUGNET participates in Month of Woman Entrepreneur (MOWE) which is annual commemoration that happens in November organized by Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Limited (UWEAL) to celebrate women entrepreneurs especially in the rural areas that are doing entrepreneurship from farming and other forms of businesses. In the year 2017, WOUGNET brought a few female entrepreneurs under the SIPER project entitled Strengthening effective and efficient use in ICTs and women socio-economic empowerment to promote accountability and transparency for improved service delivery in Eastern and Northern Uganda and also WOUGNET’s partner, St. Bruno Doll making Group (SBDMG) exhibit their products and network to pave way for global markets as one of the events UWEAL partner called  Women Entrepreneurship Day (WED) organized during the MOWE at Golden Tulip Hotel which WOUGNET and other organizations participated.

Also, Under the ARF project spearheaded by WOUGNET, different farmers’ group were trained to adopt farming as a business in the districts of Apac, Kole, and Lira with a total of 15 selected farmer groups trained on all aspect of farming as a business in the 3 districts.  A total of 103 participants were trained (45 male and 62 female).

The government should, therefore, make the informal sector better for women by working with trade movements to unlearn certain stereotypes about women entrepreneurs in the informal sector and empower them since entrepreneurship is neither an art nor a science but a practice.

By Sandra Aceng, Gender and ICT Program

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