Vocational Training Centers in Uganda
Uganda is an east-African nation occupied by dozens of ethnic groups. Over the past few decades, the Ugandan government has made several efforts to improve the lives of its female citizens, who make up 50.71% of the population. In addition to government-level actions, the women’s movement in Uganda is also one of the most diverse and progressive across Africa. However, recent political developments in the country, such as the 2021 re-election of President Yoweri Museveni, have constricted human rights, especially the rights of women. Luckily, vocational training centers in Uganda are emerging to empower women and girls.

Women’s Rights in Uganda

International conventions act as the framework through which people understand women’s rights in Uganda. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol) have both influenced the country’s 1995 constitution, the foundation of the country’s legislation.

Formally, the Ugandan government claims to oppose all laws and practices which violate women’s rights. In actuality, countless women and girls in Uganda, especially those in rural areas, do not have the same rights as their male counterparts.

Moreover, the lockdowns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted the rights of women and girls in Uganda because the government was unable to support women facing violence at home. As a result, about 90,000 girls under the age of 18 became pregnant.

Education for Girls in Uganda

Women and girls aged over 15 in Uganda spend 14.6% of their time on unpaid care and domestic work, compared to 8.8% of the time spent by men. In addition, girls often lack the educational rights of men. In primary and pre-primary education young girls and boys attend schools at similar rates. However, once children reach secondary school age – between 13 and 18 – lower numbers of girls attend school compared to boys. At the university age, the ratio is skewed in the favor of boys even more.

For many young girls early marriage and motherhood mean an end to their education. Women aged 15-49 – the typical reproductive age range – frequently face barriers to reproductive health care and often lack access to sexual health education. Female genital mutilation is also still a major challenge for women and girls in Uganda. ​​Vocational training centers in Uganda could offer young women a different future.

Enabling Women’s Empowerment in Uganda

According to the U.N., equipping young women and girls in Uganda with practical skills could be transformative in giving them greater financial autonomy. In Uganda, 38.5% of women are below the international poverty line compared to 33.9% of men. While it is clear that more needs to support all genders, the empowerment of women is an integral part of reducing poverty in the country.

Creating vocational training centers in Uganda will provide a brighter future for young women and girls. Grassroots and charity organizations such as Resilient Women Uganda are supporting women and girls by building these centers across Uganda.

Resilient Women Uganda

Resilient Women Uganda supports women and girls, who come from poor families and are between the ages of 10 and 20, through the provision of vocational training centers in Uganda. It works with those exposed to gender-based violence and at risk of school dropout. The projects conducted with Resilient Women Uganda aim to improve the socio-economic status of young women and girls by allowing them to develop marketable skills. These skills include tailoring and knitting, computer literacy, English lessons, hairdressing and more.

Resilient Women Uganda’s main priority is helping girls who have left education go back to school. The organization, which two women founded in 2016, relies on the commitment of a group of volunteers. So far the group has met 9,504 teenage girls and helped 359 women find jobs through vocational training centers.

A brighter future for young Ugandan women is within reach and could help alleviate poverty in the country by improving standards of living and increasing women’s rights.

– Florence Jones
Photo: Unsplash

Child Marriage in Palestine
In 2014, the State of Palestine ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. These treaties aim to protect children from child marriage in Palestine. However, child marriage is still a threat to children due to gender discrimination and economic struggle.

The Main Causes of Child Marriage in Palestine

Gender discrimination is among the causes of child marriage in Palestine. Children living in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, especially girls and women, suffer gender-based violence throughout their communities and even in their families. Some girls face physical, sexual and psychological abuse. In 2015, the Women’s Affairs Center (WAC) reported that 65% of women married before 18 experienced at least one act of violence in the Gaza Strip. Although Palestine produced laws and treaties to help women and children, many of them are incredibly broad. In addition, they are subject to varying degrees of interpretation by the police and legal institutions. Because of the number of gender-based attacks, families use marriage to protect these girls from poverty, sexual harassment and assault. However, marriages frequently lead to more negative effects for these child brides.

The necessity for economic survival also ties in with the prevalence of child marriage in Palestine. Political instability has led to widespread poverty with more than half of families in Palestine living below the poverty line. A 2019 survey showed that the highest rate of child marriage exists in encampments and the Jordan Valley. These areas also struggle the most with education. According to this report, families in this area have turned away from the socioeconomic and demographic transitions that have taken place in the West Bank over the past two decades. While the rate of child marriage has decreased through Palestine, certain areas still have issues keeping their children safe.

The Effect of Child Marriage in Palestine

Child marriage is a violation of basic human rights. Consequently, it often results in early pregnancy and social isolation. In addition, many child brides have minimal school experience, which is reinforcing the cycle of poverty. In the West Bank, 21.3% of girls have had a live birth below 18, and in the Gaza Strip, the number is 23.8%. Pregnancy-related deaths are the leading cause of death in both married and unmarried girls below the age of 18.

Child marriage has many long-term effects on children’s psyche. It negatively affects any likelihood of a future healthy relationship and employment. This forceful engagement brings out trust issues, leaving victims of child marriage isolated and vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. Many of these child brides do not receive any support. Furthermore, child brides’ social wellbeing frequently declines as well. Child marriage has many long-term effects on a child’s physical, psychological and social health.

The Men Who Stand Against Child Marriage in Palestine

Freeh Abu T’ema is one of the first 20 ambassadors of change working to persuade their community to stop early marriages. After two of the ambassadors came to his house to stop his daughter’s wedding, he realized that the marriages of young girls is unethical and decided to join the ambassadors to advocate for change. The two ambassadors who visited him were Mossa Abu Taema and Wael Abu Ismael. These men had undergone training from a community-based organization, the Future Brilliant Society, as part of the U.N. Women’s Regional Men and Women Gender Equality Programme.

This organization focuses on educating men on gender equality issues to promote gender equality. This training helped them become advocates for change. As a result, the group expanded to more than 30 men in eastern Khan Younis (and the Gaza Strip) and prevented 50 marriages and counting.

Freeh Abu T’ema and the rest of the ambassadors raise awareness by educating people in their communities. Teaching people, protesting early marriage and donating to charities are ways to raise awareness about early marriage in Palestine.

– Aahana Goswami
Photo: Flickr