Women in Uganda
REACHING THE RURAL WOMAN
Ladies and gentlemen:
I am pleased to have been invited to open this national Workshop.
I note with satisfaction that since the 8th March this year, when the women of Uganda celebrated the International Womens Day at state House, Entebbe, they have placed what I would describe as the "Womens Agenda" as one of the major themes in order to increase the national capacity towards recovery, stability and unity.
This workshop is another milestone towards greater appreciation by men and women and the development of higher level of consciousness of the social problems relating to the status of women, as well as the improvement of their welfare and contribution to National Development. We must see the Workshop in terms of the global movement which aims at the realization of acceptance of women as equal members of any society.
I am glad to see among us at this workshop, distinguished women from outside Uganda who have come to contribute to this Important Workshop on "Reaching the Rural Woman".
I welcome with much pleasure Dr. Gachukia, Professor of Literature at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, and Mrs. Meghji from the Regional Co-operative Alliance in Moshi, Tanzania.
I want to assure these two distinguished ladies, as I hope they already know, that the essential position and experience of women in Uganda is virtually the same as in our sister States of Kenya and Tanzania. We are privileged to have both of you. Mrs. Gachukia and Mrs. Meghji, and we want you to know that we appreciate your contributions to the cause of women in East Africa.
I note most specially, the presence here this morning of Dr. Mary Racelis, the regional Director for Eastern and Southern Africa of the UNICEF. We are grateful to you, madam, for accepting to deliver the "keynote" address to the participant in this National Workshop. Please accept, also, our appreciation of the role played by UNICEF in this country over the years, and for assistance in the organization of this particular workshop.
Ladies and gentlemen, the theme of this Workshop - "Reaching the Rural Women" - is a very challenging one for the participants and the women as a whole. It is also challenging to the men. The theme of the workshop raises very serious questions.
One would ordinarily say that the rural woman at least in Uganda, is not very far away from ones-self. In fact she has connections with everybody, everywhere.
The overwhelming majority of the people of Uganda, especially the women, lives and works in the rural areas. The process of urbanization in Uganda is very recent and has been relatively slow.
Although it is commonly quoted that about ten percent of the people of Uganda live in towns, most of these town people are not truly urbanized. The people of Uganda have not only rural homes, but also rural roots. In that context, talking about the rural women in Uganda is the same as talking virtually about any Ugandan woman.
The rural woman is not a peripheral character in Uganda. On the contrary, she is very central to national life and the well being of the entire people of Uganda. The realization of this pivotal position of the rural woman is the cornerstone through which a nation such as Uganda can be built and move forward.
To say that the wealth of Uganda is based on rural production is to state the obvious. What is not commonly highlighted or even acknowledged is the substantial contribution by women labour to the production of that wealth.
There can be no doubt that in order to increase our national wealth; one of the major targets should be to improve upon the productive capacity of the rural woman. This implies in the first instance that more and better training facilities should be made available to the rural woman.
The rural woman is not only a producer of a substantial portion of the national wealth of Uganda; she is also the custodian of our national culture. She is the mother, the nurse and the major teacher of our children.
The theme, "Reaching the Rural Woman", should not therefore be seen simply as a matter for mere discussion. While academics may speculate and theorize in terms of "social roles" and "group dynamics", we have to see this theme in terms of movement. The question in this workshop is who is or should be trying to "reach" the rural woman, and why?
I find no difficulty in seeing the broad reason why the rural woman should be reached. To increase her capacity to create wealth is to increase the wealth of the entire nation. To increase her standard of education is to ensure the health of her children and that of the whole nation. I need not enumerate all the advantages of enriching the rural woman in a positive manner in the interests of nation building. The question still remains, who should reach her?
To answer that question we should recognize that a rural woman is a peasant woman with a wealth of experience in practical life. It must not be forgotten that she, too, has her own ideas as to how things in her homestead should be done and managed; and on those she is not ignorant at all. It must also not be overlooked that she has definite ideas about those who do not live in rural areas.
There is no dispute that the rural womans standard of living needs to be improved. She is ready to receive new knowledge, but she must be approached with understanding and respect.
I believe that the rural woman in Uganda is very easily accessible. She is not a unique or eccentric character. She is very a hardworking woman, and she is eager to improve her lot. Her view of the world is based on practical experience. It would be inadvisable to attempt to change her life-pattern without her full involvement in the change.
It would follow, therefore, that the rural woman should be involved in the processes of further social and economic progress. I would suggest the establishment of institutional machinery through which the voice of the rural woman can be heard effectively.
Allow me the opportunity to thank all those who have made it possible for this Workshop to take place.
I wish you the best in your deliberations.
I declare the workshop - "Reaching the Rural Woman" - open.
16th October, 1984