We all know that gender equality has not yet been realized in our world today. Although women are being empowered more and more there is still a gender gap when it comes to education, healthcare, employment, opportunities and salaries in every country in the world. There is still no country where women earn the same amount as men. However, in the developed world there are increasing opportunities for girls and women and as a young girl grows up in the West she is encouraged in her talents and has many opportunities ahead of her. Growing up in Ireland I myself did not see being a girl as a hinderance. The only notable memory of my gender holding me back was when the boys began to outrun me at sports day and whilst playing football which was of much annoyance to my 10 year old competitive spirit. The latest gender gap report which was presented at the World Economic Forum this year (2013) states that my home country of Ireland rates number 6 in the world on the gender gap index with its lower wages for women letting it down. However, the same report stated that Uganda was number 46 in the world on the gender gap index. What a difference! As Uganda is my second home I am shocked that so many of my friends, colleagues and neighbours in Uganda grew up in such an unequal environment. It really gives me a new appreciation of the strength and determination I see in the women and girls I know in Uganda. When everything is stacked against them they still battle on. And that is the thing I want to highlight here, the sheer strength and determination that is found in a Ugandan woman.
This strength does not go unnoticed by men in Uganda either. Although the gender gap in Uganda holds women back there is also an appreciation of how much a Ugandan woman is capable of and certain respect that is given to matriarchal leaders in Uganda. There is an old Ugandan proverb that says ‘Women have no chiefs’ which shows some appreciation of the powerful side of women in traditional Ugandan society. I remember visiting the office of a headmaster in a Ugandan school. On the wall behind the desk of his otherwise bare office was a painting of a Ugandan woman. The woman was carrying on her back two children, two pots of water, firewood, various sacks of food and a donkey! When I asked what the picture meant the headmaster told me that the load was too heavy for the donkey, so the woman picked up the load and the donkey and carried it herself. He said that this is how a Ugandan woman lives, she has immense strength and determination to look after those around her but she is also often expected to carry too much. That picture has always stayed in my mind and has given me an insight into the lives of Ugandan women all over the country. These women are not weak, they just need an opportunity to help themselves and their efforts need to be recognized by the Ugandan society as it surely would not function without them.
An old Chinese proverb says that “Women hold up half the sky.” I think that any mother, wife, sister or daughter would agree that life would not run as smoothly as it does without the role of the woman.
This leads me to talk about the wonderful women who make up our women’s initiative’s at Kids Club Kampala. All of which are talented, strong and innovative. Some may not have received any education at all whilst others have made it through primary education but all of these women are intelligent and determined thats for sure. Our women’s initiatives were not set up by foreigners, or KCK workers, they were formed by the women themselves and these women approached KCK to give us the opportunity to partner with them. We are just amazed by the ideas they come up with to help provide sustainable incomes for their families and lift themselves out of poverty. They are determined for their children, brothers and sisters to receive a good education and to live a good life and they are passionate about working together in their groups to bring about a change in their community. I am inspired by their motivation and drive and I cannot wait to see what the future holds for these women and the children and families they support.
We also support young girls here at KCK in order to empower the next generation of strong Ugandan women. We are working with them to give them educational opportunities, support and advice and empowering them to know their rights as young women. In the early years of KCK it was these young girls who showed that they were aspiring leaders by volunteering to become KCK’s young leaders and helping to care for and support their younger peers. They would help to feed the kids, distribute clothes, organise games and lead them in songs and bible teaching. This next generation of Ugandan women will have more opportunities to show what they are made of than the last and we are excited to be there to encourage them every step of the way.