Uganda’s population is estimated at about 40 million of which 52 percent are females. Three in every ten households (31%) are headed by females (UNHS 2016/17). Women and girls in Uganda are most affected by chronic poverty and gender inequality. Over 80% of Uganda’s populations live in rural areas and agriculture is their main source of livelihoods. Women constitute 76% of the agriculture labor force compared to 34% of men, and subsistence farming is, by far, the main source of employment. Among households headed by subsistence farmers, the percentage of the poor increased from 20.3% to 38.2% between 2012/13 and 2016/17 surveys (Uganda Bureau of Statistics).
Although women constitute the highest labor force in the agriculture sector, they are faced with challenges that are influenced by the gender, social and geographical determinants for women´s employment. Agriculture employment is characterized by low skills, low wages, subsistence, and is generally rain-fed. In Uganda, 35% of those employed in agriculture are unpaid family workers, a fact that increases women´s double work burden.
Gender inequality is one of the key contributors to poverty and high illiteracy level among women and girls (9.5 million girls in sub-Saharan Africa cannot acquire formal classroom education). This leaves the vulnerable young girls and women engaged in ungainful/unpaid and indecent forms of work because they are illiterate, lack formal employable skills and have no control over resources; yet the brunt of bringing up children and ensuring they go to school in most of these communities are carried by the women. The majority of households (70%), in Jupangira and Pawong Parishes in Nebbi District, depend on subsistence farming for a livelihood, which is highly affected by unpredictable weather conditions. Only less than 30% of households depend on earned income.
A report entitled – Chronic Poverty in Uganda; the Policy Challenges, further emphasizes that over 8 million of 30.7 million people in Uganda are chronically poor, with women forming the bulk. It details that Overall, 27% of the chronically poor households in rural areas, are headed by women. The situation is worsened by the occurrence of rights violations including; economic, sexual and violation of the right to education.
Edu Child Foundation Uganda, therefore, directs its work in rural communities in Uganda (Nebbi District in particular). These are communities with very high levels of poverty and illiteracy and are isolated from mainstream services. Nebbi District has some of the least developed communities in Uganda characterized by a high illiteracy rate, high poverty rate; with a majority of the population living under ($1) (or NO income) per day. Consequently, these communities face:
# – High rate of school dropouts especially among the young girls (According to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the average dropout rate for girls in Nebbi District is 53.8% as compared to boys at 46.2).
# – Girls are particularly disadvantaged as cultural attitudes in many communities prevent them from supporting their daughters’ education. Discrimination, abuse and child marriage often become obstacles to their potentials – as such, cases of teenage pregnancies are very high in this district among young girls.
# – Poor hygiene practices and lack of access to hand-washing facilities continue to threaten the health of many communities. Additionally, polluted water in these communities acts as a vessel for diseases such as cholera, malaria, trachoma, and parasites. Also, long and dangerous treks to find clean water cause strain on communities.
# – Malaria still kills more people than any other communicable disease, followed by HIV/AIDS.
# – Because of gender inequality, many women and girls still fall victim of rape/defilement, manipulation, forced marriages and/or illiteracy and in most cases, the men responsible for fathering some of their children do not take responsibility of providing for them and their babies. As a result, all the burden falls on the young women who are unskilled, uneducated and predominantly rely on subsistence farming in raising their children. This makes the vicious circle of poverty so difficult to break and the women and girls pushed into a corner of darkness and no hope.
# – Subsistence Agriculture is still the main source of livelihood in these communities. However without the right seeds, equipment and training many farmers struggle with poor crop yields. This makes it so difficult for them to provide for their families, pay healthcare bills or afford their children’s education.
# – Lack of basic financial services prevents families from accessing credit for investments in small businesses, agriculture of meeting rising urgent needs. This makes entire communities vulnerable to economic stresses.
# – Over 90% of the households rely on firewood and charcoal for their household cooking needs. This has had a number of implications; one being that the number of trees and vegetation has degraded over time because of the demand for firewood and charcoal, increasing the level of desertification and limited rainfall in the area. Secondly, as firewood and charcoal, as cooking fuel becomes scarcer, women and children from homes have to travel long distances of up to 10 kilometers from their homes in search of firewood. This exposes them to safety and security risks, in addition to the production time wasted in long distances.
This is where EDU CHILD FOUNDATION UGANDA came in – with the purpose of helping address some of these social evils that are still posing a great challenge to the development of the district and specifically the communities that the organization serves.
From the conception of the idea of this organization; one of our biggest convictions was to take time to understand the unique needs of the communities we serve and build meaningful relationships with key stakeholders through which we serve. We work with local staff in all our project activities.