Event Reports

ACFODE National Women's Conference

by Verena Kasirye-Büllesbach

Combating Gender Inequality in Uganda and Beyond

The National Women's conference organised by ACFODE was a true success, once again! Vast numbers of participants engaged actively in the different discussions and shed light on the state of women's rights in the country.
The National Women’s Conference was moderated by ACFODE Member Isabella Akiteng who extended appreciation to the partners, leaders and participants. In her welcome remarks, Ms. Regina Bafaki, Executive Director ACFODE, then pointed at issues of sexual abuse and human trafficking which threaten vulnerable women in Uganda and which require legal remedies. This was further stressed by Ms. Euzobia Baine, who emphasized the need for creating political spaces for women to actively combat issues of women’s rights. This will be particularly relevant for the 2021 elections in the country.  
The Country Director of KAS, Mathias Kamp, added another angle to the previous observations. Based on his personal experiences, he noted that women are facing strong disadvantages in Uganda and other countries alike. He also suggested that such unequal structures are consolidated by the mindsets of many: In order for women to step up and receive equal opportunities, he stressed, men would finally have to accept that gender equality will make men lose out. As of now, a large part of the male political arena leads bloated conversations without realistically accepting the impact of gender equality.  
The event then turned to breakaway sessions dedicated to the topics of sexual harassment, electoral reforms and human trafficking, which all affect women in Uganda.
The group discussing sexual harassment took a closer look at reasons for a high prevalence of harassment and abuse in Uganda. Apart from factors rooted in women’s self-perception, misuse of power and down-play of sexual abuse has shockingly lead to a normalization of the offense. With sexual harassment being widespread and encountered in virtually any public and private space, for instance the workplace, university but also schools and homes, women tend to shy away from calling out their perpetrators. The group aimed at finding practical suggestions to combat sexual harassment.
In the session on electoral reforms, questions of how to increase women’s participation and of how to limit financial influences in politics were discussed. Participants voiced their concern about women being brushed off when standing for political office and noted the need to encourage them to become voices for the women in the country.
Finally, the participants reviewing the topic of human trafficking shared alarming concerns about the rising number of women, also of girls, who are being trafficked and exploited. Oftentimes, this practice goes along with sexual exploitation. Since human traffickers can be anybody, ranging from family to neighbours to strangers, the illegal practice is hard to combat and will require joined efforts from all sides.The National Women’s Conference was moderated by ACFODE Member Isabella Akiteng who extended appreciation to the partners, leaders and participants. In her welcome remarks, Ms. Regina Bafaki, Executive Director ACFODE, then pointed at issues of sexual abuse and human trafficking which threaten vulnerable women in Uganda and which require legal remedies. This was further stressed by Ms. Euzobia Baine, who emphasized the need for creating political spaces for women to actively combat issues of women’s rights. This will be particularly relevant for the 2021 elections in the country.  
The Country Director of KAS, Mathias Kamp, added another angle to the previous observations. Based on his personal experiences, he noted that women are facing strong disadvantages in Uganda and other countries alike. He also suggested that such unequal structures are consolidated by the mindsets of many: In order for women to step up and receive equal opportunities, he stressed, men would finally have to accept that gender equality will make men lose out. As of now, a large part of the male political arena leads bloated conversations without realistically accepting the impact of gender equality.  
The event then turned to breakaway sessions dedicated to the topics of sexual harassment, electoral reforms and human trafficking, which all affect women in Uganda.
The group discussing sexual harassment took a closer look at reasons for a high prevalence of harassment and abuse in Uganda. Apart from factors rooted in women’s self-perception, misuse of power and down-play of sexual abuse has shockingly lead to a normalization of the offense. With sexual harassment being widespread and encountered in virtually any public and private space, for instance the workplace, university but also schools and homes, women tend to shy away from calling out their perpetrators. The group aimed at finding practical suggestions to combat sexual harassment.
In the session on electoral reforms, questions of how to increase women’s participation and of how to limit financial influences in politics were discussed. Participants voiced their concern about women being brushed off when standing for political office and noted the need to encourage them to become voices for the women in the country.
Finally, the participants reviewing the topic of human trafficking shared alarming concerns about the rising number of women, also of girls, who are being trafficked and exploited. Oftentimes, this practice goes along with sexual exploitation. Since human traffickers can be anybody, ranging from family to neighbours to strangers, the illegal practice is hard to combat and will require joined efforts from all sides.