President Yoweri Museveni has said that women are the base of society and, therefore, should not be marginalized.
The Museveni made the remarks during the celebrations to mark International Women’s Day held at Busuubizi Core Primary Teachers’ College in Mityana district. This year’s theme is “Empowerment of Rural Women and Girls: Opportunities and Challenges.”
President Museveni said that from the very beginning, the National Resistance Movement (NRM) did not agree with the old societies’ practice of marginalizing women and went ahead to recruit them into the liberation Army even when everyone thought they would not be able to fight.
“When fighting Idi Amin in 1979, we recruited women in FRONASA but our partners did not agree with us and thought that women should be in the kitchen preparing meals for the soldiers. But in 1986, when we were totally in charge with no power sharing, we recruited them,” he said.
The President said that apart from the Army, the NRM government has also empowered women to join politics, get education and own property.
“We empowered women to join politics by creating the position of the District Woman Member of Parliament. That is why we have so many women in Parliament today,” he said.
He said that because of the NRM policies, women have now joined the Army yet previously they were only in the Police Force. In education, the President said that the number of girls joining university has also increased since the government introduced the 1.5 points affirmative action.
Regarding the issue of property ownership, the President said that men had monopolized property ownership and women would not inherit property but this has since then been changed.
“A girl would not inherit where she was born or where she was married but we moved very carefully in our guerilla way and said nobody should sell the marital home without the consent of the wife,” he said.
President Museveni called upon parents to allow their daughters and widows inherit property.
“In my family, I will leave my daughters property just like my son General Muhoozi Kainerugaba will do,” he said.
He, however, cautioned women against marrying for wealth citing that wealth was not only found in marriage. He said women should be empowered so as not to be dependent on men.
“I want to appeal to the MPs here, that after dealing with roads, hospitals, schools and security in the budget, we should put more money in the wealth funds,” he said.
The President also asked Local Government officials to stop collecting taxes from low earners such as ‘muchomo’ and gonja (plantain) grillers along the roads. Collecting taxes from such people, he said, can cause you a lot of curses because those people are already poor.
President Museveni also warned men against domestic abuse. He said in his 50 years with his wife, Janet Museveni, he has never raised a hand against her.
“If you see a man beat a woman know that he is stupid and a coward. If a man wants to fight someone, he should look for a fellow man to fight with. If you beat a woman and after, wear pants that you are a man, I cannot respect you,” he said.
Mr. Museveni called upon women to report men that beat them so that they are arrested. He added that women should be empowered so as not to stay in abusive relationships because they are dependent on the men who beat them.
On the issue of crime and the recent killings of women in Entebbe and Nansana, President Museveni said that government would procure all necessary equipment to defeat the rapists, kidnappers and murderers.
“We concentrated much on defeating terrorists and rebels but we are now going to procure whatever is necessary to defeat these criminals,” he pledged.
He revealed that the security agencies have made a number of arrests in the Entebbe, Nansana and Bukomansimbi murders. He, however, expressed disappointment in the escape of some suspects arrested in Bukomansimbi for murders during Christmas time last year. He wondered why the Prisons authorities had taken the suspects to court without handcuffs, which eased their escape.
At the ceremony, Michel Sidibe, the Executive Director of the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), was awarded the distinguished order of the Nile Medal for his contribution towards the fight against HIV/AIDS in Uganda.
Mr. Sidibe called upon the government and civil society to put women and girls at the center of all their policies, roles and strategies and to ensure zero tolerance to sexual harassment.
Other 147 medals under the categories of Nalubaale Medal, Golden Jubilee and the Special Police Award, were given out to outstanding citizens for their contribution to the country.
The Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga, thanked the NRM government for making amendments such as the creation of the District Woman MP position that has seen the percentage of female MPs in Parliament go up to 35%.
“I hope in the next elections, we shall achieve 50% representation,” she said.
Hon. Janat Mukwaya, Minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development, called upon government ministries to work for the empowerment of women. She said it was not only up to her Ministry to promote women empowerment but other ministries, such as that in charge of water, to ensure that women have access to water for domestic use and farming.
Minister Mukwaya also thanked President Museveni for introducing the Women Fund that she said has benefited 43,977 women, 80% of whom were from rural areas.
“If more money is out in the fund, we shall empower many more women,” she said.
Speaking on behalf of the Chairperson of the Uganda Women Council, Helen Grace Osamo, noted that the policies and laws initiated by the NRM government have uplifted the life of 76% of Uganda’s population in rural areas who are mainly women and girls.
The United Nations Resident Coordinator, Rosa Malango, applauded the government for creating enabling policies and legal environment towards women and girls. She, however, called for more action on the issue of child marriages.
The Vice President Edward Ssekandi, the Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, the Deputy Chief Justice Owiny Dollo, the Chief of the Defense Forces General David Muhoozi, the NRM deputy Secretary General Richard Todwong, MPs, heads of diplomatic missions in Uganda and a delegation of MPs from Malawi attended the celebrations.