Women living in the developing country of Uganda, where Project Have Hope works, are vulnerable to many challenging issues. In this look at the subject, we focus upon five key matters: Discrimination, Gender Roles, Reproductive & Maternal Health, Marriage & Divorce, and Violence. Project Have Hope’s programming is aimed at addressing these complex concerns by empowering our female members. Their education, skills, and increased income increases their respect in the community and ability to handle the issues detailed below.
In Uganda, women have a lower social status than men. This status means that women have less power to make decisions, get an education, obtain a profitable job and/or be independent. Ugandan women do not have equal rights, particularly surrounding land ownership and marriage. Although women make up nearly half of the labor force, the ratio of female income to male income is .70.
According to gender roles, women are responsible for domestic chores, including food production, cooking, cleaning, caring for the children, and fetching water. In remote areas, searching for water can require up to 17 hours a week during the dry season. During this time, women are vulnerable and exposed to dangers, especially rape. These domestic responsibilities are time-consuming and often prevent girls from focusing on schoolwork and excelling in school. In addition, women are considered a part of the family that they marry into. Therefore, scarce resources will be invested into male children rather than female children, and girls are less likely to attend school and, later, less likely to have high-level occupations.
Menstruation greatly affects women’s educational opportunities. A lack of supplies and sanitary facilities forces many women to stay home from school. Many eventually drop out of school as a result.
The issues associated with discrimination make women likely to become sexually active at a younger age due to coercion by a man or economic necessity. Thus, women have a greater risk of HIV/AIDS infection.
The maternal mortality rate is 430 deaths per 100,000 live births. Uganda has the 32nd highest maternal mortality rate in the world. Women need better access to family planning, which would prevent 70% of maternal deaths. They also need care from skilled healthcare professionals, antenatal and post-natal care, improved general health and sexual health care, and increased knowledge surrounding warning signs of complications. 25% of Ugandan teenagers ages 10 to 19 are pregnant or have had a child. Complications during these pregnancies occur at five times the rate of pregnancies in adult women, and teenage mothers are more likely to be affected by other negative outcomes.
When a woman is married in Uganda, her suitor often pays a bride price to her family. In the future, should she want to leave the marriage, she must repay the bride price. For the reasons discussed previously, this can be very difficult for women and may prevent them from leaving an unhealthy and/or violent marriage. Another traditional practice is wife inheritance, in which a widow marries a male relative of her former husband so that his property will stay within his family. She may have no say in the matter.
Domestic violence is widespread in Uganda. Nearly 60% of women between the ages of 15 and 49 have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, and 46% of women have experienced marital rape. Almost a quarter of women reported that their first sexual intercourse was forced against their will. The injuries that go along with violent and coerced sex increase the risk of contracting HIV.
Sources: CIA – The World Factbook, foundation for sustainable development, Women’s Campaign International, The Mifumi Project, Womankind Worldwide, Healthy Action
Please note: This discussion is certainly not exhaustive, but aims to address several key issues.